When Are You Done Answering Questions About Your Old Job?

In yesterday's Globe, there was a question about How to cut ties when the old boss won't let go.

Oh my. If you weren't sure you'd made a good decision, you know now you have. I actually think there is a better way to leave a job. Assuming you give two weeks notice, here's what you do:

First week: finish the work you're supposed to finish. Remind your boss you need to do a brain-dump of all the work you normally do and that your last day is next whenever.

Second week: remind your boss again that your last day is whenever and that you need to do a brain-dump, and that once you are gone, you are gone. (You are under no obligation to provide them with a current cell phone or email, unless they are willing to pay for it.)

If you are in the middle of a hairy project, and you feel strongly about it, you might offer to be available for one or two calls, but I would be wary of this offer. If they accept this offer, you are working for free, when you need to be making your best impression at your new job. If they don't accept this offer, how will you feel?

So, no, I don't think you need to answer any questions after you've left. If your boss has done what he or she should do when you leave, which is to assign someone to be the recipient of your brain-dump, and if you are not trying to be a jerk about the way you leave your computer files, no one should need to contact you once you leave.

Make your farewell clean. Ask for references before you leave. Ask for LinkedIn contacts before you leave. Be clear that you are leaving. Now you can cut your ties gracefully, and you are done answering questions about your old job. And, if your old boss calls on a Saturday night, who says you have to answer? Maybe spacing the way I do about charging my phone is not such a bad idea 🙂

4 Replies to “When Are You Done Answering Questions About Your Old Job?”

  1. Here’s a technique I’ve recommended that’s worked one way or the other at least several dozen times.

    Tell your old boss that once you leave, you’ll be available for consulting (such as answering questions about the old job) at some terrific price (like $600/hour, billable in whole hours and payable in advance–plus any expenses).

    There are two possible outcomes. First, paying for this information will discourage the old boss from ever bothering you. This is the result about 80% of the time.

    Second, the old boss may accept your conditions, and you might make a lot of extra cash. One of my students made more money in the first year from his old boss than his salary would have been, and this was for about 12 hours a month (but don’t count on making this much if you choose to leave).

    If you don’t want the money, or the bother, , set the rate very, very high–high enough so you won’t mind selling them an hour of your time. But if you don’t way anything whatsoever to do with your old boss, then don’t answer phone calls, emails, smoke signals, or any other form of communication from him/her.

  2. The only way to leave your job is without burning any bridges behind you. Sure if they do any kind of exit interview you can be frank in that. However, in my experience, very few companies bother with that so you get no chance to vent your frustrations as you head out the door.

    As for working out my notice period (3.5 weeks in my case), I was told to take as much leave as was owed to me so they could keep my final salary down to something manageable — I had 4 weeks leave in the bank. I worked a mere 5 days more. I have to say the 2 weeks I had off before the new job was refreshing since it let me wind down before I started the other job. Something I didn’t realise I needed until I had it.

    When I left my previous job I kept a good face at the leaving event and made sure I did not say anything negative about my leaving. No one wants to listen to a complainer as they head out the door, especially if there is any validity to their complaints.

    I had two emails in my first three months about things I might remember. I did my best to help. Not assisting my old team didn’t cross my mind. Not helping the board would have been a joy but they never asked.

  3. I disagree that specialist should refuse to help his former project after leaving the company. Systems are complicated these days, and even with two weeks of collaboration, sometimes it is impossible to transfer all knowledge. I know, there are many people, many situations, but some advices in this article can make you bad reputation. At least in Kharkov.

    So my point is – be helpful and stay in touch with your colleagues, both peers and bosses. This may be helpful in future employment.

    Regards, Oleg

  4. I would really be interest in hearing more about how to ask for references when you are leaving the company, what form they should take (is linkedin enough? I doubt it…) that has always been an issue, since former employers may have appreciated you and you work, but the doesnt mean they want to be bothered by referrals down the road (esp. if they, too, move on).

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