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Woman Balks After Classmate She ‘Bullied’ In Middle School Demands She Step Down From Work Project

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It’s true that sometimes what we’ve done in the past will come back to haunt us, even if we look back ourselves and think it wasn’t that big of a deal.

One of the possible places our mistakes could turn up? At work, said the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor FormerlyNotNice was surprised when her new coworker called her out for her bullying tactics in elementary school and demanded action in the workplace.

When the two women couldn’t see eye-to-eye, the Original Poster (OP) wasn’t sure what to expect.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for refusing to step down from a project because a woman I formerly bullied is on the team?”

The OP just started working with another project team.

“I (31 [Female]) work at a top consulting firm, and recently we hired Jane (30 [Female]), who reports recursively to my peer’s team.”

“I have not worked with their team on projects so far, but as my peer and I landed a major account, we will be seeing more of each other.”

The OP was surprised by one of the team members.

“Last week Jane scheduled a 1:1 with me and read me a riot act, saying that I should step down from the project.”

“She said I ruined her life when we were children and she is traumatized by me being the lead for this project.”

“She said that if I had any remorse, I would step aside on this project and let my peer take over, and that I owe her this much courtesy.”

“I was so taken aback by this that I was silent throughout it all and ended the meeting by saying, ‘I see you are deeply hurt by my past actions. Let’s take some space and let me think about this.'”

That wasn’t what Jane wanted.

“In our work Slack, she pings me every other day, asking when I will be stepping down.”

“I can’t step down because I landed this account, and even if I could step down, this would completely derail my career trajectory to Principal.”

The OP struggled to remember what Jane was talking about.

“I scoured my memory for bullying and asked my close friends from childhood who all told me the same version of this story from when we were 13/14, and I do recall this.”

“We were all in Chinese language school together on Sundays (not public school), and we did not like how Jane would copy our outfits and lie to fit in with us.”

“I think we found her to be very annoying and so I did not invite her to my 13th birthday party or any events where I included the other girls.”

“She found out (none of us went to class that Sunday) and her mom called all our moms and yelled at them for excluding Jane.”

“When I asked my mom about this, my mom said that she had no idea who Jane’s mom was at the time and that she didn’t think I was doing much at Chinese school anyways.”

“I definitely see how this would be awful as a 13-year-old to be ostracized by a group of girls that she identified with.”

“At the same time, I find it deeply unprofessional how she behaved at work.”

The OP struggled with what to do next.

“I scheduled an HR (Human Resources) meeting for later this week because I am at a loss what I should do here.”

“I hesitate to go to HR because this will reflect poorly on Jane.”

“I am two levels above her and my peer is her skip manager. I’ve been at the company for 4+ years, and I bring in a significant amount of revenue.”

“Jane is an MBA new hire and has been with us for less than 3 months.”

“If I go to HR, the best scenario is that she is given a warning and coaching. Long term, this will negatively impact Jane’s ability to grow at the company.”

“AITA because I refused to step down from a project because a woman I formerly bullied is on the team and because I’m going to HR to resolve this?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some said the two women should be able to resolve this maturely. 

“So, nearly two decades ago, you didn’t invite a girl who wasn’t your friend to a birthday party and other events.”

“That doesn’t give her the right to demand you stand aside in your job now.”

“I’m sure you can apologize – ‘I’m sorry I hurt you in the past’ – and work professionally now. It’s not like you’re asking her to be buddy-buddy, just, do what’s needed in a job.”

“NTA. She could quite possibly use some therapy if she’s still so wound up about childhood nonsense (because let’s be honest, kids do a lot of silly things).”ieya404

“Like girl, I’m sorry I was an a**hole but that was like 20 years ago. I will keep my interactions with you to a minimum but unfortunately, I’m not stepping down.”

“I would just offer a heartfelt apology and leave it at that. Unfortunately, you might be running into each other more and she cannot just ask you to remove yourself to lessen her interactions with you.”

“If it’s that traumatizing, perhaps she should look for a job elsewhere.”

“NTA, don’t step down.”Positive_Mango_2783

“Don’t apologize. Especially in writing.”

“‘Jane, I’m not sure what you think transpired when we were children, but we are professionals here. This is my project, my account, and I am not stepping down. If you persist with this inappropriate workplace suggestion, I will escalate this matter to HR.'”

“That’s it. Don’t say anything else.”chickenfightyourmom

Others agreed and didn’t think this qualified as bullying.

“She wasn’t even an a**hole though!

“If not liking someone ‘copying’ you (middle school drama) and not inviting someone to your bday party is bullying, I’m pretty sure everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life is a bully!”

“Honestly, I think Jane is the f**king bully and I wish op would yeet her a**.”RusticTroglodyte

“I’m not sure this really qualifies as bullying. If you’re annoying me, I’m not going to hang out with you.”

“Not everyone likes you in life, get over it. I rather people did not hang out with me than insult me all the time.”aspen-sage

“Honestly, from what OP has said, nothing she describes makes her sound like an AH.”

“She wasn’t obligated to invite a girl she was not friends with to her events.”

“Now if she isn’t mentioning that they teased her and gloated that she wasn’t invited, then sure, but just not inviting her doesn’t make her an AH in the past.”melodytanner26

Some recommended going to HR immediately.

“If Jane has issues with you, she needs to go to HR instead of threatening you.”

“As much as you don’t want to hurt Jane than you have more than you did in your high school career, she’s actively hindering your ability to do your job, which you’re doing without malice to Jane.”

“The fact you’re showing concern for how Jane would be treated if HR got involved shows you’re not the person she obsesses as seeing you as.”ScorchieSong

“If what OP says is true about how HR will react (ie, it will reflect poorly on Jane and her chances to grow at the company) AND Jane knows that, there’s no way Jane will be the one to go to HR.”

“Which is why she’s trying to get OP to step down 1:1 without involving anyone else.”

“OP, just do your job the way you do it and stay strictly professional in all things related to Jane. Document every interaction with her.”

“If/when the day arrives when this comes up in some sort of official way you can just slap all that paper down on the table. Jane will be f**ked, and you’ll have come out of it as the professional.”darthanders

“And it’s good OP is going to HR now, to get it on the record.”

‘Will Jane sabotage the project if OP doesn’t invite her to her next dinner party?”

“I mean, really. This girl is mad that Op didn’t invite her to things over 15 years ago, in the seventh grade!”CJSinTX

After receiving feedback, the OP shared an update:

“HR moved our meeting up, and long story short, Jane will no longer be working on my account, nor will she be continuing to work at the company due to violating company values.”

“This unfortunately is the worst possible scenario and obviously does not help Jane’s dim view of me.”

Though the OP was hesitant to move forward with HR, the subReddit absolutely encouraged it. The situation didn’t work out well for Jane, but perhaps there was a better way to bring up the past.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.