A reader writes:
My former boss is using my firing as content for her social media pages, including recording herself singing songs about it.
The background: I worked for my boss for five years and now see the MOUNTAIN of red flags I ignored because I was desperate to break into the field — behavior like not getting me the training I needed, demanding I be on call 24/7 and drastically underpaying me, constantly hiring consultants that gave horrible advice and then getting upset with my performance when I had to scramble to fix the damage the contractors had done. I knew something was up when she hired someone else last year and promoted them to be my manager after about two weeks on the job (that’s a different story). It was a small business in a very big but niche market. I’m now well known in this field due to working for her for so long.
She fired me out of the blue last month citing multiple confusing and wacko reasons; everything from my personal life being a “mess” (I’m undergoing medical treatment for a rare disorder that I was only recently diagnosed with but I never missed work for it and didn’t even use the business health insurance) to an error a contractor made three years ago, to not capitalizing a letter in an email, to my inability to fix a software glitch that I had no control over. While I see now the mountain, nay, planet full of red flags that popped up over the course of our relationship, I’m still struggling with having been fired from a situation that was so unhealthy and beating myself up for staying so long.
I don’t follow her or the business or my coworkers on social media, but since I’ve been fired she’s been making Tik Toks, Instagram reels, Facebook videos, and other pieces of content about “letting toxic people go,” and lip-synching to a popular pop song that uses the words “sociopath” with captions about doing the right thing for your business and firing the “dead weight toxic employees.” I’m the only person let go from the business, so yes, she is talking about me. People who knew I worked for her brought this to my attention now that I’m trying to start my own company. Did I mention we’re adults with families and responsibilities, not teenagers?
All of my hirable experience and expertise is related to working for this person and I don’t know how to feel or move forward. I’m obviously not going to respond or lurk on her social media pages, and I’ve asked the friends we have in common to stop telling me and not get involved. I do need some things from her social media as portfolio examples for potential clients, so I can’t help but see some of it and it opens the wounds again.
How do I move forward freelancing and starting over professionally while knowing I’m getting partially dragged through the professional mud? She owns the business so she can behave any way she wants.
What’s she’s doing is so over-the-top odd and unprofessional that it’s going to reflect terribly on her and not at all on you. She is lip-synching to pop songs and singing about firing people! This is not normal behavior, it makes her look ridiculous and unhinged, and if anything, it’s likely to hurt her business. Would you do business with someone you saw doing this — would you think they were likely to treat you and your projects professionally and with sound judgment, and that they would be pleasant to work with? Or would you recoil and run far away? Most people would recoil and run.
Frankly, a lot of people who see this won’t necessarily even connect it with you. They might know you worked there but they won’t know she fired you. And especially assuming that they see you as a level-headed, reasonable person, they’re not going to immediately assume, “Oh, this must be about Jane Mulberry, of course!” They’re going to think, “WTF is this and why is it here?”
But even if people do realize it’s about you, it’s going to make them horrified for you — because you’re clearly being targeted by someone out of her gourd. To the extent that this makes people feel anything in your direction, it’ll be sympathy. No one is going to watch these Tik Toks or Facebook videos and think, “Oh, this is valuable information about Jane Mulberry, I’d better not work with her. These lip-synched lyrics indicate she’s a sociopath!” They’re going to think, “What the hell did I just see and what is wrong with ExBoss?”
Seriously, what your boss is doing is highly likely to destroy her reputation with any reasonable person. Let her destroy it. It’s never fun for someone else’s drama to splash on you, but it’s so clearly about her and not you.
Don’t give it another thought other than as a story you will enjoy telling in a few years when the sting is gone.