The Past Hangs On: the baggage that compromises your career/life


After three years of working for a controlling tyrant, I quit.

I got a great new job. I’m afraid I’ll lose it.

It turns out I’m not free from my former boss’s reach. When he learned where I’d landed a job (I’d intentionally hadn’t told him my new employer’s name), he wrote my new boss a scathing email about me. He told her she made a terrible mistake that she’d regret by hiring me.

I learned this when she said she needed to ask me about several accusations he’d made. She said she’d served with my former boss on a nonprofit board, knew he was pretty “tough,” but they’d gotten along fine. She interviewed me, looked serious, and then told me she’d let me prove myself, I was shaking.

Apparently, they served together on a nonprofit Board.

Now, whenever my boss asks me if I’ve completed a project, I say “yes,” even if I haven’t even started it. I keep thinking she’ll decide she made a hiring mistake. She’s told me several times I need to stop being defensive, she’s just asking me questions, but that’s easier said than done. I need help.


Individuals who work in problem situations for extended periods of time carry baggage with them to future jobs. Your former boss compounded this problem when he reached into your current job with allegations.

We all need to prove ourselves. Sometimes, the people we meet, potential friends, lovers, coworkers, bosses, give us the benefit of the doubt from the beginning. With others, we need to earn their trust. Your new boss told you she’d give you a chance to prove yourself.

Take it.

Stop giving your former boss current power. It’s as if he lobbed a round steel ball covered with spikes into the window of your new job. You’ve picked up that heavy ball and are jabbing its spikes into your chest every time you think of what he’s done and what he’s said.

How do you drop this baggage?

You drop it.

Force yourself to remember, “that was then, this is now.”

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4 thoughts on “The Past Hangs On: the baggage that compromises your career/life

  1. I definitely wouldn’t lie to my current employer about the status of projects- that is bound to bite this employee at some point. It’s too easy for the boss to say, “Show me what you have.”

    Is what the former employer did legal? It seems really shaky that he reached out to the new employer and tried to sabotage this employee’s career. And if what he claimed isn’t true, then it seems like getting the Labor Board – or a lawyer- involved might not be a bad idea?

  2. I think this one was ‘left hanging’ just a bit. I would consider the letter from the former boss to the new boss to be a serious problem, and possibly slanderous. While it’s not ‘clear’, I don’t believe ‘the accused’ was actually given an opportunity to ‘clear the air’ and respond to the accusations. And, again while it’s not quite clear, I believe that rebutting the accusations might allow her to unload the gun pointed at her.

    Then, I will have to assume that you overlooked the comment inre ‘Now, whenever my boss asks me if I’ve completed a project, I say “yes,” even if I haven’t even started it.’ I see this as a very dangerous and job-threatening thing to do. She’s lying to her now/new boss. She setting a precedent that may catch up with her and prove that she’s untrustworthy. NOTHING justifies this or any other dishonesty.

    Your advice is right on, but I don’t think it’s inclusive enough to prevent her from undermining her best efforts to survive this trail – because she’s doing it.

  3. Hi, Dan, thanks. And you’re correct, it was a bit unclear . Thee employee rebutted the concerns, but didn’t feel the air was fully cleared. And that was partially because of the employee. As the person who got the call from the employee, I had the feeling that the former manager, while a jerk, had seized on some items that had a kernel of truth. And yes, this employee needed to stop playing a dangerous game. Bringing the past into the present. Thanks!

  4. This is such a tough situation. Your advice to take the boss up on her offer to prove it is good. It will be tense and scary, but the poster can do it.

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