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Long story short, my former manager is a bigoted jerk who tries to get her subordinates fired so she has an excuse as to why she cannot do her job. She tried two years ago with me during the start of the global health crisis, but failed and I ended up with a new manager by August 2020. He left a year later and she made an attempt to become my manager again, but it failed. In fact, it resulted in her no longer being anyone's manager after an investigation in March after she fired two employees for their protected classes. The exact conclusion was she "lacked professionalism befitting of a person in her position".

Enough time has now passed that she now feels comfortable going back to her ways, I suppose. Because she was trying to blackmail me into doing her job this week. I had to tell her that it wasn't in my job description. This resulted in her accusing me of lying - even with proof. Telling her to talk to my manager seemed to marginally help, as she backed off briefly for a day or two.

However, she is now acting like she cannot do her job without running it by me every single time in a bid to get me to think FOR her. Yesterday I had to ask if she had asked the right questions for a potential client. She hadn't, of course.

I know all the reasons for it - including the fact I started the investigation into her. But how to I politely tell her to stop being petty?

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  • 67
    Just keep referring her to your manager. And explain to your manager how these interruptions are impacting your productivity. Your manager assigns your work, not someone who used to manage you. May 27 at 15:15
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    @mattfreake Not only "someone who used to manage you", but "someone who doesn't manage anyone anymore, and for good reason".
    – gnasher729
    May 27 at 15:59
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    This is exactly what your manager should manage! May 27 at 17:02
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    I don't understand the situation. This person fired individuals from a protected class, for a, presume, were for reasons that could not be supported by their performance, and was marked as somebody who "lacked professionalism befitting of a person in her position". This individual has nobody to manage, so what exactly, is this person's current role and how are you connected to their role? Why does this person still exist at the company?
    – Donald
    May 28 at 4:51
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    What do you mean by "for their protected classes"? Can you elaborate in your question? May 28 at 14:17

4 Answers 4

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IMHO, the only thing you can do now, is to limit your communications to traceable media only

And replying to every one of them with referral to your manager, stating that your workload is not allowing you to help Her in Her tasks / job

Sufficient amount of these communications will display her lack of professionalism and maybe get her removed

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    I wouldn't refer to workload. It makes it sound if you were not so busy, you'd help her. I'd state that they'd have to go through the manager to handle resourcing. May 27 at 16:22
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    Fortunately, she only talks to me via email now, so everything is documented. She used to call people so there wasn't a paper trail and she could deny it. I will keep politely shutting her down, though. Thanks! May 27 at 16:41
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    In your replies, you can enter your manager in the “BCC” field, which means your manager gets a copy without her knowing. Gives her a chance to dig her own grave.
    – gnasher729
    May 27 at 20:09
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    If your goal is to do you job and move on, CC your current manager. If your goal it to help former manager to dig her own gave, BCC your current manager instead. Your choice. May 28 at 12:35
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    @gnasher729: Note that BCC'ing will let your manager see your replies (with whatever you left quoted from her mail) but when she replies back to you, the BCC'd party will not be included since she (and thus her mailer) can't see it. May 28 at 14:29
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That's some mad trolling skills...

"Yesterday I had to ask if she had asked the right questions for a potential client." Why did you respond at all? What stopped you from just referring her to your manager, without offering any insight?

Could it be that accomplishing a given task is not the reason why she bothers you, but an excuse?

Here's a theory: What she is after is not even your response, i.e. the result of the interaction -- it's the interaction itself. It's like classic trolling behavior on the Web, where the goal is to use something to trigger you and provoke a response, then turn whatever you say against you and keep the cycle going forever. She doesn't want you to think for her, she wants you to respond. That's it.

If this theory is correct, then the solution is to not give her what she is after. Don't respond. Or rather, respond with the same thing every time: "I am busy with other tasks, please reach out to my manager with any requests." Saying this enough times will eventually reach the tipping point when she will 'get it' and stop.

So that your manager knows to deflect any attempts by her to tap you for assistance, have a conversation with your manager and explain that you prefer not to work with this person due to a negative working relationship. (Her accusing you of lying being one example of a red flag.)

No need to be accusatory or make things personal, just state that you find such requests unprofessional and negatively impacting your work performance. Good luck!

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    I 100% get where you are coming from and agree with you. She definitely wants a response. The reasoning behind why I can't ignore her is... its complicated. There is some overlap in our job. Our manager is trying to detangle that and I am working with him on putting checks in place, but a lot of it cannot be simply ignored. The best example I can give is she is the egg seller and I am the egg picker. She needs to come for me for eggs based on the clients needs, but she is not asking them what eggs they need so I need to explicitly tell her to do such. Does that make sense? May 27 at 19:53
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    @NoneBusiness It may be useful to edit your question to mention this; that you can't cut her off completely because your work is connected. May 28 at 16:02
  • @NoneBusiness Thanks for the clarification, makes sense. That is a material nuance to consider. I guess that leaves you with fewer options, the most straight-forward probably being reducing communication to bare minimum required in order for you to check that box on your duties and responsibilities, while continuing to work with your manager to find a way to disassociate your job duties from hers, or have someone play referee and serve as a go-to buffer between you, so she does not approach you directly but instead everything is sent through the secondary channel, including your answers.
    – A.S
    Jun 30 at 16:27
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You do not seek a continued relationship with her.
Therefore, you need to be formal, not polite.

Additionally, this person is already in imperfect standing.

  1. Openly CC your manager on all email communication with her.
  2. When approached through other channels, switch to email.
  3. Schedule a 1:1 with your manager to discuss this specific situation, ASAP.

It's very likely that a 1:1 will solve your problem. If it doesn't, you have to escalate:

  1. Ask your manager when you're not sure what to reply or it's going to take more than a few minutes.
  2. Collect and summarize a record of unreasonable requests from your ex-manager - a case against her.
  3. Together with your manager, consider if you can take this case to a manager above, one that has authority over your ex.

Directly assigning tasks to a former charge is highly unprofessional. Hopefully at some layer of your organization there is a skilled enough manager to recognize and rectify that.

This shouldn't be your fight. Companies hire managers to fix exactly this kind of issues. Some are bad apples, but hopefully your new one isn't, and will do their job.

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    +1 for CCing your current manager in. Let them know you're going to do that so they don't get freaked out by seeing potentially dozens of emails they don't need to do anything about. You can also ask your current manager, in the email thread, "Should I prioritize this over X,Y,Z?" so the ultimate decision is your manager's. If you've got a strong relationship with your current manager and raise it in a 1:1 so they know what you're doing, they'll support this approach.
    – Karl Brown
    May 30 at 11:06
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If you don't want to talk to this person, then don't. Don't respond to her emails, don't respond to her messages, don't respond to her meeting requests. Try as best as you can to not be put on any teams or assignments with her, and if you are, then report to your manager aggressively (as in, promptly, quickly, and with as much information as you can) when/if she seems to be sabotaging your joint projects. If she pulls her weight, then continue to work with her as amicably as possible but don't hesitate to throw her under the proverbial bus at the first opportunity if necessary.

That's it. If she asks you for help, don't even respond. Don't even say "no". Eventually she'll either shape up, or drown in her own incompetence, neither of which is your problem.

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  • In my opinion, ignoring coworkers (and people in general) is highly unprofessional, and tends to have negative backlash.
    – Gertsen
    May 31 at 9:36

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