DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I went through an incredibly horrible divorce nearly four years ago. I knew I had married the wrong guy less than a year into our marriage. Among his tricks were: he lied, he stole from me and my family, and although I could never prove it, I am sure he was cheating on me too.
A while ago I had heard that his company was in the market for a new PR firm, and as fate would have it, they decided to go with mine. It is our new star client, and my boss said he wants me to head up their account. It’s a huge deal to have this opportunity, but since my ex is their VP of Sales and Marketing, I already know I will have to be in direct contact with him, at least some of the time.
My boss is slightly familiar with my marital history, but has no idea how badly things went in the end. He has hinted that he knows this may be awkward for me, but he also said my ex requested me and my team specifically, which looks flattering to my boss, but which I know is just one more twist of the knife from my ex.
There is no way in hell I can see this ending well for me or my career. Asking to not be put on the job could negatively impact my future with my agency, but so could a blow-up between me and the only man in all the world I actively hate.
I pride myself on my professionalism, but doesn’t this seem like asking a bit too much of me? --- IN A TIGHT SPOT
DEAR IN A TIGHT SPOT: You mentioned that your boss was somewhat familiar with your marital situation. Perhaps a hint or two from you about the acrimonious nature of your parting with your ex wouldn’t be out of order. At the very least, he’d be on notice that there’s a potential for trouble ahead.
If you do end up with this account, as a safeguard to your personal wellbeing and professional integrity, maybe you could position someone on your team to be the lead in person contact when it comes time to deal directly with your ex. Putting a buffer between yourself and the man who made you miserable might be one way to both please your boss and protect yourself from anxiety.
In the long run, you may have less to worry about than you now anticipate. Your ex has some stake in the success of this new partnership too. He has bosses to please and a responsibility to his company, just as you do.