my replacement is destroying all the hard work I did in my old job

A reader writes:

I am beyond my wits’ end. I joined a company almost three years ago. I relocated across the country and was bound and determined that I was going to be the best at what I was hired to do. I can say that I achieved sales success above and beyond the company’s expectation. I went into a very challenging situation where there was very little structure to the role, and over a 2.5 year span, I built a model which could be used by others new to this same role.

Recently, I was offered and accepted a new sales role in this same company. My new and my old role work hand in hand in team sales.

Since I left this role, my success has gone down considerably. I have noticed that work and processes that I created are now not being used or supported by one of the team managers. He has torn apart the model I created. He has also created an unsupportive team environment which allows his ego to block the successful, supportive and nurturing work ethic using my model.

I am so upset about this situation that the stress is causing me to react in a negative manner and walk away with my tail between my legs.

I am in a situation where when people in my old role ask me for help and I make suggestions, I find myself going back to the manager and complaining that he hasn’t trained fully or properly and this situation perpetuates itself. The more I dig in, the more he ignores.

I have a new job in the same company that I want to be successful in, but I need him to adopt and teach the successful model that I created. How do I withstand his egotistical stubbornness and watch those around me not have the success, support and training they need?

You might not be able to. It’s not your job anymore; it’s his.

Believe me, I know how frustrating it is to pour your heart and soul into creating something and see it succeed — and then watch it handled differently than you think it should be after you leave. It feels like all your hard work is being undone, and that all that time and energy was for nothing. It can feel like someone is killing your baby, whether through neglect or active mishandling. It sucks.

But the reality is, that is no longer your job. It’s no longer your baby. And you don’t get to control how it’s done anymore.

So for you, that means:

* Stop trying to intervene with your replacement when you hear things you don’t like from the people on your old team.

* If you can’t emotionally detach when people on your old team come to you for help, find a way to pull back. Is it even appropriate for them to be coming to you with this stuff at all, or should they be going to your replacement? If the latter, then you need to direct them back to him. If you are expected to collaborate with them, then you can say, “What I would do in your shoes is XYZ” … but then stop there. Don’t get emotionally invested in whether they do or don’t implement your suggestions or whether they do or don’t have enough training or support to do so. Lend your expertise, but recognize that your role stops there.

* If your replacement’s actions mean that you’re not able to do your job as effectively as you otherwise could, then deal with that the same way you would if he were any other coworker in any other role: Start by talking to him about the problem, and if the problems don’t resolve that way, then talk to your own manager.

But what you can’t do is take on a new job and still maintain control over the old one. It doesn’t work, and it will wear you out emotionally if you try.

{ 35 comments… read them below }

  1. Coelura

    Such a hard position to be in and it really is a situation where you need to let go of the old position. I’ve been there and it was so hard, particularly when I felt that my replacement was literally destroying what I had built. I was only able to be successful in my new role when I let go of the old responsibilities, made it clear what support I needed (regardless of how it was accomplished) and redirected my old team back to their new manager. Even with that, I found that within 3 years I had to move on – I just didn’t feel that I had been able to be as successful as I should have been able to be because of the changes in the supportive team’s processes.

  2. fposte

    I understand that this is frustrating–I’m very invested in my achievements and I’d hate to see them dismantled. Remember, though, that to higher-ups being overfocused on a job that isn’t yours to the detriment of performing your own job is a problem with you, not with the old job.

  3. Betsy

    I feel for you SO MUCH. I hate this feeling, like you are doing something great and it’s all going to be ruined when you leave. I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who start family businesses and have their kids just stink at them.

    Unfortunately, Alison is right. You can’t let this be your problem. You have a different job to do now, and it is probably impossible for you to continue doing your old job from where you are, even if you had the time and energy.

    Figure out what the actual responsibilities of your new job are, and do those. Leave the other job to the new person. And who knows? Maybe this disorder and disorganization is a temporary thing, and he will find his footing, adapt your processes, and emerge with something even better.

  4. Colette

    It might help to remember that, while the new manager is not doing things the way you would, things have changed while you’ve been gone, and it’s possible that the new way makes more sense with the new business needs.

    It’s also possible that the new manager just threw out your processes out of spite/apathy, but that’s hers to manage.

    I once worked for a family business where the owner was the original developer of the product, and he couldn’t let go enough to let the people he had hired to upgrade it do their jobs. That didn’t end well, and you don’t want to be that person – particularly when it’s not your business to run as you see fit.

  5. Seal

    On the flip side, what better way to reinforce the viability and significance of the model you created by having sales tank because your successor refuses to use it? After being passed over for a promotion that had initially been promised to me, I left a job I otherwise loved for a better opportunity elsewhere. Almost immediately, I began getting reports from former colleagues that most of the policies and procedures I put in place that made the place run well went by the wayside. They even took down the award-winning website I built in favor of a clunky site full of inaccuracies and misspellings. It looked like all of the hard work I put into that place was for nothing, which was very hard to deal with. But then I heard the person who got the job I had been promised was fired for incompetence, and my former boss was fired for theft. It seems that so many people had complained that things fell completely apart after I left upper management had no choice but to clean house. I still feel bad about the wasted potential and missed opportunities at my old job, and the fact that much of the work I did there was destroyed or simply tossed. But I take some satisfaction in knowing that my efforts were what ultimately made that place run well.

    1. AMG

      Exactly–there is often no better way to prove your worth than to let someone else try to do your job. Maybe that’s what’s happening in the OP’s world. I fully believe that people need to be given enough rope to hang themselves.

  6. Meredith

    I understand – it’s hard to see things change once you have spent so much time an energy on them!

    On the other hand, it really is better to let things go, for your own sake and possibly for the sake of your replacement. I was a new hire to replace a long-time employee (30+ years in the position) who had retired. She would stop by or call to “check in” every so often, and tell me everything I was doing wrong, even going so far as to adjust the lighting in my office or scolding me for changing the now-dated policies that she had maintained during her tenure there. My director finally had to tell her she wasn’t welcome, because every time she darkened the door it was a hugely stressful and confrontational time and energy suck. OP, I’m not saying that she is like you! But I think that she is a prime example of someone who really valued her job and found it very difficult to let go.

  7. Ann Furthermore

    Oh, I so feel for you, because I’ve been there. You really do just need to take a deep breath and walk away. Like AAM said, it’s not your job anymore.

    My situation wasn’t exactly the same, but similar. I worked in the Finance group of my company for about 4 years, and then moved into an IT role. We were doing a huge ERP system upgrade, and I did the finance work on the IT side.

    Because I’d spent so long in the group, and had such a good feel for what they needed, I put alot of time into writing reports that they could run that would help them tie out inter-company balances and do the financial consolidations and elimination calculations and journal entries. I was very proud of them and was sure it would make everyone’s lives much easier during month-end close.

    About a year or 2 later, I heard general BMC’ing about how hard it was to tie out inter-company balances, griping about the consolidations, and so on. When I asked if the reports I’d written were being used, I was told that another guy in the group who considered himself to be an Excel genius had decided it was better to download stuff into spreadsheets and do the work that way. And of course, it didn’t.

    I was so mad, but I finally just had to let it go. He was convinced he had a better way to do things, and nothing I said or did was going to change his mind. Grrr.

    1. Elizabeth

      I think that’s reading something into the letter that’s not there. It could be the case that the new manager is doing fine, just doing things a different way, and that the OP is bent out of shape because people aren’t doing things her way. But taking OP’s words at face value, it sounds like productivity has dropped since the new manager started. That could be frustrating on its own even if some third party had been in the role previously.

      1. fposte

        I couldn’t tell what exactly the OP meant when she said “my success has gone down considerably.” Was it because the other position was underperforming on key support tasks, or because she was spending so much time on the old job that she wasn’t being as productive in the job she actually has?

        1. Meghan

          I got the impression that the other position was underperforming on support tasks, since she said that her new role and old role work hand in hand.

        2. Elizabeth

          I wasn’t sure about the meaning of that phrase either, but it sounds like people whom she used to work with are coming to her for help that their own manager isn’t providing.

          On re-reading the letter it seems like I misunderstood the org chart relationships at play. I had thought that the manager she’s feeling frustrated was the person who directly replaced her when she changed roles (and it sounds from Alison’s title and response like she may have thought so as well). But I now think it’s more like this: The OP was an X in a team of Xs, which had some managers (but I don’t think X was one). Then she moved to team Y, which has some shared work with team X but is different. An X-manager, who was perhaps already there before OP’s move, is changing things from how they were when the OP was on team X.

          If I’m reading it right this time, I think that OP is criticizing someone who’s (now) in a different department and also a level above her in the org chart. IMO this makes it more likely that she’s ruffling feathers, especially if she’s using language like “I need [you] to adopt and teach the successful model that I created.” Whether or not she’s right that her model is the best approach, making demands up the chain of command and across departments will make her look unreasonable.

      2. Anonymous

        This is a bit harsh but I gotta say I somewhat agree with this. The repeated emphasis on the “successful model” and the statement ” I need him to adopt and teach the successful model that I created” struck me as, well, odd.

        OP, if your current performance is being affected by the changes introduced by the new manager, deal with it as if it had nothing to do with the fact that it’s YOUR model being changed, as AAM suggested.

        However, you may also want to consider that your old team and the new manager may be working in a different context now. They may have different goals, responsibilities, or constraints. I’ve seen it happen frequently in growing companies. People who can help build a company from scratch to a, say, 1-million-dollar business aren’t necessarily the people who can help scale the business to 1 billion. And when the 1-billion-dollar people come in and implement changes (to things that, admittedly, have worked in the past), the 1-million-dollar people freak out and feel all their past hard work is being destroyed. Not saying this is what’s happening, but it’s worth considering if there’s a reason the new manager is changing things.

        In any case, it may be a better communication strategy to ask the new manager WHY he’s changing things (in a way that shows you’re trying to understand, not to criticize), instead of “going back to the manager and complaining that he hasn’t trained fully or properly”

  8. Jax

    I don’t get the angst over this. You were paid to do a job, you did it very well, and then you moved on to a new job. It doesn’t concern you anymore.

    I’m a new manager stuck with the old manager still working onsite. In my case, the old manager stepped down to have a baby and wanted to return to work in a simpler job. She’s very controlling and used to make comments about this department being her “baby” and how worried she was to leave it to me.

    It was obnoxious before she left and now that’s she back it’s insufferable. Nothing like trying to do your job with your predecessor standing by judging and making you super uncomfortable. God forbid you lose a client or make a mistake. You’re instantly looked at as incompetent because the old manager is loudly talking about how you should have handled it.

    I’m looking for a new job because of this entire situation. If she wasn’t here lurking in the background, I would be free to change and make mistakes and grow. But with her around, I’m not able to feel secure that this really is MY job. And I’m sorry, but I don’t want to spend my career babysitting someone else’s “baby”. I’ll go find my own, thank you.

    1. AnonEMoose

      I feel for you, Jax. One of my very first jobs was as a receptionist/admin assistant. The person who’d held the job previously was still at the company in a different position. But she just couldn’t stop herself from trying to micromanage everything I did (although she was not my supervisor). If I didn’t do it exactly the way she did, it was wrong.

      From that job, I learned a couple of things: 1) Be very careful about accepting a position when your predecessor is still around. 2) NEVER accept a position when you will be the only person in the office never allowed to say “no” to anything.

      I lasted not quite a year, and went back to temping. Even with the financial stress of not always knowing if I’d have work, it was less hassle.

    2. Jax

      I also want to add that my situation is weird because my company believes in fluid positions. Someone doing data entry can be moved to answering phones if needed–with or without their consent.

      So my job never feels secure, and it’s more than just the ex-manager hovering. It’s the way the company works.

    3. Ann Furthermore

      Great perspective from the other side. I’ve never been in a situation like that, but knowing myself, I would find it intolerable, and eventually, my big mouth would get me into trouble.

      I’ve also moved into other roles in companies, and I’m there for the new person in an advisory capacity only…if they ask for help on something, I tell them what I would do, and then leave it at that. I figure I don’t know everything, and someone else may have a better take on it than I do.

  9. Jamie

    Is your new job reliant on the old job for support, information, etc? If so I can see where it’s a lot harder to let go.

    Otherwise I get it, emotionally, it’s just being territorial and something you just have to work to get over.

    Last year we drove past the house in which I grew up and they had completely redone the landscaping. Sure, we sold it 19 years ago when my mom died and technically they have every right to ruin the place with all the wrong plants/shrubbery. I mean it’s wrong, and it looks horrible, and they should have kept it the way it was because it was a testament to my childhood…but whatever. It totally doesn’t bother me at all.

      1. Jamie

        Ha! I’ve actually been off sugar for like 3 weeks so ….more than you can possibly know!

        My headaches have been worse since I am trying to eat better – I’m being punished for being bad and I’m not even the one who ruined the landscaping. :)

    1. Sourire

      “Is your new job reliant on the old job for support, information, etc?”

      The fact that OP stated the new job goes hand-in-hand with the old job made me read it that way, but the fact that no one else has said anything makes me wonder if I read too much into it. Any chance OP could clarify?

      1. Jessa

        I was wondering that too, and to me it sounds like maybe the OP is going about it wrong. It has nothing to do with whether or not they’re using the OPs procedures but it does have to do with whether whatever the team is now doing sans OP is messing up the tasks OP has to do.

        In which case it comes down to Alison’s usual script of “Boss, I need x thing from team Y and am not getting it fast enough to be able to do ABC UZ, what do you want me to do about it? Asking them, emailing them, suggesting they go back to the way we used to do it, hasn’t helped.” Kind of things where you go up the chain and make it all about getting the work done.

  10. Andrea

    Hey, OP, I feel your pain. I’ve been there but your job now is do the job that you are being paid to do *now*.

    One of the hardest things I ever had to do was watch an inventory control system that I had carefully made and maintained (to as much perfection as inventory control ever can be) descend into chaos.

    When I handed over the responsibilities I said my piece, gave advice, made myself available for questions and then let-it-go because I’ve been around the block enough times to know that if I’m not directly controlling something I make myself crazy with mental back seat driving.

    It took five years for the job to come back my way again. I’m now the boss of the boss of the boss of the team who does the inventory control, and the responsibility got folded under me precisely because it was remembered that when I ran it ran right.

    See? If you love something set it free, or some other Hallmark card nonsense. If it is meant to be yours, it will come back to you on its own.

    Let. It. Go.

    1. Jamie

      I have no more advice but inventory control is my baby, too, and the one that’s hardest to leave with a sitter.

      My other work babies can behave with other caregivers, but if you take your eye off inventory control for one minute it’s coloring on the walls, flushing the remote down the toilet, and having weekend keg parties.

      1. Andrea

        OMG, Jamie, it’s awful!

        I’m looking at hundred grand in write offs just for stuff that is on the general ledger that nobody wrote off properly in the last five years. O.o Bringing new meaning to the word “vaporware”.

        Nevermind that the controller thought it was a good idea for the company receptionist to enter inventory corrections “when she had time”. I explained ONCE that inventory corrections have to be done directly after a physical inventory and in one long, accurate group, and …. let. it. go.

        So it’s a lot to scrub up but I do have a good team who will get this done. It’s a mess but the company managed to run, and the earth rotated, when I wasn’t running the inventory control. If I had kept sticking my nose in past its welcome point, I would have just irritated other people and made myself crazy.

        (but i can’t wait to see a g/l figure and a physical inventory and a computer inventory that all match! :) )

  11. Susan A.

    Dear OP: your success has not gone down- you were in one position, you were successful there, you moved on, and now you need to work toward making this new position a success. If anyone else dismantles what you did while you were there, that doesn’t mean that they took anything away from your success- it was yours while you were there; you made it happen; and now that you’re gone, it’s theirs to do with what they will- either to fail or succeed. What they do with the position isn’t a reflection on you or your work- it’s a reflection on them. And I understand that it’s hard to let go (especially if you allow others to come to you for advice and you keep giving it) but you did that role, you moved on, and you need to focus on rocking your current position.

  12. Ruffingit

    It is not easy to see this happening. But, you can only do what you can do and no more. The manager in charge now is insistent on not using your model and doesn’t appear open to making changes. That is what it is and you either need to work within that frame or leave. The people on your old team who are coming to you for help should not be doing so in the first place nor should you be taking their complaints to their manager. That’s for them to do, not you.

    You’re extremely invested in your old job still, which is likely taking away time and energy from your new job. If you truly cannot find a way to do your new job without the old job using your model, then your options are either to leave or complain to YOUR higher-ups that you aren’t getting what you need from the old team manager. If that doesn’t work, you’re back to leaving as the option.

    One of the main issues in many areas of life is “But she SHOULD be doing this or that…” Well, yes, but she’s not and you can’t make her, so deal with that or not, but it’s reality.

  13. Elizabeth

    OP, this sentence struck me: “I need him to adopt and teach the successful model that I created.”

    Your model may have been brilliant, but it sounds like you’re not going to get him to do this. Instead of focusing on *how* you want him to do thinks, try focusing on what *results* you want. For example, “It’s hard for us on [new team] to keep the chocolate teapot corporate accounts synched when your team isn’t inputting the sales figures in the database promptly. Can you make sure those numbers are kept up-to-date?” For things that don’t impact your work in your new role, don’t even say anything – it’s not your job anymore. If former teammates come to you looking for help on things that don’t have to do with your new role, encourage them to have the same kinds of conversations with their managers.

    I know it’s a wrench to see something you worked on put by the wayside, but the bottom line is that *whether* things get done is more important than *how* things get done.

  14. Bluefish

    It sounds to me like you’re micromanaging a job that isn’t even yours anymore. Try to remember that everyone is different; they understand things differently, use different processes, and Lear differently. Just because its different doesnt necessarily make it better or worse. Additionally, maybe your process was, in fact, a little better or more efficient. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more than one way to do it well.

  15. Anonymous

    Thank you all for the insightful comments. Watching the team/ business loose over $20,000.00 income weekly since I left is what my true concern has been. 3 weeks later both team managers have invested additional time and resources – daily to help to recoup and insure success. I have been focusing on my new job and believe to be developing a stronger sense of my new responsibilities. I appreciate the time you took to read and comment!

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