Careful What You Say When You Leave Your Job!

Many of us dream about that glorious day when we can finally say good-bye to a bad boss and a job we hate.  But others do more than just dream. After they leave, some people take to the Internet to tell everyone just how horrible their former boss and company are.

So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it good to vent? And why shouldn’t we share what we know with others so they don’t have to suffer the way we did?

Those are good questions and I’m glad you asked. 🙂

My friend Terry B. pointed me to an article by Marci Alboher in the New York Times When Ex-Employees Vent, or Reinvent that talks about this. Seems some employers will get litigious if you take your Internet venting too far – assuming they can trace the posting back to you, of course.

Personally, I think it’s important to let your feelings out to friends and family…and that can also include your cyber-family. I do, however, think it’s also important not to get fixated on the past. If we spend too much time looking back at everyone who done us wrong (a victim stance), we don’t get to move on and give ourselves a chance to take control of our own lives (a power stance). Better to devote your energy to something more positive like finding a new improved job and other projects that truly feed your spirit. Devoting yourself to past wrongs and to bringing down the evil empire may in the end undo you.

And of course, there’s also the whole references thing. You might think “Well…they’re not going to give me a good reference anyway, so what’s the difference?” Glad you asked that too. If you choose to vent publicly, this lives on forever on the Internet. If a new employer ever sees this – or gets told about it – do you really think they would want to take a chance on you and what you might one day say about them?

BUT…and I want to say this strongly since I know someone in this situation right now. She’s doing battle with the evil empire because one of their policies is potentially harmful to its customers. And, even though she was fired for speaking up, she’s choosing to take on the battle to help others. I applaud her for this with all my heart. But she’s wisely doing it within the court system, and NOT taking it to the Internet where, rather than being the one to take her former employer to court for what they’re doing, she could be the one breaking the law – and, as a result, face charges for defamation and who knows what else.

Putting yourself in a position where you may have to defend is not a power stance from which to fight. While fighting is not always the best choice, if you’re going to do it, fight smart not angry.

And, speaking of employers who sue, the article also goes on to discuss non-compete agreements and what happens if you leave a company, start one of your own in a similar business, and your ex-employer thinks you’re infringing on them. All very interesting.

Check it out for yourself if you’re curious:

When Ex-Employees Vent, or Reinvent


And just for fun here’s something from the Work Coach Cafe archives:

Celebration! Saying Good-Bye to a Really Bad Boss


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. We’re always warned about complaining about former employers in job interviews, for all the obvious reasons. Well, doing so online is that in letters five miles high. It’s much more than an offhand comment in an interview—it’s something you put time and effort into doing, a conscious decision on your part to complain publicly. Yeah, if I’m a potential employer, I’m totally going to hire you.

  2. Exactly! Thanks for the comment, Terry B.

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  4. Hi Sandrar!

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the kind words. Feel free to visit any time!

    Ronnie Ann

  5. Very good advice – not easy to practice in real life, turns out, but extremely important! After being laid off in July in a close-knit industry where everyone knows everyone and most firms are small businesses, I worked up a few “lines” to deliver about being laid off that I felt met the appropriate standard of remaining professional, not expressing sour grapes, and being honest.

    As I networked and spoke with contacts familiar with my old firm, I was careful to stick to my script and even to state that I wasn’t going to badmouth anyone when people prompted me to do so. However, let’s just say that more than a few people needed VERY little prompting to speak badly of my former employer – kind of like that boyfriend no one liked but was afraid to say anything while you were dating, but when you break up, open go the flood gates. Of course, it was a delightful guilty pleasure to hear other people say these things since I felt I was treated badly but wasn’t going to be the one spreading that around. I was still under every impression that I had left on good terms (good performance record, etc) and was of course concerned about maintaining a good reference.

    While this going on, I was growing impatient waiting for my former employer to send me (as they promised and wouldn’t let me collect myself when they suddenly laid me off) examples of my design work with them that are essential to my portfolio and chances of getting another job. After 2 polite requests and 2 weeks from my leaving, I sent a third, professional but more urgent request for the materials and received them shortly thereafter.

    A few weeks later I politely requested a few additional materials but when I followed up in September, I was curtly informed that word had “gotten around our small design community” that I had “not been portraying the company in positive light,” and as such they would be unable to provide me with any further work samples to “promote me when I was doing the opposite for them.” I responded immediately that I had not been speaking ill of them and provided concrete examples of how I actually HAD been promoting them, specifically on LinkedIn, and that if something I said was misinterpreted and repeated, I regret that but cannot control it. I stressed that I was proud of my work with them but never received any response.

    I don’t know what they heard, or if they are just irritated that I’m actually requesting my work samples (previous employees never requested nor were sent anything – the company is low on professional courtesy and extremely passive aggressive, part of why I don’t miss them).

    I guess the lesson here for others would be that even if you say things that you think are professionally appropriate and honest, it can be perceived differently by the employer and still come back to bite you. I’m now panicked about not getting a good reference from them; my requests to the two managers I worked with and had very good relationships/good work performance with have gone unanswered, I think because of perceived pressure from the two company owners.

    So take my story as a cautionary example to be even more careful about what you say, and if anyone has any advice on smoothing this over or what the managers can and cannot say if I list them as a reference, that would be much appreciated!

  6. Wow! Great story Amy…although I wish for your sake it wasn’t a first-hand story. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    I really don’t have the perfect solution for you in this case, but here are my thoughts…

    If your employer has the reputation he seems to have, then your reference dilemma at least within your industry might not be as difficult to overcome – especially if you wow them with how you present yourself and terrific new samples if need be.

    Also, you need to think hard about other references. Who else has worked with you that can give you a rave? Co-workers? Clients? Any folks in your industry who can vouch for you?

    Legally, most companies try to limit negative references – even to the point it become hard to get good feedback. Odds are your employer is not looking for a lawsuit. But of course no way to know for sure. maybe another polite note to each manager saying you really understand their situation, but hope they will help with at least a reference that helps you move on. Again, assure them you’ve gone out of the way to safeguard your former employers’ reputation and will continue to do so. Don’t know what else you can do.

    If anyone else out there has some ideas, please let Amy know!

    Meanwhile, best of luck Amy. This happens all the time and you will get to a new job. Don’t let any of this weigh too heavily on you. Just move forward with full determination to be seen as you are – as well as for the talent and enthusiasm you bring to the new job.

    Please let us know how it goes!

    Ronnie Ann

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