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Former co-worker attempts to contact are overwhelming

Q: I left a job in the early fall of 2010. I enjoyed good working relationships with my supervisor, my co-workers and the small team of employees who I supervised. My departure was professional, amicable and only because I found a similar role much closer to my home (cutting more than 20 miles from my commute). Since I have left my former company, one of my former colleagues (who I was not very close to when we worked together), keeps contacting me pretty frequently. She sends me invitations to events, has sent me friend requests on Facebook, texts me, emails me and calls me on my cell phone. We never had a close relationship when I worked with her so I am surprised by this. Occasionally a group of us would go out after work but we never had a real friendship. I don’t want to offend her but how to I get her to stop contacting me? It is becoming a nuisance.

A: Relationships developed within the workplaces can present challenges. Sometimes romantic relationships start in the office. Sometimes lasting friendships begin while colleagues work closely on a challenging client project. Sometimes one employee hopes for more than a professional relationship while the other employee prefers to maintain some distance. It sounds like your circumstance falls in the last category.

I think your former colleague needs to be sent a clear message in a professional but direct manner. You could email her a message since you did not have a particularly close relationship with her in the past. One possible message might be:

Jane, I have received your messages (all of them!). I hope you are well. I can barely keep up with my regular emails and other correspondence from friends, co-workers and family members. Can you please stop attempting to contact me? It is honestly feeling overwhelming. I wish you the best at ABC. Thank you for respecting my wishes, Jen

With this message, you have professionally and politely told her to stop reaching out to you. If she continues and you feel anxious or threatened, you may want to alert your local police and/or your former employer. In Massachusetts, if her behavior continued, it could be considered stalking. Stalking is a crime.

One of my reasons for suggesting an email (rather than a telephone call) is that you may need this email to prove that you asked her to stop contacting you. And you probably don't want to truly engage with her in a live conversation. If your former colleague does not stop her behavior, it would be helpful to have a copy of this email available. It would clearly demonstrate that you have requested her to stop contacting you. This would likely assist you if you had to provide the police with evidence that supports your concern. Additionally, do not destroy other evidence of her behavior.

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