I'm terrified a coworker will reveal my party-girl past

Apr 16, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. ET
Image: SheKnows

Today I'm answering a question about what happens when a coworker knows secrets about your past when you've worked so hard to change.

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Question:

Two years ago, I moved from a small town into a larger city and landed a good job. I'm now a married woman and have settled down.

I had a wild past. I used a lot of drugs, was involved with many men and did things I'm deeply ashamed of. My husband knows everything, but those I have worked with for the last year know only the person I am now: a hardworking, reliable coworker.

Recently, my boss hired a salesman for our company — a man I knew in my partying, drug-using days. He knows horrible stories about my past. Every time I see him in the hallway, I freak out. This man could sink me by telling my boss and coworkers about my past.

What do I do? Should I go to him and beg him to keep quiet? I've thought of quitting.

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Answer:

If you quit, you run away, and running never works for long, as the past soon catches up. Tell yourself, "That was then, this is now."

You're a different person. You're reliable, hardworking and have much to be proud of. Forget you ever saw this man before. From what you've said, he has as much to worry about as do you. Further, you have a solid reputation in your company and he's a new hire.

Let him see by your actions that the past is past. Treat him as you would any other newly hired employee. Greet him politely and don't bring up his or your old stories. If you get any indication that he plans to share stories about your past, pull him aside and let him know that if he plans to sink your ship, you intend to torpedo his.

If your new coworker starts spreading rumors, pull your boss aside and let him know that you had a lot of growing up to do. My guess — he'll agree that you're not the only one who has a past and will weigh your positive track record as his employee against stale gossip.

Congratulations on turning your life around.

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Have a question for Lynne? Email her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com with subject “SheKnows” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.

© 2016, Lynne Curry. Lynne authored Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.

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