Skip to main content
nine to five

The Question

A manager hired me for a junior position and I worked with her for a year. She left on maternity leave and I was given a premium position that required me to move out of the province. Upon her return, she complained about why I got the position and why someone who was her favourite didn't. She then proceeded to get my manager fired by influencing the vice-president. I feel she is playing favourites and treating me with disrespect. I've been successful in this role but I feel she is hindering my impending promotion and saying that she knows me better and is destroying my credibility. She is not my direct manager and not evaluating my performance.

I've tried to talk with my new manager, who is new to the company; she hasn't given me any advice. I don't know which side my new manager is on or how friendly she is with my old boss. It's a strange dynamic. How do I manoeuvre my way out of this mess, keep my coveted position, earn the respect of my new manager and keep my old manager from spreading rumours that threaten my credibility?

The First Answer

Greg A. Chung-Yan

Associate professor, industrial/organizational psychology, University of Windsor

Maintain perspective. With your promotion, things are going well and you clearly have supporters in management. You only have suspicions about your former boss based on limited evidence: her patronizing style and inquiries about why someone she preferred was not promoted. It's difficult to get someone fired, requiring documentation of prolonged underperformance, so don't imbue your former manager with powers of influence that she might not have. That's a subordinate mentality, which you need to shed. Just interact with her professionally – as a colleague and not an underling.

If you feel someone is targeting you, there might be an impulse to keep your head down. Resist this urge. Expand your visibility in the company, make your accomplishments known, and network throughout the organization. Join high-profile committees, attend all organizational functions, and capitalize on meetings with your current manager by sharing your ideas and updating her on your achievements and initiatives. Be positive; support your colleagues and direct reports; don't engage in recriminations.

You want to make your presence felt and manage your public image. People who do not appreciate the value of judicious self-promotion risk having others shape their reputations for them, sometimes in unflattering ways that can limit career success.

The Second Answer

Billy Anderson

Founder, Made You Think Coaching, Toronto

The best way to keep a job is to be amazing at it, and to make your team look good (especially your new manager). Always ask your boss how you can support her, whether she has any advice, and be sure to give her credit for her good work. Make her feel important. In the end, she is the person responsible for your promotion, not Cranky-Pants (your former boss).

You could try talking to your new manager again about the situation. She may be more comfortable with it the longer she has been in her role. However, frame the discussion as a concern, not a fact. Instead of saying, "Cranky-Pants is hindering my promotion" you could say, "I get the impression Cranky-Pants doesn't value what I do. What do you think?"

As a back-up plan, make sure you document all your work successes and accomplishments. Keep e-mails from your boss that commend you for jobs well done and ensure you are getting annual reviews so your progress is officially documented.

No job is fun when you spend the days paranoid about being sabotaged. Focus on working hard, treating everyone respectfully, making your team and your boss look good, and be proud of your contribution and the person you are choosing to be. That's what's in your control.

Lastly, don't call her "Cranky-pants" to anyone else. That's just between us.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view in the comments. Check out past columns here.