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What to do when you start a new job and run into an old flame

What to do when you start a new job and run into an old flame
Careers2 min read

ashley lutz ask the insider

Business Insider

Ask The Insider columnist Ashley Lutz answers all your work-related questions, including the awkward, sensitive, and real-world ones. Have a question? Email

Dear Insider,

I recently left my job of several years to take a much more senior position at a new company. I was excited to start my new gig and run the show.

On my first day, I met my new colleagues. One person in particular stood out - a woman I used to casually date last year. She wanted more, I didn't. Things ended badly. We (thankfully) don't have to interact much on a daily basis, but we're constantly running into each other. I worry that she's telling colleagues about what a jerk I am.

Before I started this position I was excited to hit the ground running. Now the awkwardness is distracting. I don't know how to proceed.


Cringing At My New Job


Dear Cringing,

What you described is a worst-nightmare scenario for many people. You were looking forward to a new beginning, and now you can't escape a ghost from your past.

The good news is that it doesn't sound like this woman is your direct report, so there's no need to get higher-ups involved. This unfortunate situation is between the two of you. I doubt she is thrilled to see you either. The worst (the feeling of seeing this person for the first time at work) is behind you.

Now is the time to clear the air.

I would ask your former flame to coffee. Apologize for how things went down between you two, and make it clear that going forward you want a cordial relationship as colleagues. Email works too, if you're more comfortable with that.

If she is a reasonable person, she should accept your apology and move forward in a professional manner.

You can't control what she tells people, but you can make a good impression on your colleagues by being friendly and reliable. Show your chops at work and showcase the skills you bring to the table.

Their impressions of you as their coworker's jerk ex-flame will fade and everyone will forget about it in no time.

Good luck at the new job!


Ashley Lutz is a senior editor at Business Insider answering all your questions about the workplace. Send your queries to for publication on Business Insider. Requests for anonymity will be granted, and questions may be edited.

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