Deflecting ex-work acquaintance's efforts to rekindle "relationship"
January 13, 2020 4:13 PM   Subscribe

I've been gone from my horror job over a year now. A work 'friend' (an acquaintance) I friended on FB (I friended very few work colleagues) recently messaged me to tell me that a woman I shared office space with "wants to know if you are willing to communicate with her." O hell no.

This was a pretty toxic and dysfunctional office and I'm really happy I'm gone.
-She began the downward spiral of my relationship with my supervisor (turned out all he needed was a shove) when she ran to her supervisor with a lie.
-She refused to talk to me for ten days when I said something she didn't like.
-Perhaps most horrifying of all (to me anyway), her coworker talked badly about everyone and she laughed and laughed at everything that person said.
-Once I learned my job was going away (another novel--budget cuts? invoking the ADA? slander? subterfuge? the official version was budget cuts), I figured I'd go out in a nice way, and brought doughnuts often, newspaper occasionally, said good morning and good night, but please understand I have not a whit of feeling for her or any of those people.
I do understand I could just ignore her, but last summer she called me twice, which I ignored, and now she's baaaaaak, going through someone else. I have no interest (ZERO) in communicating with her and she couldn't take the hint the first time.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock to Work & Money (24 answers total)
Oh she took the hint alright and is now escalating to see if there's a point at which you'll break. Do not engage! You may say "no" to the mutual contact to be polite (instead of just never responding) but don't go into why. Block them if they don't drop it after that.
posted by teremala at 4:24 PM on January 13 [33 favorites]

I would just not respond to the coworker. Facebook messenger is just not that reliable and sometimes messages don't get seen. If they send you another message on another topic, you can respond to that. This has the bonus effect of discouraging this coworker from passing on her messages.
posted by bleep at 4:32 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]

To me the fact that you ignored her previous calls would make it easier. It's not like she's going to be shocked and hurt when you say no. As far as what to tell the other friend, you can just say "no, I don't want to talk to her." If they don't let it drop, unfriend their ass too.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:34 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]

"Not really, and don't bother passing that along to her. She's been trying to get to me anyway she can, so I'd rather not respond to her in any manner. Anyway, how was that concert you went to? Did So-and-So show up?"

Say no, don't give reasons, draw a boundary, redirect conversation to something neutral and about your friend. If the subject comes up again, just say "Nothing worth talking about, I'm sure you understand."
posted by stoneweaver at 4:53 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

If you like the person who messaged you, I would say "Huh, not sure why she's asking you, she has my number...? Anyway [more interesting topic, preferably something about nice coworker]."

This will make the bad coworker look dramatastic (which she is) and refuses the attempt at triangulating by asserting that it's inappropriate for the nice coworker to be involved, but it doesn't leave the nice coworker hanging.

However, I'd think hard about the coworker who passed the message along. If someone asked me something like that I'd say "do you have her contact info? If not, I'm not comfortable giving it out, sorry." And that would be that. It's a little off to ask you on someone else's behalf. Not totally off--she might just be nice and a little naive--but a little off.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:58 PM on January 13 [40 favorites]

No question (literally, you didn’t ask one, that’s how obvious the answer is): ignore ignore ignore.
posted by STFUDonnie at 5:21 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]

“No.” is a complete sentence.
posted by penguin pie at 5:26 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]

Message back exactly what you've said here: O hell no.

Is there a reason to talk to her? I don't have the time to check in with former colleagues I liked, so I can't imagine spending five seconds being polite to the one who stole my sandwich.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:29 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I'd be clear and say, "I'm sorry she's asked you to ask me, but no."

Any other probing gets a, "It's not worth discussing." and move onto something else. She sounds truly terrible and has very bad boundaries. Congrats on moving to a new job!
posted by quince at 5:31 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]

I'd just ignore. It's certainly not your fault that she's decided to put this other person in the middle of things, but if I were your acquaintance I'd much rather report "she never got back to me" than "she said she doesn't want to talk to you."
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:40 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I see the appeal of just saying “no” but I think answering at all keeps all three of you involved in the drama.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:48 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]

Yes, I like what Internet Fraud said. "Interesting. She has my contact info... That's so strange that she's involving you!"
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:05 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

Do you care about maintaining a relationship with the acquaintance from your old workplace that messaged you? If so, a "sorry, I'm afraid that won't be possible" response might be nice, so that they know you're not ignoring them. Otherwise, I'd just ignore both of them and the whole situation, so no party involved has anything to latch onto (and potentially drag you back into things).
posted by Aleyn at 6:15 PM on January 13

“Thanks for asking. No, I am not interested in that. How have you been?”
posted by sallybrown at 6:41 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

“Sorry, who? I don’t remember her, it’s been a while. I’d appreciate it if you don’t pass my details on to strangers though. *changes topic to latest brilliant work win you’ve had at new office*

The worst thing you can do to toxic people is forget them, because they get their power from thinking they’ve had a lasting impact in ruining your life. I promise you, the idea that you don’t even remember her will totally wipe the nasty smile off her face.
posted by Jubey at 8:08 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

In your shoes, I'd fall back on the unreliability of FB messenger if I could do so without alienating the intermediary (assuming I cared about the intermediary). I'd simply ignore that message and respond to the next one.

If you feel like you need to respond, just say something like "she has my info and can get in touch with me anytime, no need for you to be in the middle" and then go on to the next subject.

The less said, the less possibility for drama.
posted by rpfields at 8:14 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Please, this is so transparent and reminds me of tactics stalkers and abusers use. Any answer is engagement, which teaches toxic coworker that you’re still in the drama; and any engagement with this third party is just telling toxic coworker that her triangulation tactic works.

I know it’s tempting to give a snappy response (or to use this third party to triangulate your feelings for toxic coworker, which would be the effect of some of these well-meaning suggestions above), but I suggest just...not.

You left for a reason, you avoided her for a reason, just stay strong and it’ll blow over.
posted by kapers at 8:30 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

PS The ONLY reason this other coworker reached out was on behalf of your toxic coworker, so it’s really not rude to the friendly one to let this one pass. Wait a few months and like her status or something if you want to maintain the casual acquaintanceship with this person.
posted by kapers at 8:34 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

This kind of thing is 100% ok to fully ignore.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:22 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Thirding internet fraud's brilliant suggestion. "Huh, not sure why she's asking you, she has my number...? Anyway [more interesting topic, preferably something about nice coworker]."
posted by MiraK at 6:42 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]

How does "she has my number" not lead to her trying to use that number more and/or asking the go-between to confirm the number when that doesn't work? It seems like the next message could easily be, "She says it's not working and so I should tell you..." because the mutual contact doesn't realize that the OP actually doesn't want to talk.
posted by teremala at 11:21 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]

Yep, saying that she has your number sounds like you’re irritated she’s going through other channels and you’re opening an invitation for her to call you which sounds like the opposite of what you want.
posted by Jubey at 1:17 PM on January 14

Is this the only PM from other former coworker, as in you don't typically chat via Messenger? Then just ignore it.

If you do occasionally chat with this former coworker and it feels too awkward to just ignore the question, I'd go with quince's script: "I'm sorry she's asked you to ask me, but no." Any other probing gets a, "It's not worth discussing." and move onto something else.

But ignoring it is super duper totally okay.
posted by desuetude at 1:36 PM on January 14

The thing is that whether or not you want to actually talk to this person is not the third party's business. At all. That way leads to drama. If the person wants to call, they can call. You don't have to answer (I'd block).

The impulse you have to answer the question (instead of avoiding the question entirely) is what the bad coworker is hoping to exploit. You don't have to answer the question. They can keep asking. They can ask until they are blue in the face. They can ask on a log, in a frog, in a town, in a gown. It doesn't matter. Your relationship with the bad coworker is not their business. Period.

The bad coworker is 99% likely hoping you'll say "no" and that she can use that to play victim in your former office. Disengage.

And if the bad coworker calls, just keep ignoring it. You're not obligated to report your phone habits to anyone who asks!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:44 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]

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