Revisiting a Relationship with my Ex-Employer

I want to start this by saying, in all honesty, I had no interest in a relationship with them again. We had been done for several years, and I had moved on. I can’t say I was happy but I wasn’t unhappy, and looking back, the reasons why it ended are still valid.

I am not speaking about an ex-girlfriend; I am speaking about my ex-employer.

I had spent many years working for this company in Corporate America, and overall, I have to say it was a good experience. There were some bad years and rough patches; there are some thinks that happened that still can get me mad, but overall, it was good. It had just reached a useful conclusion, and it was time to end it. That was about 5–6 years ago.

I’m still close with a lot of friends there, some of who have done very well. And I will admit, I am jealous to see some folks who were beneath me now at levels above me. I have to keep reminding myself, that this is not their fault. There are, in total, only 4.5 people in the company with tens of thousands of employees, whom I truly hate. One has retired, one has moved on to a competitor, the 0.5 I have no idea (I despise him, but his character is so lacking, I do not consider him a full human. Two are still there: one I hate, but I understand why she betrayed me and I respect her reasons why, even though her comments directly resulted in my job being eliminated; the other I just hate (and so do many others). So, when I was asked, hypothetically, would I go back, I always gave the flippant, sure, why not? But in my heart, I knew it wouldn’t happen.

Two weeks ago, it looked like it might.

I was having lunch with a good friend, lets call her Emily (such a trendy name). When I worked with her, she provided more support and friendship to me than almost anyone, certainly more than two of my bosses. I do not know why I have been blessed to have such a generous person in my life, but the kindness and support she has shown me is something I fear I will never be able to repay, or properly express the level of my gratitude. Emily started a year after me, but has done well, and is now in a position of some influence. There is a big reorg going on, and I have been concerned that she might be vulnerable. She admitted she is and things might happen later in the year, but she is taking steps to protect her group, one of which is hiring in a replacement for an open position reporting to her.

“are you interested?”

S#it. I wasn’t ready for this question. Not seriously, anyway. I blew it off with my usual yeah, sure, but my mind started racing. The whole drive home, I couldn’t think about the good times, only the bad, and not the really bad, but the small annoying bad things: the early start times, the petty bureaucrats, the suck-ups whose only job seems to be self promotion, and the horrid unfun (for me) of the politics. Work at JimCo, while much lower paying, has a lot of great benefits: late start times, a very liberal nap and alcohol policy, and a relaxed dress code (on days when I have to meet with someone in the outside world, we call those “pants days”). Did I want to give this up for more $ and more headaches?

I thought about it long and hard, but in the end I applied, for two reasons. First, I thought that after a year or so, something bad would happen, again, and my job would be eliminated, again, and I would get a nice severance package (again); severance is based on total years of experience, so it would have been a nice payday. Second, Emily. She had been so good and loyal to me, and her group was in a potentially rough spot. I thought this could be a way to help protect her, and show how much I cared.

Two weeks went by and I heard nothing. I had sent a few texts to Emily during this time about other things; I hadn’t heard from her in a while, which is not unusual. Sometimes it can take her two weeks to reply to the most mundane questions or jokes. It’s normal with her, but in a way, it has always bothered me a little bit, knowing that I was not always her highest priority, though she certainly makes me feel like it when I am with her.

Friday night I get a series of texts from her. She and the family are on staycation (coronavirus canceled their travel pans), ending with her customary “how are you my friend?” For some reason, I didn’t reply to that part. I have not been feeling well, and, quite honestly, I had been taking too much advantage of JimCo’s alcohol policy (which I have stopped doing. No booze for the last three days…baby steps). For whatever reason, I consiciouly decided not to answer that one. The next day she fires back with a series of texts on how she wanted to do this in person: reaffirming my worth, our friendship, and the difficult situation she is in. She decided to recuse herself from the selection process, due to our close personal friendship. Another member on the team, Juan (also not his real name) and someone I know and respect, advocated for me; however, in the final analysis, they went with another candidate. It was very apologetic and she affirmed how much she would love to have me back.

I replied I understood; I reassured her we were good and that I bore neither her nor Juan any ill-will. In reality thought, I was a bit angry and confused (or confused about being angry). I would not have applied if she hadn’t encouraged me.

Or did she really encourage me?

I keep thinking back, and did she really want me to apply, or was she just trying to make me feel good about myself, by making me think I was wanted and had value? I had mentioned that I was thinking of packing up and moving — I had no reason to stay here: No real job, no girlfriend, no family, and there is a big ass building be built right outside my home making it noisy as hell. Why was I staying? I had been contemplating a change.

Did I say all this to Emily before or after she told me about the job? Did I misread all the signals on the job? Was she just telling me about this as a way to make me feel like I had options, and a reason to stay? After I sent her note telling her I applied, did she reply to me? Maybe she secretly didn’t want me back, either? She was just being nice but figured I would never take her up on this offer. I knew the job was not a guarantee, but to get eliminated even before interviewing made me wonder about the other factors in play.

When I was in grad school, our Director of Career Placement gave me a great analogy on the job search process. “Think of it like dating”, she said. What is the point of a first date? To get a second. The second date? Getting a third? You get the idea. “You have to get them interested, but not make them think you are desperate.” she would say. You need to be evaluating them as much as they are evaluating you.

Was this whole episode me thinking about getting back together with an ex?

I’ve only done that once before, on a trial, over a long weekend, and it wasn’t good. She is still a great person (I take all responsibility for the relationship ending), but the things that bugged me when we were dating, somehow got intensified over those few days we were back together.

Would this have happened if I went back to my ex-employer?

If so, I’m glad Emily ended it. No sense of going back to what didn’t work and expect it to work this time. There are other options out there; maybe not as comfortable or easy, but they are better opportunities to grow.

Navigating the world with manners & civility