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It’s been about 7 months since I was fired from a startup where the COO was bullying me into leaving. For instance:

  • I was ambushed into meeting rooms a few times where he’d point a finger and tell me whatever is going wrong with the company is my fault then step outside and claim that the company doesn’t have a finger pointing culture.

  • He'd leave smug snarky comments on my pull requests.

  • He made it really hard for me to get any code merged by re-reviewing the same PR over and over asking for nitty small changes, which naturally slowed down my work. This caused delays for the front-end team -- he used that to blame me for any work that didn't get delivered.

  • He even got HR into a meeting room one time and gave me a PIP to sign that contained stuff like “making too many git commits” (we squash when we merge anyway).

Looking back I cannot believe how I let this person bully me around like this and regret not just quitting but staying around to prove something to myself and worst of all believing what he was telling me and thinking I’m a really bad employee.

I was told that I need to forgive him and move on, but I can’t get myself to do that, this will sound really petty but I’m so upset that this person is still in a management position and completely got away with it. It’s making me paranoid whenever I get called into a meeting room or when a manager asks to speak with me.

If you have been in such a position before, how did you manage to move on?

My goal is to get to the point where I do not feel consumed thinking about my ex-boss.

  • How is bullying you to leave equates to being fired? Those are two different actions. – Dan Nov 7 '19 at 20:35
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    @Dan There's actually a legal term "constructive termination" (or "constructive discharge") to cover this situation. It basically means making the work environment so intolerable the person had to quit. It's possible to sue someone over an unfair constructive termination, just like one can sue over an unfair termination, but it's not a step to take lightly. – Ed Grimm Nov 9 '19 at 18:18
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I have a few tactics to help "move on" with situations like this:

  • Be aware that thought is currency. Every day, we choose what to spend money on. We have financial budgets. Thought energy works the same way - you can learn, over time, to "choose" what to spend time thinking about, or you can just let your unconscious run wild - which will make you go broke. The first step is developing an awareness - after which you can mentally pause and decide, is this something I want to think about right now? This doesn't literally mean trying to force yourself to shift gears every time you have a "bad" thought, it just means becoming more aware and taking control. Sometimes, you do need to "spend" some effort on bad thoughts, to help yourself process them. But you can't let your mental state run away out of control.
  • Realize that you can't solve every problem that makes you uncomfortable. You said that you are upset that this person is still in a manager's role. Guess what? There are probably millions of bad managers in the world. Are you going to allow yourself to take personal responsibility for all of them? Unless you're literally in charge, it doesn't make any sense to let yourself assume responsibility for any of them, does it? You don't even work at that company any more. It is, quite literally, not your problem.
  • Find a distraction. Psychologists talk about a mental state called being "in the flow" where you are so completely absorbed by what you're focusing on, that you don't have any mental room for anything else - you don't even notice the passing of time. For some people, this is a hobby, or watching their favorite movies. For others, it's a job, or a "mission," or being involved in certain social activities. Finding something that lets you get in the flow and then making sure you arrange your life to let yourself take advantage of those opportunities can be critically important to feeling satisfied and happy. The dangerous thing is, it's easy to fall into a trap of getting in the flow about negative thoughts, and letting them consume you in the same way. If you have opportunities to get in the flow with positive things, you may find that the negative thoughts don't have a place in your head any more. Some people get worried that distractions don't work, because they don't "solve" the problem, but in your case, there really isn't a tangible problem to solve - and allowing yourself to get in the flow with something positive can actually help your subconscious process negative thoughts in a helpful way.
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It seems you've already come to terms with the fact that he was a bad manager, and wrong on many accounts.

It sounds like you did a good job under the circumstances.

Hold on to that, whenever he enters your mind, push him away knowing you weren't wrong or a bad employee - if anything you were used as a scapegoat it seems.

Try to think of it as little as possible and move on with other projects. Make the new efforts replace the memories of bad times.

Actively push away thoughts of that time whenever they pop up - don't think thoughts about this "to the end", stop them once you become aware, even if that's mid mental sentence, so to speak.

After a while it will happen only rarely, eventually almost never. But it will probably never go away entirely, considering how bad it was.

Also, I would recommend seeing a therapist.

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He's still bullying you seven months after you left. You need to focus on something else because I bet he's long forgotten.

This is just a mental shift you need to make, from bitterness to an unpleasant but past experience to be paid back if possible, but no rush. Frustration leads to bitterness which in turn becomes all sorts of nasty things none of them useful to you. So don't allow yourself to be frustrated.

There's lots of strategies for focusing. Taking up a new hobby is always good.

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    +1. Also I was told that I need to forgive him and move on - You don't need to do this. Move on, yes, as Kilisi suggests. Forgiveness will give some people closure and they generally assume it will for you too. Do it if it makes you feel better and/or if it improves your state of mind. You're better off talking it out with someone, then don't think about it again. – Justin Oct 30 '19 at 8:59
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    Exercising helps me immensely when stressed out. – Neo Oct 30 '19 at 13:05
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At this point, it's about you, not your ex-boss.

Think about the phrases "nursing a grudge" or "carrying a grudge" or "Take offense"

The one thing all of these phrases have in common is that they require active participation on your part.

It isn't about moving on, it's about letting go. Moving on suggests it requires some effort on your part, as if it is an actual journey. In fact, it's about ceasing your investment of your own, limited energy into a useless pursuit. Or as the saying goes, it's like taking poison and hoping someone else dies.

Given the tone of your post, I suspect the solution to your problem is in forgiving yourself rather than your ex boss. You probably feel quite the fool now that you are out of the situation.

I've been there, trust me.

There are plenty of jerks in the world, and giving them any real estate in your mind, or your life doesn't help.

What does?

Substitute the negative behavior for something else. If you start feeling ANYTHING towards your bully ex boss, write a kind letter or email to a friend you haven't spoken to. Make a stranger smile. Do charitable work. Invest that energy in a way that makes your life, and the lives around you, better. Prove every day that you are better than that person, and what that person said about you by being the better person.

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That is a very unfortunate situation. I was in something similar some years ago. I was "luckier", meaning that the respective boss was "convinced" to leave the company before I did (I left several years later, by my own decision). However, I was not that lucky to keep my health undamaged.

If you have been in such a position before, how did you manage to move on?

You cannot move on just because you decide. It will come in time. Some details, or bad feelings, might return to your mind for years.

What is important, is that you learn as much as possible from that experience, and make the required efforts to not repeat (much) the same mistakes.

Maybe you will learn better way to answer some questions, maybe you learn to understand your superiors better, or to communicate with your colleagues in new ways. Maybe you will find a "rule" about when to quit, and when not to give up.

All the details are specific to each person, and to each situation individually.

You might want to try the following, for extra guidance:

  • read books on self-improvement: management, project management, communication, conflict avoidance and resolution, dealing with bullies, transactional analysis...;

  • find a good specialist (coach, psychologist, therapist...) who is able to guide you to better understand yourself, and to deal with others better.


One very good book which I re-read recently, and might help you too: Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

Although the book seems to "enjoy" some criticism when used as a tool by corporate managers, it still has a lot of good information that can be used in private life.


You might want to look also into the topic of The five stages of grief. The loss(es) in your case would be the job, the self-esteem, your image in front of your colleagues, the (in)justice done and the aggressor going away with it...

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Don't forgive, but forget

I was told that I need to forgive him and move on, but I can’t get myself to do that

No, you definitely don't have to do that! Like @Gertsen said in his answer: you have done a good job and he is a bad manager. That's the important thing to understand!

Move on and don't let you put down from an idiot. Don't let it bother you. He proved that he's incompetent and his opinion is not worth thinking about.

Managers are usually not that bad, and I really hope your next manager will be friendly and helpful as most managers. You did what you can if you reported the bullying to the CEO and other's possibly did as well. If they don't change anything regarding his position, it's their problem.

But I think that time is justly. You will get an appropriate job and he gets a justly treatment. I hope you have a similar positive attitute. If not - it will consume you. You can't do more - or are you looking for a legal advice to bring him to justice?

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    Forgiving is usually recommended as a way to move on and not let it consume you. It's mostly about you instead of them. – Bernhard Barker Oct 30 '19 at 16:37
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    Don't forget: remember it, and use it as a teaching moment so that it doesn't happen again, or if it does, you are prepared to deal with it. Don't let it consume you, but instead use it to better yourself. – Mike Harris Nov 7 '19 at 21:07
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It’s making me paranoid whenever I get called into a meeting room or when a manager asks to speak with me.

It may be helpful to interrogate the feeling in the moment. When you feel worried because you're going into a meeting or a talk with your manager:

  • Remember that most people are reasonable. No one at your current job has behaved like your previous manager, right?
  • Has anything actually happened that would make someone upset with you? If not, then there's no need to be worried, right?
  • Was anything said in the meeting invite or request for a talk that indicated there's a problem? If not, don't assume there is one.

Basically, see if what you're feeling has anything to do with what's happening with your job right now. Acknowledging that your worry is unfounded can help you let it go, or at least make the fear more manageable.

Ongoing things that will help.

  • Regular check-ins with your manager. Knowing where you stand will help you stop yourself from worrying that your manager is about to blow up at you.
  • Keep a running list of your accomplishments at work. This gives you something to reference when you worry you're a bad employee (and is also useful during annual reviews).
  • Counseling. It's negatively impacting your work life so you may want to look into your Employee Assistance Program, if you have one. If this isn't an option, there's books on eliminating negative self talk, getting past toxic relationships, etc.
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I would say thats great experience, you just have a wrong view of it.

I was in a relatively similar situation - blamed for every mistake, being pointed out in front of others and so on. It was also a really bad experience at first, and it also impacted my mental health where I felt really uncomfortable and unskilled at my own job with my own collegues.

Today, after I switched jobs, and gained more general experience, I'm really glad that this happened to me, as I can forsee such situations before they happen, and appropriately react to them or defend myself. Since then I successfully stood up to such people and clearly let them know that 2 can play those games. I've never got into such situations again.

This may be painful now, but you will eventually get over it and even use it for your own benefit in the future. The best thing that can help you right now is to think about mistakes that they have made, to see that they aren't better than you. How much good people has this person chased off that startup? Where is this startup today? Probably nowhere or somewhere without that person on board. You actually got lucky to get away from there.

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