If you’ll recall, one anonymous man recently made headlines all over the internet when he wrote in to Ask A Manager with a question about his uniquely sticky workplace situation: after completely ghosting his live-in girlfriend of multiple years and moving out with zero explanation, he discovered that said ex-girlfriend is now his boss.
Everyone was flabbergasted by the situation, and couldn’t believe that the man would have the gall to ghost his partner of multiple years and then attempt to salvage the situation when she reappears, years later, in his professional life. The guy also seemed more concerned with keeping his job than actually assuaging any guilt or rectifying the wrongs of the past. Ask A Manager‘s Alison Green told him that the situation certainly seemed unsalvageable, but she gave him a few pointers on how to possibly broach the subject with his ex and attempt to smooth things over.
Many of us simply assumed that this story would fade into the background, and that we would never hear from the ghoster again. However, he recently wrote to Alison with an update on the situation, and, needless to say, he’s apparently made the whole thing much worse for himself.
In his update, the man acknowledged his unexpected internet celebrity, and the many hateful comments he had received as a result (*tsk tsk* you guys).
The ghoster began by attempting to assuage his own guilt and appease the internet’s rage by letting Alison know that Sylvia (his ex) is doing perfectly well for herself, and has managed to find love and happiness despite her boyfriend of multiple years vanishing into thin air. He assured everyone that neither of them realized that they would be put in this situation together, and it wasn’t some sort of elaborate scheme on Sylvia’s part:
Those who blamed me for ruining Sylvia’s life for good were wrong. She has done very well for herself. She is married, with kids and her husband is originally from here. They relocated because of his business opportunity, not because she would be stalking me or would orchestrate this in some elaborate vendetta. It is a crazy coincidence but as some readers pointed out, our professional world can be very small.
Per Alison’s earlier advice, the ghoster attempted to address the situation head-on, emailing Sylvia first, and then later emailing HR when she didn’t respond. The chairman of the board of overseers got wind of the situation (presumably from Sylvia), and insisted that the three of them meet immediately:
I immediately reached out to Sylvia, along the lines of your kind advice and also offered to discuss the way forward in person. Here, I appreciate many useful comments from your readers on what to write. She did not get back to me. I was not sure she was still using her old email address and with a return to school day fast approaching, I re-sent the email to her new work email. I also dropped a short message to the HR, without providing full details. Next morning (Sunday!) I got a call from the chair of our board of overseers, asking me to meet him as soon as possible.
I met with him, together with Sylvia, the same day. As you can imagine, this meeting was incredibly embarrassing for me, personally and professionally. Fortunately, unlike some of your readers hope, they did not think the past failed relationship was a sackable offence. At the end, there is not that much interaction between the director and employees on daily basis. The chair was more worried about possible gossip and related implications for the organisation. Ours is an expensive enterprise, this is a conservative place and nobody wants any scandal.
Though the meeting seemed fairly civil, the rules that were proposed were apparently so oppressive that the ghoster felt he had no other choice but to quit on the spot:
At the same time, they considered it was necessary – as they framed it – to put some measures in place to avoid possible problems in the future. I was also told in no uncertain terms that although the schedule for the year was already set, it was far more difficult to replace the director than an employee (me). I do not want to go into too much details but I found the proposed measures rather excessive. It would make my position unattainable, even in a short run. Therefore I resigned on the spot. My resignation was later accepted.
The ghoster says that he’s ultimately returning home for a little while to work as a substitute teacher, which is unfortunate, as his partner cannot travel with him:
In a summary, as many of those self-righteous people on the Internet hoped, I came out of this with no job, no severance and no prospect for another job in this city. Obviously, I have to leave as I need to make a living. I will be shortly moving back home for several months to work as a substitute teacher, with an agency. I will see what next later. So I had my comeuppance. I am most certainly not asking for pity. I only wish there were not other individuals bearing the blunt of my immaturity in the past. (My partner cannot join me due to visa issue and family situation.)
Alison responded to the update, asking about Sylvia and how she felt about the whole situation. The ghoster replied and, naturally, he doesn’t seem to have taken Sylvia’s feelings into account (which, at this point, is not shocking in the slightest). Instead he tried to blame the entire situation on nepotism (as opposed to the fact the he was the one who treated an ex badly enough to warrant the meeting in the first place):
I do not know how it was for Sylvia. I have not seen her since. She seemed fine. She was not gleeful, very matter of fact, saying it was possible to work together and etc. The chair did most of the talking. I found out later that her husband comes from a prominent family here, everyone knows them. Nepotism is prevalent in this culture and family status really matters. The chair knows them. I just do not understand why she had to get him involved. We could have tried to sort this out between us first, no need to go to the top immediately.
As for the “proposed” measures to ensure a professional work environment (which were apparently so oppressive that the ghoster felt he had no choice but to resign)? Based on his response, the measures actually seem somewhat standard in this kind of HR-nightmare-of-a-situation. I’m still not sure which parts he took umbrage to specifically, but it sounds like he was flabbergasted at the idea of not being able to talk about her with his colleagues or hang out at events with her outside of school:
The measures included things like we are never to talk to each other without a third person present, all meetings documented, no discussion about her and the management with my colleagues, not even in watercooler chat, limit our interactions beyond the school, meaning no socialising for me. I do not understand how this could work. It would be very much out of character for me and my colleagues and friends would get suspicious. Although not presented at such, it felt very punitive.
Clearly, I am on a totally different wavelength than this guy. Everything he has said and done is not only vexing, but leads me to believe that he’s a deeply self-obsessed individual who is willfully unaware of how his actions appear to others. I’m certainly not happy that he “lost” his job, but … he also quit of his own volition! The administration was willing to work with both of them to make the situation devoid of any awkward undertones, and the guy simply couldn’t handle the idea of taking special precautions to avoid any inappropriate interactions with his ex.
While I’m still extremely confused, I think it’s ultimately for the best that this guy is putting the entire situation behind him. It sounds like, where Sylvia is involved, he is only capable of making things worse.
Let this story be a lesson to all ghosters everywhere: karma is a bitch. Watch yourself.