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I just left my first job out of college after working there 3 years. The reason I left is because I did not believe that my manager was treating me well. I now have a new job and am happy with it. After I left, I spoke with the CEO of my previous company and explained to him why I was leaving. As a result of this, my manager was made to undergo anger management training, among other things. Now, my manager has reached out to me to apologize and wants to "hang out as friends". I'm very confused by this. When we worked together, I didn't think he liked me at all.

How do I know if this is a genuine offer? What does he stand to gain professionally, if anything, by being in my good books (he's way more experienced than I am, I don't see how I could help him professionally)? What do I stand to lose if I disagree to meet him?

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    There's a bit of an elephant in the room here - Is/was the relationship purely platonic or is there anything, even potentially, romantic in the situation? – Oscar Bravo May 10 at 12:41
  • Are you the least bit interested? It might help us answer the question (better) if we understood whether you (1) just want to understand their motivation, (2) are potentially interested but want to understand the potential risks, (3) are not interested and want to avoid meeting, but as tactfully as possible, etc., etc. – David May 10 at 13:55
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    @OscarBravo the relationship is/was purely platonic – rwg05 May 11 at 4:14
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    I feel almost like this question could be on IPS, too. Just because a person is nice to you, that doesn't mean you're obliged to do anything. Be clear. No means no. Only do what you want to do and, if anything makes you feel uncomfortable, just say "thanks but no thanks." :-) – tu-Reinstate Monica-dor duh May 12 at 1:31
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    @OscarBravo we're both males. I'm straight and I'm pretty sure he is too. I don't think there are any romantic motivations here... – rwg05 May 13 at 0:26

14 Answers 14

72

What may he want?

  1. Convince himself that he is "cured"?
  2. Convince his boss that he has now made you his friend?
  3. Reassert his power over you?
  4. Manipulate you?
  5. Truly apologise and get your relation on a new footing?

We do not know.

However, life's too short to hang out with people who treat you or have treated you badly if there is a choice. If you have to work with them, a modicum of professionalism is appropriate, but if there is no reason to burn your private time for them, why should you?

You do not owe him anything now. You can be polite, and accept the apology [Edited to accept the apology as per thread discussions], but stay away. If he has truly reformed, he will have a fresh chance with new members of his team. If he hasn't, you are just going to needlessly agree to continue your march in the Valley of Tears.

Unless you give him the benefit of the doubt that there is a productive way forward (but your question seems to indicate that you do not), you can proceed by not finding the time to meet him.

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    The idea that it is never possible to rebuild a relationship with someone who has hurt you is definitely worth a downvote. Tread carefully? Yes. Never let someone make amends to you? That's just bitterness. – user85135 May 10 at 3:53
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    @bruglesco He has not just hurt OP. This impression has extended over a period of 3 years, and we talk not just about a slip of the tongue or some phase of personal stress. Second, OP says "When we worked together, I didn't think he liked me at all." - it is not like OP had hoped then to be on a friendly basis in principle, but just found himself being rebuffed repeatedly. And I do not say "it is never possible" - but clearly OP asks what reasons the manager could have - and I have listed some that I know do occur. The bad ones are a definite possibility - so it's caveat emptor. – Captain Emacs May 10 at 5:48
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    @CaptainEmacs "I didn't think he liked me at all" doesn't imply hatred or hostility it can simply be a case of OP thinking that his ex-manager only seeing him as employee #1924. OP doesn't say that the manager specifically expressed anger at him it could just be a generally bad environment in the department. – GittingGud May 10 at 8:45
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    Just because you work with someone does not mean they're entitled to a personal relationship. Even if they sincerely like you. And if the OP is still feeling hurt about this bad situation, it would probably be a lot more beneficial to them to talk it over with a therapist than to take chances with someone who's probably just trying to manipulate them – user90842 May 10 at 23:32
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    I'm grateful for all the answers, but personally this one helped me the most. It was helpful to see a list of possible motivations. I also don't think that it was being suggested that it is never possible to rebuild a relationship with someone who has hurt you, but more specifically in this case that maybe I should not. Aside from the fact that it has been three years, I agree with @CaptainEmacs in that I too feel like it is a little too soon for him to want to start hanging out as friends. – rwg05 May 11 at 4:48
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my manager was made to undergo anger management training

I don't know about your situation, but Alcoholics Anonymous have Step 8 & 9 in their program:

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Maybe that is what your manager doing. They might not even want to spend time together with you, but simply trying to change their life by addressing shortcomings.

As @Zibbobz commented: You can accept the apology by responding to their correspondence, but you are more than within your right to reject the offer to 'hang out

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    I think you should note the key phrase "made to...". Implying that they did not get past step 1: admitting that you have a problem. With that key piece of information, I would stay away and just use social excuses to avoid contact. I am sensing unresolved problems that are not being truthfully addressed by this manager and attempts at manipulating the OP. – G.T.D. May 10 at 5:48
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    @B1313 while I agree with the other things you say, "was made to" indicates that they did not admit they had a problem at the time they were made to go to anger management. It does not mean that the manager has not since realized the error of his ways and is trying to offer a genuine apology. – DreamConspiracy May 10 at 7:45
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    As Nelson said in response to the original question - you do not have to 'hang out' with your former boss just because they're going through this anger management training. You can accept the apology by responding to their correspondence, but you are more than within your right to reject the offer to 'hang out'. – Zibbobz May 10 at 13:38
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    When I had someone reach out to me as part of their Step 9, he made it clear to me that his goal was to apologize and clear his own conscience, and that he wasn't going to burden me with extra effort. If he'd asked me to hang out as friends, I would've laughed a long time, sent him a scathing response, then blocked him. If this is what the OP's ex-manager is trying to do, they're doing an awful job of it. – Blue Caboose May 10 at 14:48
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    OP should not care what is happening with the manager. She should disengage. This is about her life. Not his. – Dúthomhas May 10 at 18:23
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He's apologized to you. You don't need to assuage his feelings any more, and he cannot affect your career path (more than he already has).

All you need to do is say that (if, of course) you accept his apology, but that you do not feel any further contact is necessary. Have a great life, etc.

Time to be selfish. You're being selfish to yourself - you're protecting yourself from this person. And that is perfectly fine.

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Ignore him. You are not his therapist.

Don't respond to his apology, or any other communications. Anyone with the slightest amount of intelligence can "pass" an anger management course. It doesn't take much intellect to know what you are supposed to do, and tick the right boxes while you are in the training situation. That doesn't mean his real-life behaviour will have changed in any way.

If he hasn't yet realized that "apologizing" means nothing unless the other party wants to continue the relationship, help him learn that lesson by ignoring him.

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    "If he hasn't yet realized that "apologizing" means nothing unless the other party wants to continue the relationship, help him learn that lesson by ignoring him." - That sounds just bitter and petty to me. It's perfectly possible for people to make amends by sincerely apologizing, even if no relationship is continued after that. And by sincerely accepting a sincere apology, you can find some closure for yourself, and enable the other to get some closure. (all this assumes sincerity of course, which is still undetermined in this particular case) – marcelm May 10 at 15:50
  • This should be the accepted answer. It does not matter what the manager is feeling/thinking/whatever. He is attempting to continue a relationship you do not want. Disengage. Any and all interaction continues your relationship. Do not interact with him in any way. He will eventually choose another target. – Dúthomhas May 10 at 18:21
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How do I know if this is a genuine offer?

You could hang out for a bit and see if it seems genuine.

What does he stand to gain professionally, if anything, by being in my good books (he's way more experienced than I am, I don't see how I could help him professionally)?

He probably stands to gain nothing. He is probably just trying to be nice.

What do I stand to lose if I disagree to meet him?

Probably nothing. You might not gain a potentially good, way more experienced friend.

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    Since your response is pretty much the opposite of what I recommend (while I nevertheless think it is a valid one, I upvoted), I think it would be wise to make clear that as inexperienced person, OP should be cautious. – Captain Emacs May 9 at 23:19
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    What do you have to lose? You might gain a worthwhile reference and industry resource who was really happy to get useful feedback and an opportunity to improve, and feels you did him a good turn, or he might just want to mess with your head. If he's holding a grudge, that's worth knowing. If he truly wants to practice the change, that's worth knowing too. Protect yourself and be a bit guarded. You could ask someone else to call him as a reference for you for a potential new job. – VWFeature May 9 at 23:38
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    @JoeStrazzere Depending on the manager, he may be trying to extract or lead him to reveal confidential information, manipulating OP, may repeat his old patterns in more elaborate and harder to circumvent way, find ways of trapping OP. Such information may permit them to badmouth OP, and ruin or at least manipulate their future career. These are not hypothetical possibilities but reflect concrete experiences of people I know. Perhaps not the case here, but note that OP also does not wish to continue the contact. – Captain Emacs May 10 at 0:24
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    @JoeStrazzere "it would make sense to avoid this former manager, and perhaps most other people as well" - sorry, but that simply doesn't make sense. OP does not mention to have been treated badly by "most other people", but by one specific person. There are many fish in the sea. Why should this one person with proven bad record be worth their while more than so many others with whom they had no problem? As I say, it might be ok to rekindle the contact, but I can see quite a few reasons to be cautious and no reason not to be. So many SE posts about bullying speak a clear language. – Captain Emacs May 10 at 7:18
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    An apology, extracted in a work context, does not make this person suitable for actual friendship. Be polite in your rejection by all means, but don't actually see him enough to scrutinize him for sincerity! That's really an insane blurring of work and personal relationships – user90842 May 10 at 23:27
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I see two paths to approach this for you:

  • Either: Succinctly thank him for the invitiation, and decline with finality.
  • Or: meet him in a public space - for example in the cantine of your old company (or wherever people take lunch at that place). For lunch, not dinner, at a working day and time when you know the place is busy.

The reasoning for the latter is:

  • It's a normal place in the context of your erstwhile relationship.
  • There will be no overly emotional stuff going on - lots and lots of other people around.
  • He will hopefully have a tight schedule and will not be able to hang out for hours; and you likewise can put a definite end to the "date" without a problem. You don't need to lie about having an appointment, but you can truthfully say "I have to get back to work now".
  • Then just hear what he has to say. Try to put yourself in a mood where you kind of anticipate some weirdness from him, and where you are relaxed enough not to react profoundly (i.e., you don't want to get into a shouting match ... ;) ). But the setting should hopefully prevent something like that.

After that you will know more, with little risk.

Obviously, if you feel uncomfortable about meeting someone from the old company, at the old company, during lunch, because you feel your new company could look at that in a bad way, then this may not be the best approach. But you know these circumstances better than us.

No matter if you accept or decline, in both cases an easy way to deflect further contact is "I wish to concentrate on my new work life now, and hope that you understand that it's important to me to cut ties with my old company to keep things straight". Or something like that...

  • Lunch is a great way, especially if you're able to do it on a work day. You have an obvious exit in case things aren't great. But it's also pretty casual. Lunch isn't the first thing I think of when I hear "hang out as friends" but I think it is a great way to test the waters -- assuming OP is even interested in the slightest, no obligation of course. – Captain Man May 10 at 15:21
  • Lunch is too long, having a coffee is a perfect excuse to cut short an unpleasant meeting. – Rui F Ribeiro May 12 at 14:37
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I would say be truthful. It should not affect you negatively since you are no longer with this company. Why lie and waste your time with the person which you no longer need to interact with within the work environment?

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Your old manager has already apologized and that should be enough. He doesn't need to hang out with you as friends and be buddy-buddy...it's probably his way of making him feel better that you have probably forgiven him. At least, that's what I think. I would go with your gut OP, if it doesn't feel right don't feel obliged to do anything just because he apologized. The advantage you have is that the ball is in your court so you have the control of what happens next.

The most you have to do is just to be polite.

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TL;DR: Closure is healing.

As a person who did some repentance for my old ways, I decided to go back and meet and apologize to people I hurt. These meetings had a healing effect both on me and the people I hurt. Some of them decided during such a meeting they did not want to restart a relationship, but they got their small victory that day, because I did them wrong in the past but now it was me being vulnerable in front of them. It's something comforting for a victim to see they were right and the other one was wrong. It increases self-esteem. It brings a conclusion to matters which is very much needed by everyone involved. Buried matters tend to fester, not to dissolve.

Also I cannot tell you how grateful I felt for the people who did not reject my meeting requests. They showed kindness in giving me their time and a chance to say I'm sorry and got a bit of healing themselves in return.

So what you gain is: you get to heal old wounds (yours and those of another human being) and show kindness.

If this is not genuine, you can tell after the first minute. Just say it was a mistake to meet again and leave.

Be prepared for the meeting to go awkward at first, because saying sorry and admitting fault (especially when he used to be hierarchically superior to you) is not something done easily. I hurts and demands strength. Maybe words will not come, but that's normal and is a sign of being human.

In such cases it is useful both for you and him to explicitly say in clear words you forgive him (if you sincerely forgive him).

1

How do I know if this is a genuine offer?

You don't.

What does he stand to gain professionally, if anything, by being in my good books (he's way more experienced than I am, I don't see how I could help him professionally)?

Probably nothing.

What do I stand to lose if I disagree to meet him?

Your free time mainly.

How he's likely to behave depends on how exactly he was upsetting/mistreating you before and whether or not he's genuinely changed.

You could turn up and find he hasn't changed a bit, which might upset you briefly, but that's about all.

If you want to imagine worst case scenarios then theoretically he could be arranging to meet up so he can stab you, steal your organs and sell them on the dark web.


You can assume the worst or assume the best, but ultimately it's up to you to decide, nobody here can make that decision for you.

If you don't want to meet up with him you don't have to.
If you do meet up with him then there's no reason it can't be just the once and then never again.

Which do you think you are you more likely to regret?

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I feel like this could go either way honestly. Ideally you'd be able to figure it out before responding.

To that end... I think there's a simple solution nobody's mentioned.

You could just be honest with him and tell him exactly what you're thinking/feeling.

You could tell him that while you accept his apology, but that you you didn't feel he ever saw you as a friend before, and that it's leaving you confused to hear this now, and you don't get why he suddenly wants to see you.

If he's genuinely apologetic and understanding of what he did wrong, he ought to be understanding of your confusion. He should be able to explain himself in a semi-coherent manner, and you'll be able to tell if he's being sincere or if something else is going on. Bear in mind that his thoughts might not be entirely coherent or clear to him either, though... while that can be a bad sign (e.g. he's trying to put a story together and failing), it can also be a good sign (e.g. if he's really changed and still figuring himself out), so you'll have to watch his response and see what he says.

Oh, and don't make it confrontational—leave it open-ended so he can pour out his thoughts and feelings as much as he wants. Then thank him for explaining himself, tell him you'll take a day or two to think it over, and then get back to him with a sincere response. Who knows... maybe you'll find he's a different person now, and/or seeing you differently from how he did before. Getting back in touch with him in that case might be a benefit for you down the road too. Or who knows, maybe you'll get a feeling that his motivation is something else (people here have already listed a lot of possibilities)... in which case, you can tell him you've thought it over, you appreciate his reaching out, but that you'd prefer to move on and ask that he respect that decision. You can soften that a bit by reminding him that you've nevertheless accepted his apology, and (if this is something you can manage, even if you're not entirely enthusiastic about it right now) that if your paths happen to cross down the road, you won't have hard feelings and he can treat you normally then.

On the other hand, if he gets angry or treats you poorly again... well there's your answer.

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    this is a good answer. +1 for describing own feelings clearly. speaking clearly is a good way to communicate with people. It removes doubts (own and those of interlocutor) because it confronts people with hard facts. it's good when practicing this kind of communication to solicit straight answers and feedback for everything you say, making this work two-ways. – brett May 13 at 4:44
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Depends on how badly this former manager has hurt you. You have a few options of varying degrees:

1) Agree to everything. Agree to accept his apology and agree to hang out with him. You have no way of knowing if his apology is sincere (and this is a common issue with apologies, you never know if they're sincere, especially apologies in text, which is why I personally hate apologies). He may be just trying to grandstand, like show his boss "look how great I am, I've even managed to salvage this ruined relationship" and doesn't care about you at all.

2) Accept the apology, but do not agree to meet with him. Your response can take a few forms, e.g. "I understand you are trying to make yourself better, but I don't believe we have anything in common", or "I'm just really busy right now and don't have time to hang out", or whatever excuse you'd choose to make.

3) Throw him under the bus. Respond unapologetically and unambiguously stating: "You ruined my life for 3 years, and now you ask me to forgive you over a few simple words. No, you don't get the satisfaction of my forgiveness. Have a good life". Drill into his head the effect of what he did and what effect it had on you, and that nothing he will ever do will make you whole again. The trick here is to realize that apologies are not always accepted, and simply giving an apology does not mean you are exempted from the effects of what you did. (Yes, there are people in particular I am thinking of in my own life when writing this particular answer)

Which answer you choose depends on how badly he hurt you and how willing you are to forgive him. I would start by believing he is not sincere in his apology and he is simply following a 12-step program, one of the steps of which is issuing apologies, but is doing so in a half-assed way, and go from there.

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Just say "Yeah sounds good! We'll catch up in the future for sure." and then never talk to him again like most normal people do when they leave a job.

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You are under no obligation to continue engaging with a former manager, and you should not feel any guilt about refusing to do so. If you feel uncomfortable telling him/her that you never want to speak to him/her again, just say that you are "very busy" (no need to give details) or "no longer in the area" (but do not use this line if you are obviously very local to your former company).

I would add one point about the perspective of your former boss: it is quite possible that he/she was nasty to you because he/she thought you were good, but did not want you to become arrogant/complacent, and tried to push you harder as a means of obtaining great(er) results. Done right, this is a very effective strategy, although it sounds like your former boss got it badly wrong.

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    "Done right": being nasty to push someone is never "done right." It's precisely the wrong way to treat good people. You can push people, even intensely, without being nasty. – Captain Emacs May 11 at 17:27

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