We have just been through a round of redundancies at the company I work for.

One colleague, who I had argued with frequently, took what I believe to be voluntary redundancy. I have been told by a third colleague that he sent a parting email saying that he had complained to HR about my demanding behaviour and encouraged others to do so.

I now suspect he was pushed rather than jumped. He was underperforming, but he maintained strong social connections outside of my department, so I can assume he has told everyone including the chief executive.

I feel like this poisoning of the well will impact my progression in the company. What can I do to fix this?

I’m a Canada based employee of a US company. My colleague is in the US.

Further context:

  1. I was not their manager, but I have accountabilities that fell under their remit.
  2. I was not copied in the email.
  3. I have not heard from HR or my manager about the complaint.
  4. 3rd party is a very close friend I had prior to joining the company. If they have told me about the email, it exists and they believe it should be on my radar.
  • 1
    I posted an answer for you to check out. Question: were you this person's manager or similar? I assume you were (given that they said you were "demanding") but it's best to clarify. I also assume you weren't copied in the email, is this correct?
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 0:57
  • 1
    Final question: has HR or your manager contacted you so far?
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 0:57
  • 7
    Did your third party coworker actually see or receive the email written by the departing coworker ? Or did he only hear about it from the 4th or 5th or 6th person ? Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 12:57
  • 14
    You are still there any this person is not. Maybe your 'demanding' behavior is actually what your company wants. I think you should ignore it. In my experience, when someone attacks me and they get let go, it's a win.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 21:39
  • Re "3rd party": Do you mean "the third colleague" (mentioned in the beginning)? Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 23:15

11 Answers 11


I feel like this poisoning of the well will impact my progression in the company, what can I do to fix this?

I don't think it will... or at least it shouldn't.

Saying such things in a "farewell" email is not professional, and something that reflects badly on that person. People may say many things, but that doesn't make them true.

If you have issues with your behavior or were under-performing you would surely have heard this from HR by now; having a frustrated ex-colleague rant on a parting email does not make any of those things true.

You keep focused on your work, continue doing it well and everything should go smoothly.

  • 34
    And to this point - the fact that they said it as they left makes it a lot less impactful. If someone was to make allegations and then stay around to defend them and live with the consequences, it would have a lot more weight to it. Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 13:53
  • 2
    @MarkRogers like I mentioned, very very unlikely. Or, it shouldn't... If it did, that would raise red flags on management and, like you said, suggest that perhaps it's not "good" management, as that opens the possibility that anyone can make up things about anyone else just because and management "will believe them".
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 4:08
  • 4
    @DarkCygnus - It shouldn't but the number of incompetent managers and leaders is very high. Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 12:52
  • 3
    @Gyrfalcon " If a departing employee feels an utter need to report his or hers experiences, can you then suggest a more professional and less damaging destination than HR?" Well, HR for sure, but almost everywhere there is a process for that, known as "exit interview" or something similar. Complaining about it in the farewell note and "encouraging others to do so" is not the way to go, even if it includes HR in "To" or "CC". Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 19:23
  • 2
    @Gyrfalcon Also, if something needs involvement of a lawyer/ law enforcement/ FBI, it's very likely to be out of control for HR anyways. If one employee is going to use social media platform to complain about another individual about their "behaviour", it's better the former leave the org as soon as possible, this is the highest form of unprofessionalism and in some case, violation of company code of conduct. Also, anyone this amateurish is highly unlikely to have contacts in senior leadership - otherwise blind emails are going to face same fate as mentioned in my answer. For SE, here we are! Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 19:27

Do not overthink, continue your (good) work.

You are (still) part of the company, not the one who left (not anymore). If the people (HR, Manager) feel they have problems with you, they'll bring it up and discuss it with you. Don't give this any more importance than it deserves.

On a different context, if the person would not have resigned, and rather provided a constructive criticism, chances were people would have taken them seriously. Ranting/complaining email during farewell email mostly ends up in the bin.


At this point, you have not seen with your own eyes any solid proof (such as written emails) that the bad coworker actually wrongfully badmouthed you to your manager or HR.

It could also be that the third coworker either misunderstands or exaggerates the false attack from the email from the departing coworker.

So, I don't think you should react too strongly against the assumption that your third coworker told you.

Keep in mind that your HR or manager will always give you a fair chance to defend yourself if, in fact, that bad coworker unfairly attacked you in his farewell email. For example, if his false allegation is serious enough, they will invite you to a meeting to listen to your side of the story (and he would probably be gone by that time).

Thus, you have nothing substantial to worry about.

Go on with your work. Soon, people will forget about the departing coworker. The company will always focus more on the current employees.

  • 12
    At the simplest level, OP is still employed. The leaving guy isn't. There's no good reason to go assume that the bad guy stayed, when HR is also in the know behind why the other guy left. Someone probably just rolled their eyes and filed it, cursing the extra paperwork in documenting the drama. Don't add to the drama. The guy leaving is digging his own grave with this company.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 2:27
  • 3
    I would add such action says more about the attacker than the target.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 13:55

The wisest approach may be to forget about it.

Because that's what everyone else is going to do.

Bringing it up = paying attention to it = caring about it. You want to come across as if this sort of nonsense is the least of your worries because you have real work to think about.

Everyone who stays will forget about the guy that left about 5 minutes after the door is closed behind them. The email they sent will be perceived as immature, subjective, and irrelevant.

The reason is that the people who stayed have to continue working with you, in other words are inter-dependent with you. Therefore, they need to maintain a professional working relationship with you. Whereas they owe nothing to the guy who left.

The second-best option is to casually mention to your direct manager that you heard about this email, that you were unaware of any issues mentioned in that email, and that you were blindsided by it and, since you had no opportunity to resolve the issue with the departed ex-colleague, you feel it was unprofessional and borderline harassment.

Any mention of this email in the same sentence with the word 'harassment' makes this into a hot potato, which should make others want to drop it and pretend they had no idea what it's all about. That said, I would go this route only as last resort, and only in case it gets any traction.

I wouldn't ask for a meeting to discuss -- just mention it in 1-2 sentences and say you are open to discussing further if the manager feels there is anything else worth talking about.

A sensible manager will much prefer to forget about it and move on, and to worry about things that actually matter, like making sure the work gets done, than what someone who is no longer at the company once said. Good luck!

  • 3
    Yep. I think it might have hit different if it was a quality employee leaving out of the blue. "I'm quitting because of Bob's behavior." Someone sending off a nastygram during a general layoff just comes across as sour grapes from a "disgruntled former employee" and into the trash bin it goes.
    – JamieB
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 18:28
  • @JamieB Thanks for chiming in, and agreed. I am familiar with a case of an employee leaving because of something someone said to them, and their departure and related drama had no impact on the stayer's job prospects or work relationships. With the person that leaves, it's out of sight out of mind, and nobody really cares about the details of their departure. Despite any lip service to the contrary, the moment someone leaves, the next day everyone gets back to work like it's just another day, because to them it is.
    – A.S
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 19:18

I don't think you should do anything unless someone else makes this an issue. Most likely nothing will come from an email from a disgruntled ex-employee.

If he was pushed out as you suspect, most will probably know why, and recognize the email as a rant by someone who feels mistreated. Anything you say proactively will just appear to be self-serving and lend some legitimacy to the accusations, which you don't want to do.

If someone does take his statements at face value and brings it up, then you should defend yourself and explain that he was a malcontent, in your opinion.


I would approach the manager for a meeting. Lay it out and ask them that if it has any impact yon your performance review then you would appreciate a change to defend yourself.

I did precisely this once. I approached the CEO. He told me that this person used to complain about me weekly. After a few weeks, the CEO stopped believing him.


Write an e-mail response to yourself and then forget about it.

It can be useful to record the facts of the situation, to yourself, and then let it go.

If at a later time, you need to address the issues, you will have something to remind you since, hopefully, you have put it behind you.


So an underperforming colleague who was pushed out sent a farewell email behind your back complimenting your desire for results; err, complaining about your demanding behavior.

Yes, this sounds like something that an underperforming colleague would say. Anyone who received this email probably brushed it off and anyone who reciprocated the conjecture is not worth your time.

I am willing to bet that whoever they vented to is already well aware of your ability to get things done and your colleague's inability to do likewise.

At most, you could request a copy of the email from your trusted friend. Maybe there's a glimmer of constructive criticism within your colleague's immaterial drivel.


What I would tell both you and your co-workers:

If these are just wild allegations sent to everyone, then just ignore it. Your co-workers will, and you should too. Don't get involved in mud wrestling.

If these are reasonable accusations, and you have indeed misbehaved towards this employee, and perhaps towards others who received this email, then obviously stop doing this. Because it's better for you with these accusations, which might just repeat what others feel anyway, and you should not misbehave anyway.

Now if I was an ex-employee and serious about this, then I might send an email to HR, where I inform them about your behaviour, and that I was afraid to act as long as I was employed at the company. I wouldn't send it to anyone else because that would make me look like a crank. Now HR might take this seriously enough to talk to the ex-employee and try to find out the truth (if the truth could damage the company). But in this case you wouldn't have heard anything, until either HR tells you that they investigated accusations and found nothing wrong, or HR tells you that they investigated, they are worried, and they want to hear your side.


Did you consider to contact your former colleague saying you have learned he has not been satisfied with your attitude, and then apologize for that? Eventually asking him what you can do for him now.

It is likely that you will learn what you did wrong, if anything, and ultimately he might redraw his complaints, if he senses you really regret the situation. You should be listening and try to understand rather than defending yourself and your acts: You are getting free information on how to improve yourself.

I can hardly believe he expects to personally benefit from sending the mail. He has left now. Put yourself in his place: Does he try to protect other teammates from you? Especially, you want to know which of your current colleagues you are hurting, if any. You might get a clue.

The most effective way to demonstrate you do deserve promotion/progression is to convince your manager that you learn from your mistakes, improve, and can handle similar troubles in the future. Even you did not do anything wrong, you want to show you can support a colleague in trouble.

Remember, in a team it is a common responsibility that all members perform properly. "redundancies" usually means the entire company underperforms.


You should complain to HR. They were still an employee when the engaged in this misconduct, that you were a victim of.

HR need to be aware of this in case there are supplemental issues that arise.

I wouldn't drop my friend in it. Let HR do their own digging.

  • Unless the content of that e-mail was extreme (such as a credible threat), there is little, if anything, that HR can do about a now former employee. They could put him on a "do not hire" blacklist, but any reputable company already keeps records of its former employees.
    – Trang Oul
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 6:57
  • @TrangOul What is credible threat? Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 7:45
  • @TrangOul And yes, at a bare minimum HR need to be aware so they don't hire this person again. What makes you think they would otherwise not be hired again? Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 7:47

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