What to Do When Your Old Boss Won’t Let Go

What to Do When Your Old Boss Won’t Let Go

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

I am a young professional working for a nonprofit. I’ve been in the same workplace for a couple of years, and there are many things I love about it.

A few months ago, however, I got a new supervisor. I’ve always been receptive to constructive criticism (and have received positive performance reviews). But this supervisor never gave me positive feedback, took credit for projects I’d taken the lead on, and intensely micromanaged me — even leaning over my shoulder and criticizing how I format a spreadsheet. When I tried talking to him about my concerns, he suggested I quit.

The stress being too much to bear, I elected to move to another job in the same organization. While the pay was lower, it would allow me to take some classes to beef up my résumé — an ideal situation for me right now.

Here’s the problem. Initially, I agreed to help with minor tasks from my old department while it searched for my replacement. But it doesn’t appear as though my old supervisor is actively searching. I am still under as much stress as I was working for him full time, but now I’m getting less pay.

How do I set boundaries and encourage management to hire a replacement without jeopardizing my new position, which accommodates my education schedule so well?


With hindsight, you have probably realized that it was a mistake to make such an open-ended offer. It would have been generous enough to suggest helping out with certain tasks for a specified period of time. That would have given your old supervisor — who doesn’t seem to have done you any favors — a clearer incentive to replace you promptly.

To give him one now, proceed on two tracks. First, communicate what’s going on to your current supervisor. Don’t make it a huge complaint, just be matter-of-fact. You thoughtfully offered to help your old department through a transitional period for the good of the organization — but you can’t keep doing two jobs forever, and you want to focus on doing the best you can in your new role. Your new manager needs to know that this is happening — and, frankly, should immediately step in to handle the matter without further discussion.

But second, you can simultaneously set some boundaries yourself. The next time your old boss asks you to do something, tell him that while you were happy to help during the department’s transition, you must now give your new job your full attention.

You could make that effective immediately, or set some concrete deadline in the near future, but your best bet might be to suggest: “I’ll do this one last thing for you.”

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