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I was hired as an Account Supervisor at a small communications firm. The owner was my boss and the rest of the staff about 3 other people were contractors. I worked there roughly for 3 months, doing a great job under tight deadlines and working with a demanding client. The client liked me and I was able to build a good relationship with them during that time.

My boss was terrible. She would make remarks that were completely disrespectful and random. Her behavior was erratic and very moody. The reason I was let go was because I stood up to her when she was being out of line and disrespectful. I was completely inline with what I said back to her (I didn't swear or show how angry I was), but that didn't matter. One week later she let me go saying it wasn't a good fit. I've never experienced someone act so childish and unprofessional in my 12 year career.

In any case, one of my clients contacted me on LinkedIn and is asking what happened. I really enjoyed working with him and on the program. In an ideal world, I'd like to work on his program directly through them. I know it's not professional to talk badly about an employer.

Below is what I've said so far to my client, but he wants to know what happened. Part of me really wants to slam my boss because I've been wronged...but I know that's not professional.

Dear XXXX,
I want to let you know it was a pleasure working with you and the team at XXXX. I really enjoyed working on the XXXXX program. To say the very least, I was baffled and disappointed by the recent happenings at (my work).In any case, it was great to work with you!

What else do I say and how do I imply that I'd love to work together in the future?

  • Thanks Jim. Do you have an example of what I might say? – Zoey Oct 23 '14 at 20:44
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    Kindly edit your post for clarity, starting with breaking up the text in paragraphs. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 23 '14 at 20:46
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    @Zoey "My boss and I had differences of opinion and it didn't work out. I very much enjoyed working with you and your company though." – Jim Clay Oct 23 '14 at 20:48
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    In small firms, sometimes clients ask these types of probing questions in order to determine if the firing was related to financial problems. It is not in your interest to say anything other than "it didn't work out". The part about "baffled and disappointed" means that you had no clue why and this is a warning sign for other issues. – NotMe Oct 23 '14 at 21:07
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    Well I see a good opportunity to start your own firm... ya know, the ex clients are contacting you, not the other way round... – Caterpillaraoz Sep 12 '17 at 8:13
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To the former client I would personally say (even if it was a white lie.): "I am contractually obligated to not discuss the internal affairs of my former employer." or "I cannot discuss that." This shows you are discreet and can be trusted with confidential information. It shows you are not willing to diss your former employer. It shows professional attitude.

I find it odd that the client would be pressing you about this unless they are thinking of changing their vendor. If this is the case, this is a landmine if you say anything at all beyond, "I cannot say anything about what happened."

If the client wants to know because they want to continue to work with you, they can pressure the old employer on their own to get you reinstated. Personally I would not go back unless the other person was fired, and even them I would have to think long and hard.

Nor would I take on any work from this client if they offer without consulting a lawyer. Anything you say in the case they want to work with you more than the old company is something that could give you legal problems. You have already been let go, you don't want a legal battle on top of it. You may even have a non-compete in your previous contract (the enforceability of which may be dubious, but the legal battle could be expensive).

I would however ask for a recommendation from the client. Having been let go, a client recommendation would be a good thing. Asking the client to be a reference is a good thing as well.

  • Thank you, good feedback. I did have to sign a non-compete agreement. My former boss was/is the owner of the company which surprises me even further that she treats people this way. – Zoey Oct 23 '14 at 21:01
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    @Zoey, small business owners can be the worst people to work for as they have no outside force to control their worst impulses. When you have a boss, there is a filter that helps you avoid getting in trouble, CEO s of corporations still have to answer to the Board fo Directors. Small business owners answer only to themselves and they often behave badly especially if they never been anything except an owner. This is not to say all small business owners are bad to work for, just that if they have tendencies to fly off the handle, there is generally no outside force to stop them. – HLGEM Oct 23 '14 at 21:09
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    Non-compete agreements are usually nullified when you're terminated, though I'm not a lawyer, but that's been my own experience. However, that wouldn't likely nullify a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). You still likely wouldn't be able to disclose company secrets. – Chris E Oct 23 '14 at 21:15
  • @HLGEM Good points. This makes a lot of sense. I completely agree with what you're saying and she doesn't have to answer to anyone. She definitely was impulsive and I've overheard her on phone conversations a few different occasions threaten to not pay a contractor for their work. With me I know that she violated a few different labor laws. Thanks for all the feedback. – Zoey Oct 23 '14 at 21:36
  • One reason that the client might be pressing for information is to check something the employer has told them. In at least one case when I was ending a contract I found out that the agency was telling the client that I had "left them in the lurch" when in fact I had given them six weeks notice that they needed to increase my rate to what they had initially agreed verbally before reneging in the written contract otherwise I would leave. – Eric Nolan Apr 20 '18 at 11:04

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