I started working at this company more than 5 years ago as an assistant. One of my superiors never trusted my capabilities and never supported my growth, however I got promoted quickly, and after some more struggle I got promoted again at the same time when I changed departments and I am currently managing an office there.

Unfortunately, it's the same company, so I'm not too far away from this person. I know that my current boss (a great person I have in high esteem) has vetoed my ex-boss for the position which I have right now. That said, you can imagine that my ex-boss is not happy at all at me having the position that she wanted to have herself. I cannot guarantee she is aware of my current boss vetoing her, but in any case, she is definitely aware of the result - me having the position, her having to work in the same department as before (her position there is still superior to mine, but I do not respond to her anymore).

Now my current boss is on maternity leave, and after a couple months, I have noticed an increased attention of my ex-boss to everything I do. She sometimes calls me three times a day to ask random questions about random things, or to tell me that a link in the email I have sent earlier was not working. She tries to make suggestions on how I should do one thing or another, and although I can still keep my territory, she is starting to make me really nervous, and that might be one of the things she is trying to achieve. She has also tried to damage my relationship with my colleagues, telling me bad things about a colleague she supposedly heard from another person, which I ignored, because I knew it was not true.

She doesn't have any real power against me, but she seems to be observing my every move, looking for mistakes or clues to give her an excuse to diminish my work, criticize, or simply make sure I'm aware that she's always there.

In this situation I think that it's not me who is having a problem, but her, but it's starting to affect me psychologically. I am nervous about the things I'm doing, as I know that she's going to be the first to appear if there's something wrong.

I wouldn't be surprised if she is also looking for a way to prove that I was not worth the position, especially because the new office that I am in charge with right now has received a lot of positive attention in the company lately (diminishing her position, obviously, as when I was working under her, the performance in the same areas was a lot lower).

We have never really had an open fight, so ignoring her when she asks for some information seems kind of drastic, so at the moment I simply ask her why she needs this info, when she calls, and she starts going around it and never gives a straight answer.

I suppose I should be stricter about that and mark the boundaries of my territory, but I'm used to being nice with everybody and I think that I'm feeding the monster right now. I was also considering talking about the situation with my current boss, but I don't want to trouble her during her leave (although the appearance of my ex-boss is obviously triggered by the absence of my current boss).

Am I doing the right thing? Is there anything else I should do to control the situation?

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    An old saying goes, Do the job you want, not the job you are assigned. Your ex-boss wants your job and is trying to do it for you or at least pretend like she is lording over you. – maple_shaft Oct 6 '13 at 1:06
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    Hello Clare, and welcome to The Workplace! The best questions here inspire answers that explain why and how. If you could edit your post to cut out some of the more subjective parts about your feelings toward your ex-boss, and focus your question a bit, you are likely to get better answers! – jmac Oct 7 '13 at 23:58

She doesn't have any real power against me

Since you don't work for her, the only real power she could have over you is the power you give her to disrupt your work, or ruin your self-confidence. Don't let her do that.

In this situation I think that it's not me who is having a problem

It's only your problem if you let it be your problem.

Am I doing the right thing? Is there anything else I should do to control the situation?

If it were me, I'd ignore her as much as the professional arrangements allow. Stop letting others make you feel nervous. Do your job to the best of your abilities.

When your current boss returns, if your ex-boss continues to behave this way, make sure your current boss sees what is going on.

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This is a dangerous situation. She is trying to undermine you while your organizational support (your boss) is gone. If you let her go unchecked, it may be too late to redeem your reputation when your boss returns.

So first, go talk to whoever you are officially reporting to while your boss is on leave. If you don't know then that is a problem right there. In that case, go talk to the person your boss reports to. Tell this person that the other manager seems to be stepping outside her authority and trying to manage your group and is that true that she is in charge while your boss is out. You may find out that she was tasked to do so and you may find out that she is outside your chain of command. If she is not supposed to be in your way, let the senior person deal with it or advise you how to deal with it. Be prepared to discuss some of the incidents and ask what you should do about them.

In general it is always a bad move to let people put you down professionally without responding to them. It doesn't make you look above it all, it makes you look like the things she is saying are true. It also convinces her that you won't fight back. If she is making you look bad, you made need to throw her a few curve balls as well and put her on the spot about her work. Don't be nasty and don't be defensive. But do present your side when she says something in public and do ask her hard questions about her work group. And make sure that, to everyone else, you are presenting yourself as professionally and as competently as you can. People won't believe her nonsense if they have a good impression of you, so go out of your way to make one. Show some intitative if your jobs lends itself to that. Really push to meet any deadlines. See if there is some way to lighten the load for whoever is covering for your boss. You need to shine when people are trying to tarnish your rep.

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Joe Strazzere's answer is the answer.

But there's one thing I'd like to throw into the mix: sometimes you get to work with really difficult people. I'm talking about the unreaonasable bullies with all sorts of problems that have somehow managed to get an influencial position and spend their days making everyone miserable.

And if you are really dealing with one of these people, then sometimes the best form of defense is to counter-attack. Is she waiting for you to make mistakes? Watch her for mistakes. Build up a paperwork trail that will make her look stupid and inadequate. Make sure that you are right and assert yourself.

In my humble expereince, playing this game is a destructive process. But like office politics, when someone drags you into it you frequently don't have a choice. Doing nothing and being their punching bag is not the way to go. But at the same time, once you fire back one salvo and prove that you will not be an easy target these sort of people tend to back off.

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