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My former manager keeps trashing me. How do I deal with her?

THE QUESTION

I worked six weeks with a manager prior to being promoted, and since then, she has made it her personal mission to trash me. In front of my current manager, in my presence, she warned against promoting me again, although my numbers are through the roof.

My question is, how can I combat the person who is inhibiting my career advancement, without taking legal action?

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It's become so tense, my present manager tried to persuade me to accept another position outside of our head office so that she would no longer have to deal with the former manager about me. I declined this offer.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Kyle Couch President, Spectrum Organizational Development, Toronto

Up, up, and away. Your career is moving in the right direction, and your priority is to keep that going. Based on your recent move, there are obviously a number of people who see your potential, and your goal is to continue to impress them. While you will always have people setting up roadblocks and trying to knock you down, you must have the perseverance and determination (and blinkers) to keep looking forward.

To keep moving up, an organization's leadership pipeline, employees must have the ability to continuously adapt the skill sets and value propositions they bring to an organization. The truth is, not everyone has this ability. When these people reach the end of the road, their approach often turns from bringing themselves up, to tearing others down. This is likely the case with your former manager. she sees your career on the rise, while her own has likely reached its peak.

While her opinion does not seem to carry much weight, the mature thing to do would be to sit down with her, and hear her out. She may have a wrong opinion of you, or, if her issues are legitimate, you have a head start in correcting them. All feedback is good feedback.

There is certainly no need for legal recourse. Your next promotion may be a while off, and your attention should be focused on nailing your current role, and building toward your next move up. Your current manager obviously does not value your former manager's opinion, and you should work hard to keep things that way. You never know – your next move may involve supervising your former manager. If this is the case, you have two choices: Build her up, or knock her down. I strongly suggest the former.

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THE SECOND ANSWER

Billy Anderson Founder of the Courage Crusade, Toronto

Trash-talking equals fear. Every time. She may be scared that you're more competent than she is, or she may be jealous of your promotion. At the root of all this is the most common human fear of all: Not being good enough. Her self-esteem is in desperate need of a boost.

If you can stomach it, try to have a discussion with her. Let her know that you value your relationship with her and you get the impression she might be mad at you. Ask her if you've done anything to make her feel that way and let her know you want to try improving things. That kind of vulnerable approach typically catches people off guard in a good way. If it doesn't work, at least you've tried.

I'm more concerned about your present manager. She would rather you move than deal with the trash-talker? It's your manager's responsibility to stick up for you. The person with the great numbers – you – shouldn't be the one asked to move.

Ask your manager for advice and relate the outcome to her benefit. Something like, "My old manager's behaviour is really affecting my ability to work, which is hurting my productivity and therefore our entire team's effectiveness. What can we do about it?" Say "we" instead of "you," so she doesn't feel backed into a corner.

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About the Author
Nine to Five contributor for Globe Careers

"When you know who you really are, what you’re great at, and what you stand for, you want to jump out of bed and dance to the radio every morning,” says Billy Anderson.  He has been an advertising manager, a non-profit executive, and an instructor for Outward Bound Canada. More

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