Creative Response to Defamation?
July 1, 2013 6:16 AM   Subscribe

How do I ensure my lying, bully of an ex-boss stops slandering me?

I left my last job about 4 months ago due to various reasons (awesome job offer in a different industry), but predominantly as my boss at the time was a very unpleasant individual (passive-aggressive, name-dropper, bully, know-it-all etc) and I just wanted out. My colleague followed me shortly afterwards, accepting a position with one of the company's clients. The ex-boss did not take our departure very well, especially as he has a record of losing staff at an alarming rate (team of three, and he's gone through 5 staff over the past 4 years - they all left for the same reasons as I did).

My ex-colleague told me last week that she attended an industry event that the ex-boss hosted. In front of >60 people (many people I know) he thanked the speaker then introduced his new staff members by saying that he hired them as he had to recently "clean out" the organisation.

Only after a few people (who knew the real story) went up and told him how inappropriate his statement was, did he go up to my ex-colleague and privately apologised for the comment.

I'm very upset, as I know he has been going around telling people untruths about me for quite some time (he used to lie about the previous employees to me, and our clients), and I would like to do something to discourage him making further comments of that nature in future.

I don't want to send him a legal letter threatening action as I doubt I will follow through. What can I do to really scare him? At the moment, all I can come up with is a sternly worded letter to the members of his Executive Board (who do not like him) advising that I know what happened, and how inappropriate it was. Any thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's infuriating, but leave it alone.

He's not worth your time, and as people get to know each of you within the industry, the truth will out.

Very rarely will people believe someone who clearly is a jerk, and your good work will continue to speak for you.

Yes, you so very much want to censure this yutz, and it's frustrating to take the high road all the time when he seems to be having so much fun in the mud. But eventually others in your industry will see him for what he is.

Unless he mentioned you by name, you don't have anything actionable. As for the letter to the executive board, burn it, don't send it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on July 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think you just have to let this go. You've moved on to that awesome new job, so it's not like you need any references from him; plus it sounds like people who know him, know what he's truly like. Take the high road --- don't sink to his level of mudslinging.

Was there an exit interview with HR at the old company? That would have been the proper time and place to say something.
posted by easily confused at 6:25 AM on July 1, 2013

That totally sucks. I agree with Bunny that the truth will eventually get out and the best plan is to ignore him. He's a bully and while he may have a pulpit now, hopefully he won't for long.

FWIW, my mom went through a similar experience after leaving a high-profile job. She consulted a lawyer at the time who said you can't really prove defamation if what the person is saying is just totally insane and obviously untrue. If you ever want to go back to this industry, the people you'd want to work with are the ones who know not to trust this moron.
posted by JuliaKM at 6:29 AM on July 1, 2013

FWIW, when a friend was applying for a job, the hiring manager called one of his references. The reference told the hiring manager that my friend sucked. The hiring manager thought, that was weird, this guy seems great, all of his other references love him, so the hiring manager called someone else that used to work with the reference. The reference's reference said that the reference was a total jerk. Friend got the job.

Ignore your old boss. Use the angry energy you have to kick butt at the new job. That's how you win.
posted by kat518 at 6:58 AM on July 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

I suggest you take legal advice before you do anything at all.

Other people in his audience already do not believe him. That should count for something. It may be that you don't need to say anything.

Ignoring him may very well be the best plan. But, in order to feel that you've explored every possibility, I'd unleash some bucks and consult a lawyer.

FWIW a few years back I got legal advice that I would have had a case regarding a similar matter, but I didn't bother pursuing it. That was at least by my own choice, rather than a feeling of having to bend over for it.
posted by tel3path at 7:01 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't want to send him a legal letter threatening action as I doubt I will follow through. What can I do to really scare him?

Nothing, really. If you want to do anything about this other than ignore it, you're going to need an attorney. But as an attorney, I can tell you that this sort of defamation claim goes into the "hurt feelings" category of potential cases, and attorneys don't like 'em. Sticky legal and factual issues and little chance of recovery. Unless you're willing to throw $10k at this problem, your best shot at a good outcome is to just be the better person and walk away. You can correct misconceptions politely if given the opportunity, but don't go around making a stink. If this guy is the kind of person you say he is, people will take most of what he says with a grain of salt anyway.
posted by valkyryn at 7:04 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you and your colleagues already have other people speaking up for you and correcting the record, so you have already won. Let that yutz hang himself, and then enjoy watching him twist in the wind.
posted by rpfields at 7:56 AM on July 1, 2013

I've been there. Fortunately, over time, both my reputation and my psycho ex-boss's spoke for themselves, without my having to do anything other than continuing to be awesome.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:12 AM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sounds like your ex-boss sucks up to those he thinks are "more powerful" (hence the name-dropping) and is a bully to those who are "less powerful" (his employees). You just need to do one thing that shocks him by establishing yourself as powerful. It could be name-dropping that you are friends with a significant person in your field, or publishing an article in a trade journal. The first instant that he sees you as equal on his perceived ladder of dominance, he will stop spreading lies and will instead start name-dropping you.

If you go to a lawyer, he'll just see you as confirming your status as a weaker victim, and it'll make him more likely to bully you.
posted by cheesecake at 11:09 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would like to do something to discourage him making further comments of that nature in future.

I sympathize, but: Let other people who are actually present at the moment he makes comments like this do this. Your hearsay is not actionable.
posted by sm1tten at 12:30 PM on July 1, 2013

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