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This is a continuation of my earlier post here.

Summary: I flagged potentially reputation-damaging mistake to my supervisor. They refused to acknowledge that it was an error, and based their decision on the advice of a co-worker who had out-dated knowledge and experience. Based on the advice of SE, I let it go and documented everything carefully.

Now: It turned out that the mistake, left ignored, blew up and then caused a huge amount of trouble for the company recently; I'll not include details here. My supervisor, who made the call to ignore the issue against my advice, predictably attempted to throw me under the bus. However, as I had everything documented (thank you SE), I was able to prove to higher management that I was not at fault. Of course, my supervisor was then asked to step down from their position, which they did. I was then promoted, so we have essentially swapped roles.

Problem: My ex-supervisor, whom I still maintain contact with for work purposes, is left quite bitter about this and refuses to stop 'being the boss' around me. This includes things like

  • Asking me about details regarding X and Y project, which they no longer have any involvement in.
  • Having a 'bossy' and condescending tone towards me when in front of co-workers.

Question: What is a professional way of saying

You were asked to step down for a reason. Please accept that and stop trying to interfere with my work and professional relationships.

It may also be worth, or not, reminding them that the only reason they got the job (supervisor) was because I turned it down and the company needed to find somebody else. So their condescension is highly misplaced. However, I feel that this last bit is moreso a personal response provided out of bitterness, rather than a professional response.

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    As disappointed as I am that the supervisor did not take your previous warning. It is kind of nice to see a follow up question with the outcome of the last question. – Hypnic Jerk Feb 23 '17 at 3:07
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    Why not just ignore anything from him/her that isn't relevant to what they need? – Kilisi Feb 23 '17 at 7:06
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    Supervisor doesn't always mean manager. If it comes down to it, do you have the authority to fire this person? Approaching problematic employees is done very differently if you're actually managing them. – Lilienthal Feb 23 '17 at 8:44
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In my view, the ideal response - if you can carry it out - is to completely ignore the past, pretend it didn't happen, and pretend you always have been their boss.

To Q1: "This is taken care of, thank you for asking."

To Q2: "Thank you for your contribution. We will proceed as follows ...[saying what you have in mind]".

Both in an even and unperturbed tone. It requires some nerve to keep this going. Treat condescension with the tolerance you would offer a whiny kid who is disappointed with his Christmas present; because, in a way, that's what they are.

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    +1 - The biggest mistake you can make is to become defensive when your authority is questioned or challenged - responding unemotionally is the correct response as well as ensuring the other party knows that all the decisions are your decisions and not theirs. – toadflakz Feb 23 '17 at 11:38
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    I would add Perhaps we can table in a meeting next week to discuss this - it is a reasonable request that halts the conversation, forces the situation to be diffused, and since the person likely doesn't want to discuss it (they just want to be bossy etc.) it likely won't happen anyway. – NibblyPig Feb 24 '17 at 8:59
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Pull him aside and tell him in no uncertain terms that he will NOT do anything to undermine your authority, especially in front of coworkers. If it happens again, he will be written up or taken to HR, or whatever procedures your company has in place.

You have the authority, now you have to demonstrate it. If he asks about things he has no right to know about, shut him down. "I'm sorry, but that's none of your concern". When he tries to boss you, or anyone else around say "You are overstepping your authority, please, drop this subject". or "No, I'm making the decision here, I will listen to your input, however."

You need to be the Alpha here.

When he starts up, shut him down and do so quickly. Do not be rude or abusive just be firm and don't leave room for debate. "We need to take this offline" or "I think this is a conversation for another time" or "I'm going to need to cut you off here."

Assert your power and he'll come in line.

Continue to document everything as he may not have learned his lesson, and you may need to build a disciplinary file for his eventual termination.

  • I feel this will create an incredibly toxic environment, making backstabbing and scheming the next steps for his "opponent". – Florian Peschka Feb 23 '17 at 14:48
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    @FlorianPeschka Same strategy that saved his backside the first time: Document everything. This snake has already tried to bite. Backstabbing and scheming are already evident. That's why it is important to shut it down. – Retired Codger Feb 23 '17 at 14:52
  • Isn't the things in front of the others co-workers already backstabbing aniway ? – Walfrat Feb 23 '17 at 15:45
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    Very good response. The toxicity does not come from OP, it comes from the former boss. One can not control other people's choices, only one's own. What's important is to make clear to the former boss (and to bystanders) that there is not the slightest chance of the former boss to undermine the OP and they better get used to it. – Captain Emacs Feb 23 '17 at 18:53
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I am reminded of this exchange from the movie version of The Odd Couple:

Felix Ungar: In other words, you're throwin' me out.

Oscar Madison: Not in other words. Those are the perfect ones!

There just isn't a more professional way of saying

You were asked to step down for a reason. Please accept that and stop trying to interfere with my work and professional relationships.

You are correct that it would be unprofessional to bring up the fact that the only reason he got the supervisor job was because you turned it down. This is no longer relevant.

  • While I had upvoted this answer, I think there is also an argument for just letting your former supervisor continue her behavior until she herself learns to grow up. For example, perhaps after having confronted your bully about her behavior, take the high road and just accept her for who she is (which in this case, is a bully.) – Teacher KSHuang Feb 23 '17 at 9:08
  • IMO He really needs to address the Elephant in the room. Being passive agressive will just waste his and his ex-boss' time. – smooth_smoothie Feb 23 '17 at 15:17
  • +1, but if OP decides to do this, make sure you do it in private. – Jim Clay Feb 23 '17 at 16:45

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