Rachel, I thought I was done with him
The writer got an email from a man at her old agency asking for a favor
September 21, 2012
I joined a new agency about a year ago. There was a guy at my old agency that I couldn't stand — he was a brown-noser and took credit for things he didn't do, and I was glad to be away from him. I suspected the feeling was mutual, so I was surprised to receive an email from him the other day asking for a favor. I'm tempted to completely ignore him or, better yet, reply back saying exactly what I think of him. Unfortunately, we have many of the same business acquaintances, and I generally think burning bridges is unwise. What should I do? — Sign me Miffed in Michigan
There's a big difference between burning bridges and staying clear of people with whom you've had difficulty in the past, and how to do that smartly is an invaluable skill.
I think it's safe to assume that you have nothing to gain by reconnecting with this person, and I advise you that you have no obligation, personal or professional, to do so.
Whatever you do, do not send him an email telling him what a jerk you think he is. He's not going to decide to become less of a jerk after reading it, and in an odd way you would be giving him some sense of satisfaction that at some level he got his hooks into you.
People like that tend to relish any sort of reaction, no matter how hostile, as proof of the power of their personalities.
How you do respond depends on the favor he's asking.
If it's simply for a name of someone, say the head of HR, wait a day or so and shoot back the email with the name and nothing else.
If the information he's asking for is more substantial, shoot back an email, again several days later, saying that you can't help him but pointing to some public source. Again, keep it short and impersonal.
If what he's asking you is a substantial favor, such as giving him a reference or having you introduce him to someone, simply decline the request with whatever excuse seems most handy.
"Sorry, I'm working under a terrible deadline and don't have the time."
"Sorry, I don't know her well enough to do that for you."
"Sorry, but . . ."
You get the idea. Your excuse doesn’t need to sound the least bit convincing. Your aim is to leave him with a dead end of sorts that discourages him from attempting further contact.
If you do it right, he'll feel vaguely blown off and decide to pester someone else who'd also prefer not to be hearing from him again.
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