What would you have done in this situation?

  • I was working on a rather extensive critical pilot project for our firm. It utilized standard technologies that anyone that's been working for more than 2 years should know, but which were new to our company. It also required cooperation from a half dozen teams spread out across multiple departments. After spec'ing out the work, I told my boss that we should have some redundant people (i.e. I should not be the only person who knew anything about the inner workings/purpose/etc of the project). My boss told me that he would get headcount approved and to proceeed. A year later, nobody else had been hired and I was the only person who had the slightest clue of what the system did, what still needed to be done, etc. Although I put together extensive documentation (powerpoint introductions to the technology, lists of pertinent training courses, visio diagrams showing flow, sequence diagrams, etc), it was all utilizing technologies that were new to the company and so nobody else really understood what the pictures were saying.

    Then about 150 of us got laid off - to save costs - with no warning - and were escorted out of the building, so I forget about the project, and look for and find another job.

    Just about that time, one of the people that still works for my former boss calls me at home, tells me he's been assigned my old responsibilities, that he has no clue what to do, and would I explain to him what he needed to do to complete the project. I told him to use the project plan that I had been working from - it pretty much had step-by-step instructions. He said that he was already reading it, but didn't understand the technology, and that they needed my help.

    I feel that if I resign, that I have an ethical responsibility to answer those sorts of questions - for free - for up to about 6 months. Since I had essentially been told that they no longer required my expertise and that they didn't even let me hang around for a couple of days to show someone else the ropes, that I was no longer under any obligation to help them proceed.

    A few days later, someone else (also working for my former boss) calls with the same question. I give the same answer.

    A few days later, my former boss calls with the same question. I give the same answer, but suffix it by telling him that since I have direct on-point experience with this particular project, that I would be willing to help out - at the standard rate that they pay consultants - for a few days to get the ball rolling.

    He thought that I should help them out for free for at least 6 months.

    I hung up on him.

    What would you have done?

  • WTF?!

    They need to think about what they're saying. You don't work for the company anymore, so you are under no obligation to help them out in the slightest. If you choose to make yourself available to them, at standard consultant pay rates, then they should be greatful. They shouldn't have laid you off if they wanted your support.

    Good on you. Stick to your guns.


  • Well I agree about the helping if you resign comment. I think you were right, if it had been your decision to leave then I feel obligated to an extent to help those people I used to work for out  but if you were fired with no warning and they want you to work for free I'd tell them to take a hike.  I mean if you don't have a new job you're spending time helping them and have no income coming in. If you have a new job you're taking time away from family or your free time.  Would your boss give you advice on project management for free if he had been laid off? I am goign to assume no.

  • @What Would You Do? said:

    What would you have done?

    If you're laid off without warning, or due to any form of cost-cutting, or for any other idiotic reason, and it turns out that they still need you, they pay not a penny less than triple standard rates, contract in writing before you do a thing. If they don't agree, they didn't need you and were only asking to get work done for free.

    It's their own INCREDIBLY STUPID fault for firing an essential employee, and you make sure they pay so hard for it that the people at the top take notice. Nothing else will stop them from doing exactly the same damn thing next year. They're not just messing with people's lives, they're doing it badly - I'd seriously consider suggesting a contract clause which permits me to hit them in the groin with a sock full of change. The only thing worse than a tyrant is an incompetent tyrant.

    (If you resign with notice, and they want anything more than a couple of questions answered that you know off the top of your head, they pay standard rates. The entire point of a notice period is so that they can get everything they need before you leave, and if they were too useless to manage to do that, you're under no ethical obligation to work for free to correct a mistake that they made, and they're getting fair value for their money)

  • @What Would You Do? said:

    He thought that I should help them out for free for at least 6 months.

    I hung up on him.

    What would you have done?

    Exactly the same, and I doubt you'll find anyone here that'll say different. The one thing I would keep in mind is that this guy might be writing a reference for you, so tell em to get stuffed but be civil about it.

  • My company made a similar mistake a while before I got there.  Layed off a valuable employee for no reason.  Realized 6 months later that they needed her back.  She negotiated a ridiculously big salary to come back.  After a few weeks she just stopped showing up for work.  Sooner or later they called and asked why she wasn't at work.  Her response: "Oh, I [i]am[/i] at work.  At my new job."

  • 1. Hope they had a VERY goog reason to call you at home. Calling someone at home is for friends and relatives. For employers, there is e-mail.

    2. Ofcourse you should go back. With triple the money. The company does not seem a very good employer (fireing people like crazy) and they did not feel the owed you anything, then why should you. The only thing they seem to care about is money, and so could you.

    3. Do you want the job back?

    Start communicationg via e-mail again and tell them to stop calling you at home! The nerve!

  • In such a situation, since they laid you off and it wasn't neither your fault nor your decision, you owe them nothing at all. I would even hesitate to offer them a consulting contract.

  • Similar feelings:
    Send them an invoice for the hours work done.
    Send them a contract offer, at "benficial" rates if you so desire.

    They declared that they didn't need you, and were wrong.

    If I leave a company of my own choice then I would also feel somewhat honour bound to provide some support - if it's going to take much time then I'd probably offer a somewhat discounted rate for the work - but I'd be training the next guy, not working...

  • You handled this matter absolutely correctly.  Unless there was a clause in your employment contract that said otherwise, then your former boss's interpretation of the situation is wrong.

    You do need to handle it carefully, though.  Whatever you do, don't get snotty.  As the saying goes: be careful what toes you step on today as they may be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.


    Even so, I say again, you are completely within your rights to tell them no.


  • I would have told him (politely) to get fucked.  They terminated you without warning, and you certainly don't owe them anything here.  If they want your help, they need to pay for it -- they don't get it for free just because they don't want to pay for it.

    How do you think they would react if you had resigned and then called back a month later to ask if they could  keep sending you a paycheck while you sat at home for six months?  They'd laugh in your face, right?

  • I'd start with double the normal consultant rate, because Fuck Them. I do agree with your ideas on resignation though, it's only polite to help out if you decided it was time to go. If you're employed one hour and unemployed the next, you knife them* when they ask for help.



    *Figuratively speaking, in case anyone is an idiot and needs a footnote. 

  • I would have said, "I am real busy right now, I will call you back later". Repeat as necessary.

    The don't even deserve an honest response. 

  • former collegue used to call with questions.  I gave him 2 "free" phone answers (about 10 minutes) before I pointed out I didn't work there anymore, and I'd happily consult for a fee.  The phone calls stopped.  Shame.  I would have happily worked extra hours for extra pay.
    I hadn't been let go so I would have done it for cost (I was already a contractor and at the 3x range).

    In short: You did good.  You owe them nothing.  Answering your phone and speaking to them is above and beyond what is required.  If you are truly interested in working there again (danger will robinson, danger), email the manager and offer to consult for at least triple the going rate.  if she doesn't get it, point out you are no longer an employee and they let you go.

    and make sure the contract is very beneficial to you.  Just say no to NDA, and non-competes.  Have it include a early contract termination clause that says if they cancel before the end, 
    they pay 1 month advance cancellation penalty.

    and I recommend switching to email.  Just in case she's stupid enough to threaten you with a bad referal.  then you have proof.  Or if they (even more stupidly) try to throw legalese around.

  • Sorry I don't have the time because I'm busy with my new job OR I'm busy looking for a new job.  Good luck with the project though.

    In what other industry would people try this?  If you get fired from a pizza place, are they going to call you next week to show the new guy how to make pizzas?

  • Be polite.  But tell them, "If you throw something away, don't ever expect to get it back."


  • You did exactly the right thing. Expecting months of free support is just silly, especially in light of their laying you off.

  • @newfweiler said:

    Be polite.  But tell them, "If you throw something away, don't ever expect to get it back."


    This. That and the "Charge triple rates" part.

  • You did the right thing - and was polite and reasonable.

     Sleep easily, and good luck with your job hunt!


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