How do I avoid a crazy ex-boss?
November 14, 2011 2:16 PM   Subscribe

I need tactics for avoiding someone at a conference.

I have written about my psycho former supervisor previously. A few months after I wrote that question she was sent back to the States because our entire staff threatened to quit if she stayed. She was later rewarded for her malfeasance with a plum assignment (She has a friend in a high position). Later she tried to sabotage my ongoing assignment by talking shit about me to the new post. It didn’t work but still, she tried. As you might imagine, I am not a fan of this person.

My problem is that we are both going to be attending a mandatory conference in the next few weeks. What can I do to avoid her? She doesn’t know that I know about the sabotage attempt and the last conversation we had was cordial so I can’t just snub her without looking like an asshole myself.
posted by Gringos Without Borders to Work & Money (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have a really bad cold, plead contagion.
posted by zomg at 2:19 PM on November 14, 2011

Look, speaking from experience, the best thing to do is to walk right up to her, shake hands, and ask how things are going. Speak with her for about 5 minutes, and say, "It was great catching up, but now I'm going to continue networking."

It works really well, and will help you shut the door on the powerful psychological effect this person has played in your life.

It worked for me.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:27 PM on November 14, 2011 [24 favorites]

"She doesn’t know that I know about the sabotage attempt and the last conversation we had was cordial so I can’t just snub her without looking like an asshole myself."

I think you've already come up with the best answer possible. I'd also recommend making special effort to be social, its already so much of what conferences are for and having new or old friend/colleagues to hang out with will make not being around her easier.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:27 PM on November 14, 2011

Go and have a fabulous time. Enlist a couple of allies to form the "we are having a scintillating conversation" circle every time you spot her. Keep your head up, your shoulders back and down, and walk around as if you are looking forward to a delightful time wherever you are headed.

If she approaches you, be cordial. Ask after her [kids/pets/S.O] if possible. Make no reference to work. If she attempts to be nasty, raise an eyebrow, say "Nice seeing you again!" and walk away.

I have had to do this on quite a few occasions. It works like a charm, and pisses my nemesis off to no end.

(Also, ixnay on the getting drunk and shit-talking her, or you'll lose most of the benefits of this scheme. Confine yourself to a sorrowful sigh and the local equivalent of "Bless her heart.")
posted by restless_nomad at 2:31 PM on November 14, 2011 [9 favorites]

Grin and bear it. Dealing with unpleasant people is an important skill, so think of this as practice. Don't go out to lunch with her one-on-one or anything, but just deal with her existence in your professional sphere, and do the bare minimum necessary to be polite. On preview, I agree 100% with KokuRyu.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:31 PM on November 14, 2011

In the immortal words of one Al Swearengen: "In life you have to do a lot of things you don't fucking want to do. Many times, that's what the fuck life is... one vile fucking task after another. But don't get aggravated... then the enemy has you by the short hairs."

Short, sweet interaction. You lead it, not the other way around. If she leads it, she will lead you down a garden path of irritation and self-destruction.

You do the hi, how are you, great conference, hope everything's going well with you, I've just seen someone I need to speak with - you have a great time, now!

And that's it. You're out of there before she even knows what really happened.
posted by mleigh at 3:02 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing restless_nomad. Go, have a fabulous time, and let her stew in her own juices. You have better things to do, like network, enjoy your conference, and make new friends!
posted by LN at 3:16 PM on November 14, 2011

Holding onto anger, no matter how righteous, is bad for you. Focus your attention on the positive parts of the conference. KpkoRyu has it right: greet Crummy Old Boss politely, then continue on.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on November 14, 2011

I was just telling someone about the most elegant, admirable brush-off anyone's ever given me. The kind of brush-off that's obvious it's a brush-off, but handled so professionally, you can't help but go along with it and understand that you could still interact professionally afterward -- "No hard feelings; I just don't want to talk to you right now." I can't blame him. I can only hope to have this skill myself.

Dude just looked me in the eye, nodded right at me to ensure he had my attention, and I his. "It's great to see you." Turned and strolled away, head up high, as if he had much more urgent matters to attend to (and he probably did, to be honest).

This guy was nothing at the time. Today, he's literally a billionaire. I wonder how important this Jedi mind trick played a part in that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:49 PM on November 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Go and be professional, be polite and cordial and classy, to her and to everyone else you see. Make sure that's the impression EVERYONE at the conference gets of you --- that way, if she tries the shit-talking again, NO ONE will believe her.
posted by easily confused at 3:49 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't let assholes ruin your good time. Or, don't let you ruin a good time for yourself just because you don't like someone. It hurts you more than it hurts them.

If you must interact because there are other people around, be cordial. If she comes up to you privately and wants to play all nice, that's a different story. Unless she is apologizing somehow, just blow her off in the nicest possible way. The kind of thing like the above "it's great to see you", or possibly a little bit of a needle if you like "Oh, I'd heard you were brought back to the States. Hope you are well, but I was just leaving. Take care." The key is to do it in a way that cannot possibly look bad if it is retold in the worst possible way.
posted by gjc at 4:05 PM on November 14, 2011

The fact that everyone has a cellphone with a vibrate option means nobody has to stay in an unpleasant conversation longer than they want to ever again. I nth the above suggestions to be the better person - after all, if someone sees you being dickish to her they may not know your backstory but they know you're acting like a jerk - but you don't have to chat for more than a few seconds before you reach for your pocket and say "sorry, expecting some big news - I need to go take this" and disengage.
posted by phearlez at 4:25 PM on November 14, 2011

In this situation, I'd go in with an internal goal of being fabulous and graceful and full of goodwill.

Try to see if you can network with more people than your nemesis can.

Try to see if you can be nicer to your nemesis than she ever was to you.

It can be fun to watch them squirm--and nothing makes a creepy person squirm more than seeing a potential victim having a great time and making all kinds of friends and allies.
posted by calgirl at 8:38 PM on November 14, 2011

« Older What was this article about drug use?   |   Madamina, this is our staffer Madamina. Pleased to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.