How to get over my ex-boss "hating" me?
October 21, 2015 8:07 AM   Subscribe

My old boss seems to hate me, and I just can't get over it --- how do you deal with that? Especially since I know it's more or less my fault.

Two years ago (summer 2013 - summer 2014) I worked for a year at an academic fellowship in California. It was initially a "dream job" sort of opportunity, but partially due to personality differences, and due to circumstances, my boss and I didn't get along. A big part of it was my fault - I was going through a difficult divorce and some other personal issues, and, being all the way across the country from my support system, somewhat fell apart. Although my work was still good, I definitely wasn't as proactive or involved as my boss would have liked me to be, and I flaked on non-critical things here and there. He knew that I was having a rough time, but didn't really care (i know, it's not his job to care, but... a bit of empathy??). Things got so bad that he actually refused to write me a letter of recommendation for my new job (which I had already gotten, and just need a basic letter for my file).

I have since moved back to the NE and more or less straightened my life out. Months ago, I had emailed my old boss to let him know about a publication in our field and he never emailed me back. I figured, ok, he hates me, and just let the matter drop.

Just a week ago, though, he emailed myself and a number of other former colleagues about a new website he had set up for his program; he wanted to know our opinions on the site and asked for us to submit some photos, etc. for it. I replied the next day, said a few sentences about it (all positive) and mentioned that I was currently working on a project that I would submit to the site. No reply. I guess I should have seen that coming, but it almost comes off as rude - why even include me in the email if you're just going to ignore my response? I already knew that we had left off on bad terms, but I guess I feel hurt, and now I can't stop thinking about it.

I'm not even sure what my question is, exactly, but... any thoughts? Have you been in a similar situation? How do you deal with someone disliking you, especially when you know that it's your fault, but there doesn't seem to be anything you can do to rectify it?
posted by nightdoctress to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: i think maybe you're being too negative here. i would read what happened as him reaching out to you, and you replying, and him feeling that some kind of minimal social contact was made.

my guess is that he doesn't hate you, but was angry with how you worked for him, and feels ambivalent about that.

if it were me, i would probably let it go, thinking things are probably better now than they were. if i were feeling super-human i might try writing him to apologise for fucking up, and thanking him for including me in the previous email. but i am not at all sure it's worth it.

letting things go is probably best. you fucked up. so? we all do, sometimes. he was annoyed. so? we all are, sometimes. there are more important things to worry about.

but that was in another country. and besides, the wench is dead.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:14 AM on October 21, 2015 [10 favorites]

It sounds like you want this person's approval for having flaked out on your work. What you seem to be feeling looks an awful lot like guilt.

You screwed up, you know you screwed up, it's not the end of the world, so now you have to adult and move on with the knowledge that it must be done without your former boss' approval, forgiveness, etc.

Forgive yourself and I'm pretty sure your hankering for this guy's forgiveness will dissipate.
posted by gsh at 8:15 AM on October 21, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I think you're reading a lot into this because you feel guilty about how your time under the employment of this person went.

Honestly, I left jobs on very good terms with almost all of my bosses and I would still expect basically the same kind of non-response to the types of communication you describe here. It's just what happens when you move away from a person in your professional network. They weren't ever your friend, really, so once the professional obligation is up there isn't much of an expectation of anything.

The best way to get over this is to develop a positive working relationship with your current and future bosses and just focus on that.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:18 AM on October 21, 2015 [18 favorites]

Honestly, let it go. As you are in the same field be polite, professional and curteous in all your future interactions but leave it at that.

Don't try to reach out an mend fences. Likely it's not a personal as you think. The former boss does not value you as an employee. The only way to change that is to be a valuable employee. Build up your own reputation.
posted by saradarlin at 8:18 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stop being so harsh on yourself for one. Sometimes our lives fall apart and we affect other people when it does. It's so difficult to explain to people why this happens and to apologize in ways that make them feel less slighted and you understood. It probably won't happen in this case. Stop feeling guilty, stop beating yourself up, and work on moving on.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:19 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If he hated you - like, hated you - he wouldn't have put you on that email.

A lot of people don't reply to reply emails, too. It's best to do so, just with a "thanks!", but a lot of people let that slide when there's nothing new and big that needs to be conveyed.

You didn't do a perfect job at work during a tough time in your life, and it made your boss mad. Probably you're right, he could have been more empathetic - everyone has tough times that impact their work; it's not a flaw or a weird thing, it's just life. But also, it's a drag to know you didn't do a good job. Concentrate on letting go and moving on. Think of how in three years this will seem way less important, and three years is hardly any time at all.
posted by Frowner at 8:19 AM on October 21, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Is he the kind of person who is generally warm and socially acute? My guess would be no, in which case it's really nothing to do with you. He may feel neutral toward you.
posted by amtho at 8:24 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't think your past performance and the current email thing are related.
posted by jbenben at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

My most recent boss exited the company about 6 months ago, and I've written to him a couple of times about things going on in projects I've been involved with (theater stuff in NYC, some publications) and he's not responded to me, either. We were on very good terms at work, but I figure some people just move on with their lives and don't keep in touch with coworkers after the job ends.
posted by xingcat at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just a week ago, though, he emailed myself and a number of other former colleagues about a new website he had set up for his program; he wanted to know our opinions on the site and asked for us to submit some photos, etc. for it. I replied the next day, said a few sentences about it (all positive) and mentioned that I was currently working on a project that I would submit to the site. No reply.

It sounds like you didn't write anything that really called for a reply? Sure he could have replied and said "great!", but I think you are reading too much into this.

Submit something if you are going to submit something, don't get all weird about it because you need to be asked a second time to actually follow through on it. Don't see why you are turning down this opportunity to follow up on showing you can do what you say you are going to do, but if you want boss to continue to think you flake on things go right ahead.

it's not his job to care, but... a bit of empathy??

Empathy is a skill. Not everyone can just do empathy all of a sudden. Have a little empathy for people without great skills at displaying empathy.

he actually refused to write me a letter of recommendation for my new job

Well, he probably didn't feel like he could write a good one if he wasn't happy with your work. If he really hated you he could have said he'd be happy to write a letter, and happy to be a reference.
posted by yohko at 8:42 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is the possibility that he may have included you in the group email by mistake.

Many people do not reply to emails unless there is an actual question to be answered. This makes me crazy and all of my friends and family laugh at how much it drives me up the wall. Your ex-boss may be one of those who just does not reply until/unless there is something to say. If I were you I would contact him and ask for his thoughts on the project that you mentioned. If he does respond, great. If he doesn't, do not submit the project.
posted by the webmistress at 8:42 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think that you might be writing your own narrative to fill in the silence.

The fact that he asked for your input, in the same manner that he reached out to all your other colleagues, is what states "your input into this field/things that I am working on is valuable" along with a request for a specific action to take.

All of the other stuff? Its noise and/or writing a narrative.

So things like....Why didn't he write back after receiving notification of a publication in your field? Some people never respond to email. Some people respond to every single one. Where does he fall on that spectrum? Was there a specific call to action (as in, if it were copublished and you needed his input, etc, then there would be reason to write back).

Not writing back last week when you gave your opinion. Same as the above, some people respond to emails, others don't. You already responded ot his call to action, and did not request anything from your boss. Also, he might reply later (some people reply ..a day, a week, a month later..or never. Some people write group emails - so these things might happen still.

Empathy...How do you know that something isn't happening in his life right now? Some people go through experiences/hard things in life, and ...have limited resources to reach out to others. They won't necessarily share that with others. But is one possible explanation (along with a million others).

I sometimes do the same thing, by the way. Silence to an email for a day/few weeks/week, you can come up with catastrophic interpretations as to why. If I find myself doing that, I try to exert my energy in a different direction. Do research in your field, look up more articles, touch base with colleagues and bosses that are local/whatever applies and might be a better expenditure of energy. But something that might pay off instead of running in circles on a wheel....
posted by Wolfster at 9:13 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't read into an unreplied email. There are countless reasons someone might not reply to your email. You don't need to ascribe a motive to it! You'll drive yourself nuts, and for what?

I would not write a letter of recommendation for someone whom I felt underperformed. Regardless of their personal circumstance. I would feel a little bad, but it's just not the right thing to do. My honest word is important to me and my professional reputation and I don't have a lot of "codes" I live by, but that's one. It's very unlikely that it's personal.

I think you need to forgive yourself for not being at your best when you worked for this person. You don't need to go back and prove to every person who got a skewed impression of you based on where you were at a certain time in order to be proud of where you are now.

I know it's hard - there are people whom I wanted to impress in my past and I failed miserably at it and I always have to fight a twinge of shame and regret when I think about it. That's all on me, though.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:29 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone -- that's a lot of very helpful replies and definitely something for me to think about, I really appreciate it. I'm going to submit the project as I had offered, and otherwise will move on, try to forgive myself, and make sure I do better next time.
posted by nightdoctress at 9:44 AM on October 21, 2015

Maybe his non-reply is related to the fact that he is the one with performance problems? Like, maybe he's not so great in his role and maybe that contributed to your poor work performance at the time?

I have no idea! That occurred to me, tho, and it's something to consider I gues.
posted by jbenben at 9:55 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't reply to emails that don't a) require action, or b) request acknowledgement. I agree you are reading too much into this.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:12 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

You haven't done -- or felt -- anything wrong. There's nothing to forgive. You are a human being with human feelings; that's a good thing.
posted by amtho at 10:16 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Doesn't matter what he thinks of you, he has already taken the only action he can take which is to deny you a reference. I would imagine he considered it well in the past and thinks of you rarely, you should do the same; now he's just somebody that you use to know.
posted by Iteki at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Consider that it's not you at all and that this guy is just not a good person.

He included you on a correspondence because he wanted something from you. He wasn't giving you any empathy or benefit of the doubt because he likely (wrongly) figured, "Hey, what's in it for me?".
posted by PsuDab93 at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you will feel betterif you chalk it up to him not being agood communicator. He is treating his contacts as an expendable resource and doesn't value you enough as a person to treat you with respect. That's on him. Severly doubt thathe hates you, though.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:08 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm guessing that you're female without looking at your username. This is something that women do to themselves all the time. They say, "They didn't pat me on the head and include ten emojis in their email... they must haaaate me." This is totally false. You don't need a gold star and there's nothing wrong with him for not giving you one.

Keep it professional. You did an ok job and have moved on. So has he. He doesn't owe you an email response and probably has something more important to do. So do you. Just be friendly and move on with your life and don't take it so personally.
posted by 3491again at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I had a similar "this person hates me" feeling that got worked out recently. I performed a wedding and got (a small) part of it wrong. I wrote the bride a letter afterwards basically wishing her well and apologizing for the mishap. Never heard back. Assumed she hated me, more or less justifiably, and moved on. Didn't think about it except in a "Oh well, that will happen" sort of way. Thirteen months later, I got an email from her basically saying "Oh hey I forgot to write back to you, thanks so much for all the work you did and blabityblablablabla" Nothing about the small mishap, wanted to stay in touch, etc etc.

This is just to highlight that we may often read a lot into other people's non-responses that are just flat out not there, possibly because we are being hard on ourselves for things that have already passed. I am with other people in that if he truly despised you he wouldn't have cc'ed you on that other email, but some people are just more interactive than others and he probably just received your feedback and didn't think it required a reply.
posted by jessamyn at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Like and Hate are emotional responses (and there indeed are gendered differences in whether women prefer to be liked than to be respected for their work). What matters professionally is Did a Good Job, or Didn't Do a Good Job.

In addition to your focusing on the emotional component, it sounds like Didn't Do a Good Job occurred. You cannot change the past, and you cannot reform his opinion of your past work. The only thing you can do at this point is to improve his opinion of your current work.

How to get over his "hating" you? Recognize it's not about the emotions, it's about the work. You need to accept his version of Didn't Do a Good Job as his truth, although it sounds like you're still trying to renegotiate it. Probably more importantly, you may need to negotiate acceptance with yourself, of having performed badly. That's something you can end up ruminating over, for sure.
posted by Dashy at 1:29 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Remember that you are worthy, above and beyond whether you do a good job at something or not. You're good enough. You just are.
posted by gentian at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think your old boss has some social dysfunction that was probably behind both his poor performance as a manager (refusing to send a letter is a major deal, if you didn't destroy his project, that was completely overdramatic and uncalled for) and his attempts to reach out and subsequent failure to respond to the recent emails. This guy doesn't know how to act and doesn't seem very aware of his behavior's affect on others. You had some things going on in your real life that contributed to your "flaking" on minor things during your time working for him; I wonder if he, too, might have some shit going on that's leading him to be socially akward and sending what look like mixed signals but are probably just self-absorption. You did an adequate if not great job; that's all that you really needed to do for this guy. He doesn't want more than a cursory professional relationship and doesn't sound like he would be good at maintaining anything more, either. It sounds like you are trying to do the emotional labor of a relationship that has a one sided, emotional component-- and honestly doesn't need an emotional component-- and that this is largely his problem, not yours.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:21 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So... small update. As some of you suggested, I went ahead and submitted the project i'm currently working on to my ex-boss, despite not having received an email from him in response. I submitted it yesterday evening, and this morning received a reply back - "Thanks very much, looks great, glad you're getting out there" (my project involves a lot of travel). So... I guess I did read too much into his non-response. Thanks everyone!!!
posted by nightdoctress at 6:03 AM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

yay! :o)
posted by andrewcooke at 6:12 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been you and I am you in many ways. I've had bosses not like me (mostly from when I was a dumb kid straight out of college and I didn't know my elbow from my a*shole) and I've alienated a lot of friends over the years--a lot of times I didn't even know I'd done anything wrong until they stopped returning my calls, etc.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, there's the 9th step where we make amends to people we've harmed either in person or in a letter. You may want to look into something like that.

First, you list everything that's on your conscience.

"Dear Bob,

How we left things has never sat right with me and I want to make things right.

Here are the following things I know I did and how they affected you:
1) came in late every day and left early. That affected you because you needed someone to depend on and I wasn't there for you.
2) stole from petty cash. That affected you because there wasn't enough money to cover Starbucks orders.
3) The time I was MIA right before that big project. That affected you because you had to work overtime through your weekend when your kid had a little league game.

I hope someday you can forgive me. I was going through a rough time but I shouldn't have brought that to work with me. I'm sorry."

Or whatever. Work it however you want.

What I did, in a letter amends, was place a self-addressed stamped postcard that I asked the person to mail when they received the letter. That way, they weren't forced to respond. I just knew they'd gotten it.
posted by Piedmont_Americana at 3:35 AM on October 23, 2015

I do not mean this to be harsh, but

a) you worked for this guy in the past and didn't perform well; then

b) he sends out a blast email about his new website; and then

c) you write him back and tell him that you like his site and you'll be submitting something to it very soon.

At this point the guy leans back and makes a mental bet with himself about whether or not you actually will submit something. I confess: I've been in his position before.

BUT - you came through and really did submit something!!! If you really want to try to heal things with him, this was probably the best move you could have possibly made.

Just on the basis of this one interaction, I doubt that everything is fixed just yet. But I think you absolutely made the right move towards fixing things. Occasional professional contact over the next year could possibly make things even better.

BTW - I feel for you, performing badly while your life was falling to pieces. I've been in your position before, too.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2016

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