68

I left my previous job a couple weeks ago, in very good terms with everyone there.

Since then, I often get texts or phone calls from my ex-manager, asking about stuff.

Some questions are benign, where can I find this or that document.

However, lately there has been some things requiring more involvement on my side (eg. Ideas on how to solve some issues in projects I used to lead)

I don't want to blow them off, and compromise an good relationship that may be useful in the future, but at the same time, they're not paying anymore!

What level of support is considered 'normal' and is to be expected from a former employee, and for how long?

  • 44
    You're not the one that is compromising future relationships, they are doing it by asking you to work for free. You made a mistake by answering the first time. You need to understand that their requests will be increasing each time a little bit more. – Bebs Aug 29 at 7:54
  • 10
  • 4
    This is your answer : workplace.stackexchange.com/a/120955/75821 – Solar Mike Aug 29 at 15:44
  • 2
    @Charmander Your comment is a possible duplicate of... your previous comment! ;) – Aaron Aug 29 at 17:58
  • 4
    Your question is too vague; people are variously interpreting "Should I...?" as a contractual/legal question (utterly country-dependent), ethical question, a straight-up business opportunity as to how much you could charge them, or an interpersonal question about how to politely make them stop bugging you. That's why you're getting so many different answers. You need to clarify by editing the question with the missing details. – smci Aug 29 at 20:17
121

Your best bet isn't to put a limit on how many times they can call you, it's to simply say that you are now unable to take calls during the day while you're at work.

Invite them to email you if they have problems, and you may take a look when you get home, in your personal time. Say that you're unable to answer queries while you're at your new job. Dropping the hint that it's your personal time may make them feel a bit guilty about doing so.

Then, if they call, don't pickup. No exceptions. If they SMS you, don't reply during the day. Stick to your guns.

You can then reply to their emails as frequently as you see fit, with as much detail as you want.

When they realise they can't call you at a moments notice to get an answer, they will spend more time thinking about things, and at the very least, spend a bit more time formulating meaningful questions to ask you. You can then decide what you want to reply to.

  • 63
    I would add that if answering their query(ies) would take a considerable amount of expertise/time, the OP should feel free to ask for compensation. A contracting agreement can be drawn up, against which the OP could charge the company an hourly rate for solving their problems. – AndreiROM Aug 29 at 17:17
  • 13
    I dunno, this seems to suggest confirming to the old company that their behaviour is okay – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 29 at 17:50
  • 1
    Another advantage of this approach is that you have a paper trail of how many questions you already answered, which could be useful (for example in pitching a contracting rate to them). – marcelm Aug 29 at 18:06
  • 5
    Also note that since it's your free time, it'd be perfectly normal that you only answered a few days later (eg. in the weekend) even if you did nothing else your as soon as you get out of work but to procrastinate. You are under absolutely no obligation to answer, nor any completeness or deadline to do so. – Ángel Aug 29 at 21:18
  • 3
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Obviously their expectations needs to shift, but the question is to how to make that happen without burning bridges. – Gregory Currie Aug 30 at 3:12
93

Normal is no support at all.

Every document or knowledge you could have should have been handed when you were under contract. After this it's not your problem anymore and should have been your ex-manager's before you left.

Once or twice can be understood but doesn't mean it should be acceptable. By answering you're training them to keep calling you. You have to untrain them.

Next time be polite but firm that you're not working for them anymore and can't keep providing support. If they want your help they'll have to pay for your time since you would be effectively working for them. I know in France it would not be an easy thing to put in place but the point is to be firm and take a stance.

Your ex-manager may be of good faith so just being direct may set the necessary boundary. However if your ex-manager try to guilt you then that's definitely a bridge you want to burn because you never know when it'll stop if ever.

  • 29
    I remember having an internship in the past and getting called several times in the month after. They blamed stuff on me that I never even touched, so after the first 3 times I simply told them I can help them for a large amount of money per hour as compensation (40 euro per hour). Never heard from them since. So yeah, normally no support is considered normal. That's what the notice period is for, so that you can transfer knowledge. Anything past that is not your problem. – Migz Aug 29 at 7:54
  • 1
    This should be the accepted answer. There are plenty of companies out there willing to work you for free, even if they have to wait for it. And if you make them wait for an answer, you become the "bad guy" in their story. If they want you to do work, they should pay for it. There's also plenty of companies willing to do this. I know several people working "part time" for their previous companies and making decent money at it. I also know several people working for free, like the OP, and it's never ending with it being years later and still getting calls. – computercarguy Aug 30 at 17:11
  • @Migz : IT Technicians often have the going rate of $79-$110 per hour, with experienced leaders possibly being double that, where I'm at (which is somewhat urban but not metropolitan). 40 Euro = $44.04 (as of Google's report, today). I'm sure details vary based on location, but I'm pointing out that for a technical career (which this sounded like), 40 Euro per hour just doesn't necessarily seem very much like "a large amount of money per hour". – TOOGAM Sep 1 at 6:41
31

You have absolutely no obligation towards your previous employer, who isn’t paying you.

You might tell them “I’d love to help you, but not for free. I think X per hour would be appropriate. Where can I send the bill?”

80% chance it turns out they didn’t really need you. 20% chance it puts some cash in your pocket. Make sure you ask your current employer if this is alright, and the taxman might want to hear about it.

According to some comments, the chance seems to be higher than 80% / lower than 20% in France :-)

  • 3rd paragraph seems cool, but not that simple in France. – Bebs Aug 29 at 8:06
  • 3
    @GregoryCurrie You need to have some legal structure to legally receive money for your work. You have various options, but that won't be build in one day. And they will skim a lot of the charged money. You can't just charge a company and cash the check to your personal account. You will also need to have discussed with your current employer (does your contract allow it, will you be concurrent...). – Bebs Aug 29 at 8:15
  • 2
    @Bebs That's very interesting, and quite different to Australia. – Gregory Currie Aug 29 at 8:20
  • 2
    @GregoryCurrie what income don't you have to declare in Australia? – Solar Mike Aug 29 at 12:08
  • 7
    @SolarMike You do need to declare income. You need an Australian Business Number (which is free and can be created in a few minutes) and you're good to go. But you don't need business plans, or a dedicated bank account, or anything like that. – Gregory Currie Aug 29 at 12:17
24

Hi {Previous Boss},

It has been a pleasure to work for you and I would be happy to help with what you are asking about but unfortunately these requests are consuming more and more of my free time.

If you would like then we can set up a time to meet and discuss an appropriate rate for continued consulting services.

Best regards, Jean-Pierre


If you are not interested in contract work then you can use something like:

Hi {Previous Boss},

It has been a pleasure to work for you and I would be happy to help with what you are asking about but unfortunately these requests are consuming more and more of my free time.

I would offer myself as a consultant but I fear that it would stretch me too thin. I do not want to leave you guys hanging but I would be really appreciative if we could meet just one last time for a final hand-off of information. Would it be feasible for you to take the next three weeks and gather a list of things you would like for me to answer and we can spend some time going through it?

Best regards, Jean-Pierre


The above excerpts should not be taken as a suggestion for your next response to your previous employer but rather as a template for things to lean towards during your next few interactions.

  • Excellent wording! Both options are polite and helpful while giving a very reasonable and well-understandable explanation as to why no further help for free can be expected. I especially like your second approach, as it allows OP a good investment in future options with the company as well as give his former employer the possibility to resolve any dangling issues they did not tie up when they had the time. The only problem I see with this is that the company may still keep calling after that "final" date. – Cerno Sep 1 at 7:27
  • @Cerno If they keep calling after that certain date then OP's first question needs to be along the lines of "Pardon my confusion but we already held the final hand-off. Is this expected to be common? I can offer my consulting services for the exorbitant rate of $300/hour." – MonkeyZeus Sep 3 at 12:49
  • Yeah, good solution. – Cerno Sep 3 at 15:33
6

I've been in this situation before, and I think the answer depends on two things:

  • Do you have any interest in helping them and getting paid for it?
  • How willing are you to cut them off and perhaps impact your relationship with them?

For me, I was not interested in continuing to work for them at all, but I also wanted to remain on good terms for things like future references. It's not normal to ask anything of an ex-employee, and most would only do so extremely apologetically. But what's "normal" is kind of irrelevant since they're doing it anyway, and could potentially be upset if you just cut all contact.

At some point, I replied with something like:

I'm happy to provide small amounts of guidance here and there to make the transition easier, but I think this issue requires significant thought/effort/involvement and surpasses what I'm willing to continue to do.

I think after that there may have been one or two more random questions that only needed one-sentence responses, and I was happy to provide that. If I were you, I would also not answer phone calls - just listen to the voice mail and respond in a text or email a day or so later so there's no expectation of a fast response.

4

I recently had a similar experience leaving a position. "Where is" questions I could answer off the top of my head were answered. Those requiring additional thought or creativity would get a.... I don't know, I'll think about it and let you know if I think of something.

As for asking for consulting $$, personally I would not couple the request with a current question. I would contact them apart from any questions they might ask and say something like....." I was thinking, maybe I could consult for you on project x and perhaps others if you think you might be interested.... blah blah blah.

That is if you wish to do consulting for $$, which can be a PIA with taxes, nondisclosure agreements, hold harmless clauses etc.

2

If you work for your previous employer, even if unpaid, you may be in violation of your current employment contract. If you do so during the hours you're paid by your current employer, you most certainly are in violation of your current employment contract. You also need to consider liability, insurance requirements, and conflicts of interest caused by the work you provide to your previous employer - these apply even if you don't get paid.

What level of support is considered 'normal'

Circumstances matter, but answering a grand total of 2-3 questions that take 5-10 minutes each can be considered normal. Answering zero questions is also normal.

0

The normal level is zero, and in many cases the legal level is zero. You have a duty of loyalty (“obligation de loyauté”) to your current employer. The law does not define this precisely — in fact it doesn't even use this expression except in a secondary clause, but there is considerable jurisprudence.

I'm no expert, so I won't venture to say what this covers exactly. But if your former and current employers are competitors, you should definitely not be helping your former employer at all. Perhaps less obviously, you should not help your former employer if they're potential clients of your current employer, because then you would be competing as a vendor of services against your current employer. Obviously you should be careful not to reveal any confidential information that belongs to your current employer, even if they aren't competing at all. Basically you need to be careful not to run into any potential conflict of interests.

This duty does not prevent you from being paid by your former employer. What matters is the nature of what you do and not whether you're paid or not. If you have a full-time job, your contract may include an exclusivity clause (“clause d'exclusivité” — unlike the duty of loyalty which is public policy, a duty exclusivity can only arise from a contract). An exclusivity clause forbids taking a second job or having regular activity as an independent contractor, but I think it does not preclude occasional contractual work (and there's also a loophole if you become auto-entrepreneur).

So tread carefully. It's unlikely that “the X document is in the Y folder” would ever be problematic, but ideas on how to solve issues are another thing. In any case, it is not normal for a former employer to ask for new ideas. If they want your expertise, they should offer to hire your services — which, as I explained above, you may not be permitted to provide (depending on the nature of the activity).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.