Etiquette: How to Retaliate Against a Boss Who Fired You

October 14, 2010 | By | Comments (0)

As soon as I learned I'd be blogging about etiquette, I started phoning friends and family to announce the big news: "Guess who has good manners, after all?"


Some of my brothers were skeptical ("Clearly they didn't dig into your past," Dan said, dredging up tired claims that I "hogged the TV" in the 1970s, forcing bystanders to "endure Mannix"). But most people were supportive, you could even say thrilled, if only because my new job presented an opportunity to get answers to questions that had been bugging them.


"OK, here's my dilemma," my friend Liz (not her real name) said the other day, over dinner (pasta) at a neighborhood restaurant. "Did I ever tell you about this boss, the one who fired me when my old company was downsizing?"


"No," I said, adding loyally, "But she was clearly an idiot if she fired you."


(Etiquette tip: Always show this level of support if a friend has been fired, even if the firing occurred years ago.)


"Yeah, she was," Liz agreed. "She got fired too, a few months later. I just found out she has a new job—at the company where I work now."


"No!" I said.


"And she is going to be at this meeting I have tomorrow. It's the first time I'll be in a room with her since she fired me," Liz said. "So?"


"So…what?" I asked.


"What should I say when I see her?" Liz asked.


That's when it hit me. Oh my God, Liz was asking my advice. Like I was some kind of an expert. I examined my qualifications: wife, dog owner, mother of three nearly grown daughters with passable manners.


So I went with it.


"Here's what you do," I said, in a very certain tone. "Go up to her, and in front of everyone, smile as if you feel genuinely sorry for her and say, in a sincere tone, 'Gosh, I hope you didn't get fired after they found out you fired me.'"


At that, Liz laughed so hard she snorted a little carbonara.


(Etiquette tip: This is OK, as long as other diners don't notice.)


And I realized, this could be a really fun job.


So, what do you think? Is there a statute of limitations on holding grudges in the workplace? What would you say to a difficult former boss?