A reader writes:
I used to be quite good friends with my immediate manager; I met her through her brother, who I was very close to, and for a while we actually lived together. Then it all fell to pieces. On a personal level, we had a falling out (she stole a large amount of liquor from a friend after a party, the second time she'd done this, and when I discovered it, I called her out on it- something I hadn't done before).
She immediately began taking it out on me at work. We lived together, and till that point had commuted together in her car- now I had to find my own way. She didn't have hiring or firing power over me, however she found ways to make my job harder, and make me look incompetent. She developed the habit of eavesdropping at my door when I was on the phone and busting in to scream at me when we were home, so I took to going down the block whenever I had to call someone. Finally, she told me to move out. I thought it was all over, especially after she got a new position at a different company and moved on. I was unofficially promoted, and have been in her old role now for almost eight months.
But it wasn't over. Since she's left, she's waged a personal campaign against me with our mutual friends- this I can handle. What I can't is when it bleeds into the workplace. She's stated that the worst thing that ever happened to her was my moving to this city (I moved for my job under her), and that she wants me to die, or failing that, to move away as no one- professionally or personally- wants me here. She has a good relationship with my boss, who isn't exactly stable herself, after working together for several years, and still has professional contact with our company, not to mention she's still working in my field and has contact with many people I deal with in one way or another. She's approached my boss on several occasions, unsolicited, to express 'concerns' over my competency, my behavior, my professionalism, and my ability to do her old job. She's sent emails after projects my company did that she was involved with, which she knows, if they were actual concerns, should be sent to me as she used to BE me, to all my other coworkers (it's a small team), demanding changes after the fact and blaming me for not reading her mind or jumping at her command (in that situation she was a participant, not a client, which meant my judgement was the ruling factor, not her wishes). Most recently, she's started spewing even more hate filled rhetoric about me (never naming names but it's a small city and she's not a subtle woman) all over social media sites about me- this pops up every few weeks, that she'll start again. She presents herself as the victim who had to deal with me, or a passive aggressive concern. While socially people aren't buying it (she's lapsed one too many times into outright lunacy, not to mention obvious history-rewriting), in professional circumstances I worry she may be convincing.
I have no unnecessary contact with this women. When I deal with her professionally, I am professional and polite. Personally, I have no dealings with her at all. I've made it my policy to just bite my tongue, and not feed into this. However, this has to stop. I'm worried it could effect my current job, and it could have repercussions on future jobs- she was my direct supervisor, after all. Most importantly, my boss would like to bring her back as a consultant for several meetings about a recent relaunch we did- while she helped with the groundwork before she left, this was my baby. I know she's going to tear me apart. Is there anyway I can either make her stop entirely, or at the very least protect myself professionally? Contrary to what she says, I am good at my job. How do you damage control someone this wacky?
Holy crap. Several things:
1. This is why it's a bad idea to cross professional boundaries with your boss -- friendship alone puts you on shaky ground; living together is one of the worst ideas of all time.
2. Read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker immediately. It'll help you figure out whether this woman is a nuisance or likely to turn into something more dangerous. Seriously, read this; she sounds unhinged and she's saying she wants you dead.
3. Talk to your boss and/or your HR department. Tell them that she is your former roommate, that you had a falling out, and that you are afraid of her -- that she's telling people she wants you dead (!), that she is sending people harassing emails about you, and that she is posting attacks about you on the Internet. Explain that your policy has been to try to ignore it and that you're not engaging with her at all, but that you are (a) afraid for your professional reputation and that of your employer, and (b) afraid that she may show up at the office and cause a scene or worse. Use the words "I am afraid of her."
I'm not a lawyer, but it's possible that your company may have some liability here, since she's your former manager. If nothing else, by warning them of what's going on, they probably incur some degree of obligation not to bring her back as a consultant ... and if you have any credibility at all, and handle this calmly, you'll probably destroy all credibility she has in their eyes.
Any advice from anyone else?