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I work in a university in the US. I was hired by a person that left last year for a better position somewhere else. My previous manager invited me to join him in his new position and have a role equal to my current position, but I decided to not leave my current job.

My new supervisor constantly blames my previous manager by undermining his contributions. My current supervisor reminds me, in each meeting, that the previous manager's time is over, and if he was good, he would still be here. She ignores the fact that my previous manager left our university because he found an incredibly good position somewhere else.

Hearing these complaints and ignoring of my previous manager contributions hurts me a lot. My previous manager is still my friend and I believe he is a really good man, and really powerful and talented in his works. I'm not sure about the meaning of these complaints that are thrown on me; perhaps my new supervisor is trying to tell me that I need to leave also.

Is there a way to professionally ask my new supervisor to stop this?

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    I get the idea that the new manager is feeling out of her depth.
    – Solar Mike
    May 29 '20 at 16:35
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    @SolarMike It’s quite true indeed. She is too stressful in comparison to my previous manager, but I’m not sure why she thinks blaming the previous manager would help her. Even, if her accusations were true, I’m not sure what can I do about them? I mean she never criticized me directly in my surprise, but always complaining that previous manager had a bad legacy helps no one. May 29 '20 at 16:41
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    Who brings up the name of your previous manager first? Compare her: "AP, I need you to X." "My old boss never asked me to X" "Your old boss is gone [rant and rave.]" to her just starting on a rant like this out of the blue when you didn't mention the name or a time period or anything like that. May 29 '20 at 17:19
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    When we have meeting I never talk about old times or my previous manager. I try to just focus on work related stuffs and discuss my progress with her and give my work report. So, it's her that brings it up everytime and I never reacted in a way to show that I'm interested in these kind of discussions about my old supervisor or even I hide my feelings and I just say one OK everytime and try to move on to different topic. May 29 '20 at 17:27
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    One day she will be gone, and then you'll get a new manager who blames her for everything going wrong...
    – gnasher729
    Jun 1 '20 at 14:48
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Blame your predecessor is politics 101

Politicians do it. Managers do it. Developers do it. People told to organize a stockroom do it. Blaming your predecessor moves the initial starting point back, so if you succeed it seems like a greater accomplishment, and if you fail, it is because expectations are too high.

The "predecessor did something bad" becomes the dominant narrative because they are not around to defend themselves and managers are rarely willing to actually investigate so they assume it is accurate. It doesn't help that it is frequently accurate, at least in part.

Companies also have a vested interest in promoting the narrative that they offer a superior quality environment to most workplace and that anyone no longer there was greedy, lazy, or couldn't do the job. If they admitted that good people leave for reasons not related to negative character attributes, they would be admitting that the narrative is poor.

As much loyalty as you might have for your old manager, your new manager is right that his time is done and a new era of politics has arrived. Your new manager is trying to throw their weight around and seem in charge and discussing your respect for the prior manager is only going to make things worse.

The fastest way to stop this is probably to never mention your old manager around your new manager again.

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    It appears that it is the new manager doing the mentioning, not the OP. May 30 '20 at 12:41
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This happens. Blaming the predecessor because they can't defend themselves and nobody can refute the accusation.

Ignore it as best you can. It's not likely that you can change your new manager's behavior. When they start this talk try to steer the conversation back to the topic or task at hand.

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    Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Indeed. The former manager is not hurt by these attacks (they have got a good position), you do not need to be hurt on behalf of them, except being very careful around this new manager. They are quick to blame others when things do not go their way. May 29 '20 at 20:42
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My new supervisor constantly blames my previous manager by undermining his contributions. My current supervisor reminds me, in each meeting, that the previous manager's time is over, and if he was good, he would still be here.

It's unprofessional of your current supervisor to continuously blame the previous supervisor and devalue their previous contributions. At the same time, you have to ask yourself if your new supervisor is truly exhibiting this blaming behavior or do you still have an allegiance to our old supervisor and thus clouding your objective judgment. I mention this because I have seen bad culture rip a team apart to where many people left the company, but the remaining team members still try to carry on that same poor culture due to their allegiances to the departed leaders.

I would ask yourself if the feedback about the previous supervisor is well thought out and merit more investment OR does it just sound like baseless accusations?

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  • Well, clearly I should say I admire my previous manager and think my new supervisor accusations are baseless. In fact, the thing that hurts me is that my new supervisor is not in an equal situation to judge my previous manager in terms of education, work experience, etc. Unfortunately, my previous manager and I were the only ones that work on a specialized section of our organization and my new supervisor is someone that appointed as interim manager to take some of my previous manager roles without any prior experience in this area. May 30 '20 at 1:32
  • @AloneProgrammer Well, no idea what the new manager is complaining about, but keep in mind that being a great manager is barely about knowing the technical specifics of an area (unless they are strongly involved in product design etc), but mostly about people, money and deadline management skills etc. So just because the new manager is not an expert in your business area does normally not make them any worse for the role. May 30 '20 at 17:20
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For some reason no one mentioned possibility to have a honest talk with your new manager that you could initiate yourself (I mean one-to-one chat, because it does not concern any one else).

Her behaviour is not very professional for sure, but it could be due to the fact she feels a lot of pressure from higher managers or does not feel comfortable in her new position for whatever reason. Some people get aggressive when feel vulnerable. There is a chance she sees you as a part of her problem.

Try to dissuade her. Send her a clear signal that it is not the case, that you are ready to work with her and you remain committed to getting your part of the job done. I don't mean making oath of loyalty to her, that would be too much, but some thing like «Hey, please let me know if you want me to do some thing differently than I have been doing so far. I am open to adjust my style of working, but help me to realise what you expect from me, because I am confused».

Of course, if she merely dislikes you personally for no reason she can explain for herself, it is not going to work (I am not sure if there is any thing that is going to work in such case except for great patience). But I would recommend giving it a try to get things constructive. It might pay off. But even if it does not, you will be able to understand the nature of the problem between you two and to know whether your differences are reconcilable.

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