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Follow-up question to: Resignation letter: general tips and what to do if boss is not on site? and Put in my two weeks or wait?. [I would suggest reading these to understand the background.]

Yes, I was patient and waited for the paperwork for the new job and put in my two weeks to my supervisor. However, my boss (the president of the company) is responsible for mainly talking to me, rather than my supervisor (closer in rank to me, for a lack of a better word). After he arrived from his vacation, he approached me about how unhappy he was that I was leaving and how the company I currently worked for made an investment into me, and for me to leave so soon (2 months), it made him unhappy.

The "investment" of which he spoke consists of study materials and hours that the company funds for professional examinations that I take as part of the profession I am in. Neither the official policy nor my offer letter state that I have to repay him anything.

Immediately after he started stating that he was unhappy, I immediately offered to write him a check. He did not want the check, and stated that in order to end on "good terms," he was suggesting that I do a project for him most likely starting a few months after my employment is terminated. For various reasons, I verbally agreed but I requested that he send a contract to me.

Looking back at this, I regret my verbal agreement. I do not intend on signing whatever contract he has for me. I plan on going back and stating to him somehow that I do not owe him anything and that I will not agree to this future project done after my termination.

How do I approach stating such in a professional manner?

Side note: I still have a week left of work until termination, due to my two-weeks' notice. This is in the U.S..

  • If you made a "Verbal agreement" why did you also request he send a written contract? It sounds to me like the agreement was to consider his contract proposal, you obviously can't agree up front to sign a contract if you haven't even read it. – Brandin Sep 1 '14 at 6:06
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Here is your answer, in writing, in your own words: "I do not intend on signing whatever contract he has for me. I plan on going back and stating to him somehow that I do not owe him anything and that I will not agree to this future project done after my termination."

It's straightforward and simple. It's also bad news, so let him swallow straight up instead of looking for sugar to make it go down.

You don't have to say anything, just wait until he sends the contract. Then you notify him that you have thought about it and that you are not signing it. Don't say anything about you not owing him anything, unless you expect an outcome that's more positive than a verbal fist fight from saying that you don't owe him anything. If you say "no" and he says you owe him, recycle the "no" answer. No need to tell him that you don't owe him anything - he already knows that.

And in general:

  1. Don't make business decisions on the spot. And especially for you: don't act on impulse. If someone is imprinting an impulse on you, let the impulse wash over you, say "I'll have to think about it" if you have to say anything at all and LEAVE THE SPOT. Don't come back with your decision (usually overnight) until you have actually LEFT the spot. The whole point of this exercise is not let anyone put you on the spot and extort a decision out of you.

  2. When you want to say something to others, evaluate the probable impact on others before you say it - You were about to say to him that you don't owe him anything, without considering that he already knows that and that if you said that, you'd be very likely to get entangled in a verbal altercation with him that achieves nothing for you.

  3. If you have to say something, say it quick, say it clean, don't start anything and get out of there. Quick.

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    @user26326 Well, you just learned how high pressure salesmen work: 1. Do all the talking, don't let the target think straight about your sales pitch; 2. Put the pressure on the target, be it guilt, appeal to greed, whatever - the idea is to have the target no think straight about their options, one of which is not to buy whatever the high pressure salesman is selling; 3. Make it difficult to impossible for the target to make a considered, duly thought out decision: the high pressure salesman wants an answer NOW. That's why I rarely make business decisions either on the spot or on the phone. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 31 '14 at 15:30
  • @user26326 Pepone is right. I don't think that the company paid you all that much to begin with. If you had allowed yourself the time to evaluate what he was saying, it would have been obvious to you that he was full of it. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 31 '14 at 15:39
  • Vietnhi: Would this be a valid reason to leave prior to the two weeks? I ask this in response to your statement "If you have to say something, say it quick, say it clean, don't start anything and get out of there. Quick." – user26326 Aug 31 '14 at 15:42
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    @user26326 You owe him a two-week notice, and a two-week's notice is is what he gets. "Get out of there. Quick" refers to "Now that you've said your piece, don't stick around long enough for anyone to make an argument or to kvetch about what you just said". – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 31 '14 at 15:47
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You had a close escape there. The way you acted was stupid (most likely due to inexperience), but you were lucky enough to not do anything that will cause you harm.

Just say that you will not be signing the contract because you thought about it, and it would be unfair to your next employer (who surely isn't going to be happy if you start working again for your old boss on the side). That's a statement that no employer could seriously object to. If the boss says that you agreed verbally, you repeat that you thought about it and it wouldn't be right to sign. If he makes other arguments, you repeat that you thought about it and it wouldn't be right to sign. There is no reason for you to say anything different (that might be stupid and used against you). You stick to your line.

Things like "I owe you nothing" are things that you may think to yourself, but you shouldn't say. You can say "I am very grateful for everything you've done for me and the things that I learned while working for your company, but the new job is an excellent opportunity for me to improve my career". So you tell the boss that he is running an excellent company, you are grateful, and moving on to improve your career is again something that no reasonable boss can object to.

I can't quite see why you offered him a check. You are not there to please people. Not when it costs you dearly. This seems to be a very emotional and not thought through response.

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    Yep, this is my first time in the workplace. I appreciate your comments, and I don't intend on making the same mistake again. – user26326 Aug 31 '14 at 23:01
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Something like

Sorry Mr/Mrs X its not you its me its not working out and I wish to develop my career elsewhere. Unfortunately upon further legal review I am unable to continue with this xxx project as this would be a breach of contract with my new employer.

Why would you owe your employer anything for this “spurious” investment – additionally I would speak to my relevant political representative to raise the issue of poor employment practices

  • What's a MP supposed to be? – user26326 Aug 31 '14 at 15:05
  • @user26326 Member of parliament I will edit my answer – Pepone Aug 31 '14 at 15:06
  • I assume the U.S. equivalent would be... – user26326 Aug 31 '14 at 15:13
  • @user26326 Congressman and Senator but I suspect it is a third word country with poor employment protection rights from the wording of the Q. In the USA I haven't heard that it is possible to owe you employer for training – Pepone Aug 31 '14 at 15:16
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    @pepone: it is possible in the US to have to pay back employer provided training. However, it has to be optional (ie: not tied to continued employment) and the details of which must be known in writing before the training is agreed to. In other words you can't just provide mandatory training and then retroactively state how much it was worth while attempting to force an employee to stay. – NotMe Sep 1 '14 at 19:58

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