how long after resigning should you still answer questions?

A reader writes:

I recently resigned from a mid-level management position at a large research organization, to take a position as director for a nonprofit that works regularly with the research organization (the nonprofit actually spends much of their time promoting the activities of the research group). It was a very amicable transition, and I spent two weeks with the team at my old organization who would handle the duties I had been managing. I left a detailed transition file with any open items, contact information, links to files, gave the organization a recommendation for who to replace me, updated a position description to accurately reflect my duties at the organization, and bid farewell in good spirits and on good terms with all. I gave everyone in my department my personal email and did the usual “keep in touch” message before my last day.

It has been three weeks since I left (and almost six weeks since I put in my notice and started transitioning things), and I am still getting daily emails from multiple people from my old job. Most of the questions are things listed in my transition file or on the organization’s CRM system – such as “who should I call at TheNightsWatch Org to get this contract signed?” or “what day did we invoice for the Lanisters?” I have tried to keep pointing them to that file, and asking them to look there first before emailing me at my new job.

I have also been getting emails to my personal email from one particular person (who is in another department altogether), complaining about how my old director is handling the transition, asking questions about his intensions and other things that I think are completely inappropriate to discuss with me at this point. I asked that person to please stop emailing me about internal politics issues, and that I think those discussions should happen with either the director or HR there.

Is this normal? I feel like this is a lot more email traffic than normal in a transition like this. Since my new job includes a lot of interaction with my old organization, I don’t want to seem like I am being callous or lose the goodwill that I earned over the years by telling them to just figure it out for themselves. But at the same time, I find it frustrating that many people still are relying on me to keep them updated on projects that I now have zero involvement in.

How long is normal for those “wrap up” emails from an old workplace? Should I contact my old director to let him know that I can no longer answer daily emails from his staff? Or am I just being too quick to cut ties?

No, this level of email traffic after you leave a job is not normal.

You did everything right when you left, in terms of what you left behind. At most, you should only expect to get an email or two asking things like “we forgot to get the password for X from you — any chance you remember it?” One or two. Seriously, no more than that.

Daily emails, and emails from multiple people, is way, way beyond what you should be receiving.

It’s not callous to decline to continue to essentially be an employee there, after you’ve left, started a new job, and are no longer being paid by them.

I would do three things:

1. Contact your old director and say, “Hey, I’m getting daily emails from people asking about things like X and Y. They don’t seem to be checking any of the documentation I left behind. I really need to focus on my new role and can’t keep fielding all these questions. Can you let people know they shouldn’t keep contacting me with questions?” (Possible adjustment to this: Because you’re continuing to work closely with the organization, you could add, “unless it’s an emergency and they’ve checked the documentation I left.” You don’t have to do that, but the reality is that it would be expected in some contexts if you want to preserve the relationship — although even then, only for a month or two, not longer.)

2. Stop being so responsive when you receive these emails. Let them sit for a couple of days. Otherwise, you’re training them to think that you’re a quick, easy way to get whatever information you’re looking for. And then when you do respond, consider saying something like, “This should be in the documentation I left behind — have you checked there? I’m swamped so can’t check. Sorry!” (Or even better, “I don’t have access to it anymore so can’t check.”) With repeat offenders, be more direct: “Hey, I really can’t keep answering questions now that I’ve moved on, but I left behind loads of documentation and it should be in there.” That should stop most people, but if anyone tries again after receiving that message, cc your old director when you reply and say, “I’m sending this to Jane to handle.”

And with something as ridiculous as “What day did we invoice for the Lanisters?” it is totally fine to say, “Dude, I don’t work at XYZ anymore so have no idea!”

3. It sounds like you’ve already perfectly handled the person who’s emailing you about internal politics, but if that rears up again, just repeat what you told him about not being involved anymore.

You are not going to lose good will by setting these very normal boundaries.

One other thing: Sometimes when this topic comes up, people will say, “Tell them you’ll set up a consulting arrangement and charge $X to answer their questions.” When it’s a ton of questions like this, sometimes that can make sense. (When it’s just a few, that would just be obnoxious.) But in this case, I wouldn’t recommend that; you want to keep the boundaries between your new job and your old job clear, especially since your new job has you continuing to stay in contact with them.

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anonymous Educator

    Oh, my gosh—this happens to me all the time… well, not to this same extent, but basically every job I’ve left has always tried to pester me with questions long after I’ve left, even though I’ve left extensive documentation behind.

    #2 is definitely key. Answer the first email that really needs your answer, and then start answering right away. Then stop answering.

    It also can’t hurt to be discerning about what you actually answer with a real answer. If you feel “Oh, I did forget to document that, and it would take me a few seconds to answer versus the ten hours it would take them to figure it out on their own,” go ahead and answer, but if you feel “Really? I wrote that down. Just look it up,” then tell them so (in a nicer way than I just phrased it).

    At a certain point, when I’ve been contacted six months or even three years after I’ve left a place (I’m not exaggerating), I can honestly tell them “Really, I don’t know,” because at that point I have forgotten. That’s why I documented all the stuff when I was there!

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      and then start answering right away

      Then stop answering right away.

      Also, if it really is not just the occasional question but a barrage of constant questions, either cut them off completely or consider drawing up a contract where you charge by the hour.

      Reply
    2. Kyrielle

      Yes, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember. Have you checked the documentation I left? I think it should be in there….”

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        Maybe just reply with only a one-sentence question: “Isn’t it in the documentation I left?”

        No apologies, no extra words. I think if you say “I don’t remember,” it implies that you actually gave it some thought and would have answered if you could remember.

        I think most people feel a pressure to answer a question (no matter how off-the-wall or intrusive it is, oddly enough). So, ask them a question, and they’ll feel that pressure. In order to answer it, they’ll have to go look at the documentation.

        It also implies that they should have looked there first.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes! This is good, and it solves something I didn’t like about my wording of “I’m swamped so can’t check,” which is that it sounds like otherwise you’d be fine checking.

          Reply
          1. Lontra Canadensis

            Yep, time for a case of amnesia on those old projects, especially on important details like who was billed what/when!

            Reply
        2. LBK

          Yeah, I’d go with “I’m not sure – it should be noted in the file I left, so I’d check there.”

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            I don’t even like that–it leaves the implication that you’re a source of advice.

            “Isn’t it in the documentation?”
            “Didn’t you look in the documentation?”

            Those both imply that the documentation is the first source of the answer. And it sort of implies that they’ve been a little deficient in their efforts (one more obliquely than the other).

            Reply
        3. Hey Nonnie

          I like this (“Isn’t it in the documentation?”). Also, I’d slow WAY down on your responsiveness. Create a filter for your email to automagically put these emails into its own folder. Look at it once a week, after all of your actual-job work is done, last thing on a Friday…

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        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Big “YES!” to TootsNYC’s recommendation. And I agree that it’s useful to take out the apologies and “I don’t remember”s. It looks kind of blunt, but, well, this situation sounds like it merits bluntness.

          And I strongly agree with slow-walking email responses. Folks are reaching out to OP because it’s easier/convenient for them. Having to wait, and then explain why it took you 8x longer to do a task instead of looking at the transition documentation, is pretty hard to support if you do it more than once. So, OP, transfer the burden back to the person who put it on your plate.

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        5. Jess

          This is good – and it means that if it ISN’T in the documentation for some reason it gives them the opening to politely say “I checked in there but can’t find the answer” if they’ve genuinely done that.

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          1. JessaB

            Exactly, and at that point if the OP remembers they can send it. And if possible cc the person who is the Keeper of the Documentation, so they can print it out and add it. You can even add a PS = Hey KotD can you please print this and put it with the other stuff so I don’t have to write it out again? Thanks.

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        6. Fafaflunkie

          I like that response as well. So long as you made yourself a copy of that transition documentation to refer to hold them to it:

          “This should have been covered in the transition notes I left.”
          “It’s not there!”
          (Should the point be there) copy and paste the relevant part of said exit notes with highlights. “Your next question without checking will be responded with nothing to them and a FW: to the person that should be responsible for the new person. Let their manager take care of it. It’s not your problem now.

          Reply
          1. Elise

            I’m not sure it’s appropriate for the OP to take documentation with them after leaving a position, depending on what kind of information it includes.

            I think the best course of action is to say, “Isn’t that in the documentation?” as someone upthread recommended. Also, once the director has been notified that this contact is going on for too long and with too much frequency (and has had enough time to communicate this to staff), I think it’s fine to copy the director on each reply. And definitely don’t answer right away. Don’t make it convenient to lean on you.

            Reply
        7. Noobtastic

          I think you’re right. “Isn’t it in the documentation I left?” is the perfect response. It encourages them to check the documentation, and if they actually come back and say, “No, it’s not,” then you know that you left something out, and can talk them through updating that documentation, so it IS there for the next person.

          It solves multiple issues with a very simple sentence. I love it!

          Reply
      2. PlainJane

        This. Every time you tell them the answer, you make it easier for them to ask you than to do the thing they’re supposed to do to get the answer. You are rewarding the behavior you want to eliminate. Instead, redirect people to the resource they’re supposed to be using. Every time.

        Reply
        1. NW Mossy

          I’ve given my employees stock scripts for certain common inquiries we get where other internal folks come to them for things that are now self-serve. Lather, rinse, repeat, as many times as necessary to get desired results.

          Reply
    3. Bea

      I wish I forgot after 6 months. I had an old coworker reach out about a time clock thing ten months after I was gone and still walked them though it. Granted I am friends with him and he’s a solid reference who only ever asks when it’s completely out of the blue and hes exhausted all efforts. I’m the big ol elephant that will always answer those texts lol

      Reply
      1. Justme

        I’ve been out for a year and could still walk someone through my main responsibility at my last job. And I know I left good documentation on it.

        Reply
        1. Ursula

          Yeah, this is me too. I have a really good memory, it’s slightly depressing to know I’m going to remember the procedures for my current job in 20 years, since knowing and teaching these procedures is a huge part of my job now.

          Reply
      2. Noobtastic

        See, for someone like that, who already exhausted all other means of getting the information, AND who has a rock-solid relationship with you, then it’s worthwhile to help him out, even a long time after leaving. He’ll probably be taking lots of notes and updating the documentation, himself.

        But these one-off special situations are totally different from what the OP is facing. OP is just dealing with lazy clingers who don’t want to let go or do the work, themselves.

        Reply
    4. Noobtastic

      I like the “I forgot, but I’m sure it’s in the documentation I left behind.” If you want to be snarky (depends on the relationships with ex-co-workers), you could say, “I transferred all that data from my brain to the the XYZ file, and then cleared the caches in my head and emptied the recycle bin. Sorry.”

      I understand questions like “Where did you put the chocolate teapot?” or “I thought this would be filed under H, but I can’t find it there. Is it filed under some other title?” But “What date did we do X?” No. That’s not something that anyone out of the company should know, because it involved checking records to which they should not have access, and even if they have phenomenal memories, and can just “check the records” in their brain, it’s downright foolish to trust that data, without confirming it with the company records, anyway, so why are they even asking you that question?

      Perhaps the real answer to these emails should be, “Yes, I miss you, too.”

      Reply
  2. KellyK

    I really like Alison’s suggestions. You gave reasonable amount of notice, you left instructions for your replacement. That’s really all you should be expected to do. Having answered daily questions for the last couple weeks goes above and beyond. If your former employers are even remotely reasonable, telling them that you can’t continue to field these questions won’t burn any bridges.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      She’d rather not do that here because of the relationships and the fact that she needs to keep working with them. She can set boundaries without going to that extreme.

      Reply
    2. Antilles

      This is way too extreme of a solution to jump to immediately. From OP’s email, it’s not at all clear that OP has even *tried* to set a boundary. They’re used to OP answering questions from when she worked there and she’s taken few steps to change that.
      The situation needs to be addressed, but “block all emails with a spam filter” should be pretty far down on the list of options; OP isn’t at the stage yet where that seems appropriate.

      Reply
    3. Newby

      Maybe do that for the ones being sent to the personal e-mail that are about internal politics. She has already told them to stop, so ignoring them seems reasonable now.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Agreed that ignoring is the right tack for the internal politics emails to her personal account. But I think there are some effective ways of managing the work-related daily emails that might be worth trying before relegating everything to the spam folder.

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    4. paul

      she can *start* by trying to set boundaries but man, this seems so far out of the norm it might not work. But she can at least try to start without being that abrupt. If the methods Allison suggested don’t work that might be a next step.

      Reply
  3. AdAgencyChick

    Yes to all of this. It is amazing how self-sufficient people become when their questions aren’t answered immediately.

    Reply
    1. Rincat

      I had to train a coworker on being self-sufficient. He would just ask people things that he knew how to do himself and had done hundreds of times (and even trained other people on! he’s our Training Manager!). He just likes to have people do things for him if he can get away with it. So I started getting reaaaalllly slooooow in my responses to him. And also fully embracing the awkward silence that came after just flat out saying, I don’t know.

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      1. Rebecca in Dallas

        I have a coworker like this. She would constantly ask me how to do things, usually something I’d shown her how to do several times before. So I’d show her the first time she asked and tell her to take notes. (She usually didn’t.) Then the next time she asked how to do it, my answer was “The same way I showed you last time.” Final answer.

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      2. TootsNYC

        I have to train myself to be more self-sufficient. I “like the company,” but it’s intrusive to other people, so I make myself go look in the email history to see whom to talk to about something, instead of asking in the department.

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      3. Noobtastic

        The awkward silence is an excellent time to plan your menu for the week, mentally re-organize your Stardew Valley farm, or just daydream.

        Reply
  4. WerkingIt

    Alison’s advice is right. I will also add that the sooner you do this the better. It can go on for a long time. My last job continued to contact me for well over a year, but I struggled because the person contacting me was both the new director and a “friend.” I put that in quotes because towards the end I decided my friend wouldn’t do this. Seriously, within 48 hours she sent me an email asking how to un-jam the printer. Derp.

    There is a fine line between looking out for yourself and being obnoxious when it comes to suggesting a fee, but it sounds like these people are already being obnoxious themselves.

    Reply
    1. AdAgencyChick

      “Seriously, within 48 hours she sent me an email asking how to un-jam the printer.”

      AW HEEEEEEELLLLLL NO!

      Reply
  5. KR

    Someone texted me soon after I left to ask me how to turn on the heat in the office. I was busy and couldn’t text, so I’m assuming they looked on the wall to the switch that said “Heat” with the thermostat right next to it…. *face palm*

    Reply
    1. Cass

      Or they sat shivering at their desk, muttering about how you won’t respond to their text while updating your old job description to require the new person to have three years of progressively responsible experience operating a thermostat, with at least one year of experience supervising an employee who operated a thermostat. This scenario is much more likely.

      Reply
    1. Student

      There are very strict rules about leave taken under the FMLA, which often covers maternity leave in the US. It’s like taking leave for an injury or disability – you usually cannot answer any substantive questions without potentially voiding your benefit. Figure out what rules apply to you specifically with your manager when you’re preparing to take leave.

      Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes, this! Seriously, just ghost people. They’re going to have to learn, and unless there’s a massive emergency disaster where you’re the only person who knows the nuclear codes (which should never be the case when someone’s on leave), then ignore it.

          FMLA leave (and leave that looks like parental leave, even if it’s not technically FMLA) is sacrosanct, and it’s one of the only times that drawing an extreme boundary is an appropriate and acceptable practice.

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          1. JustaTech

            The only time I’ve known anyone to contact a coworker on maternity leave the boss was in India without phone connection and the only other person who knew how to do the complicated time-sensitive procedure had just had his dad die in a bike accident.

            Coworker graciously came in to do the process while half the lab played with her baby and commended her dedication and promised to never ever call her on leave again. (Her baby was about 2 months old then, maybe older?)

            And when she came back from leave she trained *everyone* who was willing on how to do that process so it wouldn’t happen again.

            Reply
          2. SarahKay

            Although I’m in the UK, I work for an American company, and they take FMLA (and, probably, UK maternity leave laws too) so seriously that when someone goes on maternity leave the company disables their email address. They clearly want to be very sure that no-one can be put in the position of feeling like they need to check email, or let a bad manager tell them that they must check email.

            You’re having a baby :) Set an out-of-office clearly saying you won’t check an emails or calls, and then *don’t*!

            Reply
        2. Joe

          I strongly recommend this for vacations, too. I make it very clear to my coworkers that when I’m on vacation, I’m unreachable, and if it’s really an emergency, my boss will have my personal cell or email (and I trust my boss not to abuse it). And I make it very clear to the people who are on the teams I manage that when they’re on vacation, I don’t want them checking email or working.

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    2. WerkingIt

      Hahaha — about a year after I left my job, the admin went on maternity leave. The person filling in for her actually emailed ME who no longer worked there because he didn’t want to bother her. [Eye roll] It was such an obnoxious question that he shouldn’t have asked either of us.

      Reply
    3. Zombeyonce

      Auto-reply on your email is the best! My default out of office message (so I don’t forget) says that I won’t be checking email or voicemail during my absence and gives the email and number to the main switchboard/help desk so my email isn’t a dead end. If you don’t have something like that, you could put your manager’s/coworker’s email there (after confirming w/them that it’s okay).

      Even my coworkers don’t have my personal email, so no one contacts me while I’m out since. It’s glorious.

      Reply
  6. The IT Manager

    Wow! I was in the military. The military is prepared for people to leave jobs, and they very rarely have this kind of problem. It’s disheartening sometimes to realize that work goes on without you, but it does especially when you’ve done a wonderful transition like the LW described.

    This level of helplessness is crazy. It sounds like these people don’t know that she left the research organization except that they’re using her new phone number and email!

    I agree with not responding to emails for several days and then directing people to the information you left instead of providing the answer.

    Reply
    1. Panda Bandit

      Sometimes this level of helplessness is a tactic to keep you from escaping a toxic work environment.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      Sometimes I think that it’s precisely *because* the OP left such great info and had such a detailed transition–it may have sort of “trained” them to think of her as the person w/ the answers. It established her reputation as “exceptionally helpful” and “feels really responsible for this job even after she’s going to be gone.”
      Being punished for good behavior and a helpful attitude.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It’s also more common, I think, when there’s an unfilled hole. The OP’s replacement isn’t there yet, so there’s nobody in the OP’s role to ask stuff.

        Reply
    3. Mike C.

      I think there are also times where massive staffing cuts (which means no cross-training) can also be a factor here. Not one the OP needs to be concerned over, but a factor none the less.

      Reply
    4. NoNoNoNoNo

      Maybe reply to the first email(s) with an auto reply:

      “It’s in the documentation I left behind. If you are unable to find it check with your manager. I will not be responding to future email as no longer work for Soecialty Tea Pot Crafters.”

      After say a month or so just filter all email from ExJob into the trash. OP this is not your problem anymore. They will figure it out.

      Optional: Just filter it all into trash from day one because…not your problem anymore and they will figure stuff out.

      Reply
  7. Grabapple McGee

    Been there! I still get questions from my former employer of 10 years ago (not specific office questions, more as in wanting my opinion re: the industry) and I will gladly answer him every time because I adore him. He was a wonderful employer and we parted on great terms.

    In my most recent position, I left on decent terms in their opinion, but the truth is I was pretty fed up and disgusted with management. My replacement, whom I was training (and was in WAY over their head) asked would I be available to answer questions and offer guidance after I left. My response? “Sure. I charge $50.00 per hour with a 2-hour minimum, and I’ll need to give you a W9 form so you can pay me as a consultant.”

    They’ve not asked me for anything. :)

    Reply
    1. paul

      I feel like there’s a huge difference between a friend asking your opinion on general industry trends/concerns and “Help, how do I order toner” though.

      Reply
      1. Mephyle

        Yes; discussing general industry issues with a friend is more like networking – for both parties – not like Grabapple being an unpaid consultant.

        Reply
    2. Geoffrey B

      Yeah, some bridges need to be burned.

      My previous employer fired me, supposedly because my skills were no longer required (coincidentally just after I balked at doing something I considered unethical) and then pestered me for years afterwards. Eventually they asked me if I’d write a technical report on something related to my old job, without offering any payment, and that’s when I quoted them $100/hour. I would’ve been happy to take their money at that rate, but I never heard from them again, which suited me even better :-)

      Reply
  8. Spartan

    I had to reach out to someone who left my company and I inherited some of his work. We had about three meetings to talk about transitioning stuff, and the documentation that was left behind was outdated. I had to reach out to him about four or five times to get a handle on some things that didn’t get covered in our meetings and wasn’t covered in documentation. I hated doing it, but absolutely no one else knew how to do those things.

    Reply
    1. Whats In A Name

      I think this is reasonable if the person is inclined will to do so. But after 4 or 5 you probably got what you needed and moved on. Sounds like these people might be contacting him 4 or 5 times a day! That’s just unnecessary.

      Reply
  9. Marietta

    Another response is to say you don’t know how things have changed since you left. Depending on the scope of new policy directions, clients, priorities, etc, any information from you could be quite out of date.

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  10. Merida May

    The only asterisk on not responding to the emails is to be ready for subsequent phone calls, and to ultimately use the scripts. I have a feeling these folks might see the lag time as an invitation to reach out directly for a ‘hey, didn’t you get my email?’ chat. It’s tough because you are still interacting with them and definitely want to be cordial, but this is an instance where ‘I don’t know/remember’ is very much an acceptable answer. Good luck with the new job!

    Reply
    1. Nolan

      Oh when people start calling around after emailing I’m a big fan of just letting it go to voicemail!

      Actually, OP, if they haven’t started calling yet, I’d recommend sending any future calls to voicemail to set that expectation now. But definitely start making them wait for their answers. They’re reaching out to you because it’s currently faster/easier than using the documentation, so make yourself less convenient than the resources you left behind.

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      1. Hey Nonnie

        This may or may not be possible, though. If they’re calling her personal phone number, sure — just don’t answer personal calls while at work. If they call her at her new workplace though, part of her job is to interact with the org she left behind; she won’t know whether it’s a legit call about a current collaboration or a “help meeee” call until she picks it up. In that case, I’d go with the script, and get them off the phone quickly.

        Reply
  11. Sadie

    I just got a question from an ex-co-worker about where I put a copy of a file on the network drive and it’s now coming up on about 3 years since I left the organization…Yep, that’s excessive.

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    1. bridget

      0_O

      How could you possibly be expected to remember that level of minutiae off the top of your head? I can’t recall the exact order of folders and subfolders for the file I saved an hour ago without pulling it up and clicking through. Which doesn’t even get to the obvious solution of just running a search on the drive.

      I’m impressed that people that helpless/clueless manage to get themselves out of the house in the morning.

      Reply
        1. Noobtastic

          I once worked for a manager who did not know about copy and paste. He, however, was thrilled when I showed him.

          Reply
  12. Marisol

    I would think that in addition to proactively addressing this issue with your former manager, you could also just ignore a great many (most? all?) of the emails sent to you.

    Reply
  13. Bee Eye LL

    I had to deal with this on an internal transfer and eventually contacted the other manager and let them know that they were interfering with my training. It calmed down a little but took a long time to go away.

    Reply
  14. Dizzy Steinway

    Some people really do just want to be spoonfed. Once I moved teams and my replacement came to my floor to ask questions so often that my manager asked if she was aware that I had my own job to do.

    It’s okay not to help them! Alison’s advice is spot on!

    Reply
  15. SJ

    During my first week of OldJob, I had to contact the person who formerly had my position because there was a big list of passwords no one could find, and I felt sooooo bad about it. She was totally pleasant about it, luckily. When I left, I made sure that list was in the hands of at least three different people, as well as saved in an obvious place!

    Reply
  16. Calacademic

    I’m in a somewhat similar position. I could still have daily contact with the people I used to work for, and in some ways they are now clients of mine (it’s a little complicated).

    I am still on the email list for my old job — this is the list for “anyone remember the password for the QWERTY computer?” But that also means that I would get email reminders about the meeting in 10 minutes, etc. I filter all those messages — I get them Monday mornings. If people need to get ahold of me more than once a week, they can directly email me and I get them immediately. Would it be possible to set up a filter to literally delay when you get those messages? You wouldn’t even need to have the filter in place forever — just a month or so until everyone adjusts.

    Reply
    1. winter

      I think marking them as read when filtering them to a folder would have the same effect. That way OP can set a time when they will check the folder and ignore the rest of the week.

      Reply
  17. Anon Anon

    I think #2 is key.

    I think you have to condition people to the point where it’s faster and easier to check the resources left behind than to email you for an answer. If you respond too quickly then the habit becomes to email you because it’s easier than going through the materials you left behind.

    I also think it’s fine to not answer questions where you know that you left good resources that are easy to follow, and then only answer the questions that perhaps are more nuanced and where an answer from someone with direct experience would be helpful for the organization.

    Reply
  18. Sarah

    I’m definitely a big fan of “Hm, I’m not sure off the top of my head, but you could try X. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!” with X being “check the documentation” or “ask the person who was hired to replace me” or “looking in the file for the Lannister project” or whatever (basically something vague that describes what the person should have been doing instead of emailing you). I think it has a friendly vibe (which you want if these are people who will still be important professional contacts), but also trains people that they will not get a useful answer from you.

    Reply
  19. animaniactoo

    Question: Are you pointing them at the documentation at the same time that you’re answering the question?

    Because if so, I would make sure to stop doing that before going to old manager, etc. about this.

    Instead of “We usually use Wakeen for that, this info should be in the documentation, please check there before you contact me.” the answer you give is “Check the transition document, I left all the info there.” which puts them back at the step they avoided having to do. In general, enough repetitions of this and people usually start checking the resource before reaching out, at which point the convo usually changes to “Hey, I checked your info for X, but don’t see it listed. Can you please help?”

    Reply
  20. Oryx

    Oof, ExJob from two jobs ago did this. Not only did they call, they called me AT MY NEW JOB instead of my cell. And they weren’t communicating with each other so I’d have three people calling me about the same report and I’d tell them all the same thing: “It was in the documentation when I left. I haven’t been there for three weeks so I don’t know what happened to it.”

    I got so frustrated that when the one person called yet again I very sternly pointed out how unprofessional it was to continue to call me at this number and take me away from my current job. If they really needed to get a hold of me, HR had my cell phone number and they could call me there but my answer would continue to be that it was in the documentation when I left but if it’s not there now, I don’t know what to tell them.

    He had the nerve to chastise me for not being more willing to help but at least I never heard from them again.

    Reply
  21. Bea

    This gives me hives just reading about it. I got daily texts for weeks after I left but it was a much different situation all together. Just one person needing my help and when it got to the point they asked me where to buy toilet paper, I ghosted.

    I felt like a fool asking the person I took over for a question the day after she lef. I’d find myself thinking of emailing her, write it up and then go “No. Do it yourself, figure it out.”

    You can’t hold these people’s hands anymore. You also deserve a clean break.

    Reply
  22. MuseumChick

    Alison is spot on as usual.

    Step 1: Wait a full 48 hours before responding.
    Step 2: The response should always be, “Sorry, I don’t remember. Have you check the document I left?” (Side note: people learn pretty quickly when you give the exact same answer every time, like word for word the same answer)
    Step 3: If it continues bump up the response time to 96 hours. Repeat step 2.
    Step 4: If it continues, only answer every 1 in 4 questions you get with a response time of 5 business days. Repeat step 2.

    Hopefully this won’t go past step 2!

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      I like the wait time, but again, I wouldn’t say “I don’t remember.”
      I think this implies that if you had remembered, you would have told them, and therefore it’s not an unreasonable thing to ask you.

      I’d say ONLY: “Isn’t it in the documentation?”

      No “it should be there,” etc.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        a powerful observation!

        Dr. Richard Ferber, author of “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” which was every parents “get your child to go to sleep” bible in the mid-1980s, said this:

        You cannot teach someone how to go to sleep. You can only create opportunities for them to learn it on their own.

        Reply
  23. So Very Anonymous

    At my current workplace, odds would be good that the documentation isn’t easily accessible, or is in multiple places (one or more locations on the intranet, one or more shared drives, sent out via one or more email lists, put in one or more Sharepoint spaces) with some updating done in some version but not in others (meaning people can’t tell if they’re looking at the most recent version/s). So if I were in this position, I could see also contacting previous manager to point out, politely, that people seem not to be consulting the documentation and are contacting you instead, and asking innocently, has the documentation been made accessible to them? Carries the message that “people aren’t checking the documentation” but also “fix your documentation problem, whatever that may be.”

    Reply
  24. OriginalPoster

    Thanks all for the comments. I actually had a meeting (second meeting in 2 weeks) with my old director today to “finalize my transition” as he put it. I found out that he isn’t planning to fill my old position and has divided my old duties among existing staff. Which is probably why I am getting so many questions. I also found out that IT did not give any of these staff members access to my files or my contacts. I stood firm, thanks to Allison for the advice, and basically told him it wasn’t my circus and I would only be available as it related to my new position, he would have to take up those kind of internal issues with people that actually still work there (I put it more professionally). He also agreed to pay me for the time I have spent answering emails and meeting with staff after my last paid day at the organization. So I’m hoping I will be getting far fewer emails in the future!

    Reply
      1. Lablizard

        I’m shocked that they are paying her for helping out before the meeting. That is very cool and very rare

        Reply
      2. JessaB

        I’m completely shocked that management didn’t make sure at least ONE of the people taking over got access to the computer stuff. IT are not handling this well and management ought to tell them that.

        Reply
    1. Casuan [formerly AstroDeco]

      Wo!!
      Congrats on the successful outcome!!
      …Especially that he’s agreed to pay you for the time you’ve spent. Yay!!
      :-)

      Reply
    2. LBK

      Sounds like a pretty good outcome for the situation, and that there was a technical barrier that prevented them from solving some of the issues on their own, so hopefully that stops once IT gets on the ball. Good luck, and enjoy that bonus paycheck!

      Reply
    3. Gene

      Even after the successful meeting I’d set up an email rule that would:
      A) Auto reply with, “The answer to your question is likely in the documentation I left you.”
      B) Send all emails from the common offenders to a directory that I would only look at on Friday afternoons.

      Since you want to keep a good relationship with them going, don’t do what I’d do next: Reply to all the queries in one, huge rambling email to everyone, mixing in stories about my cats, what I was cooking for dinner, maybe attach a few photos of random things.

      Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Fingers crossed! Although I’m a little shocked that they (1) aren’t replacing your position, and (2) didn’t give anyone access to your documents, files, or contacts (and I assume this may have included things you cross-referenced in your transition documentation?). It seems kind of silly and like it was designed to fail.

      But hopefully the director fixes this going forward, and I’m glad he’s going to compensate you for your time—ideally he’ll realize that even with that compensation, it’s important for OldJob to stop relying so heavily on you.

      Reply
    5. Observer

      Hm… This makes me wonder about the politics of this organization and about how IT is run.

      The two things that stand out to me are the fact that no one has been given access to your information, even though that information is now effectively THEIR information.

      The other thing is that you had to tell him that this is not your circus, yet he agreed to pay you for your time. The latter is unusual enough – it’s almost weird for someone who needed to have it pointed out to him that it’s not your problem. So, I’m wondering if he’s not using the expense of placing calls to you as a way to force an issue or two.

      Reply
      1. Noobtastic

        Yeah, it seems like that guy with the internal politics complaints had a real reason to make those complaints!

        Reply
  25. ilikeaskamanager

    After still getting lots of emails weeks after I left, I started forwarding the questions to the person who took my place, without any commentary, copying the person who sent it to me . When the person who took my place contacted me, I forwarded those emails back to his manager, again copying him when I did so. And I waited longer and longer in between the forwarding. Eventually it worked. I didn’t have any kind of ongoing relationship with the company, however.

    Reply
    1. Willis

      Haha…I got a laugh out of the idea of your former company sending out all these boomerang emails that just end up back in the inbox of someone else at the company. Wonder how long it took them to get the hint…

      Reply
  26. Lola

    I was laid off from a job. The manager who laid me off avoided telling anyone and later left herself. Almost a year after I was let go, someone from an international office emailed me asking if I knew where the passwords were for something.

    Reply
    1. Jane

      That’s crazy! I can’t imagine not cluing people in that someone is no longer with the Company. I once had someone email me at my personal address knowing that I had already left, looking for information on a vendor bill that had never gotten paid (which I had repeatedly submitted for payment). I forwarded the email to someone who actually still worked there. I was amazed they could not figure out that multiple people still worked there who could handle figuring out a vendor bill.

      Reply
  27. Thomas

    Though, if old assistant emails to ask, “Should I book New Boss’s travel to NAP or APF?”, it would be really nice of you to get back to them quickly and avert a disaster. :-D

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      OH wow I swear I read something about this happening to someone in another advice column? Or was it this one?

      Reply
  28. Where the streets have no name

    Taking a management course right now. My book says that most problems/queries will get fixed within 48 hours by people figuring out what to do on their own. It’s actually great advice, not sure why I never applied it before these last few months. People are very resourcefull when you stop hand-holding them.

    Reply
  29. Been There, Done That

    I had a similar experience — a barrage of calls at home and the fear that they were going to start bugging me at my new job. Finally I said that if my successor needed more training, I’d be happy to come in on a Saturday if we could work out a rate. I never heard from them again smile smile smile.

    Reply
  30. Julia

    I just left my first “professional” (because no one there behaved in any way professionally) job of two years and left massive documentation. I started creating everything early so I’d be sure to catch rare tasks, and I sent everything to my boss well before my last day, but he didn’t really look at it until a few days before I left.

    Two or three weeks after my last day, I suddenly got a text from boss’ assistant asking me where the toner they wanted me to buy was. I had been meaning to order toner for some colleagues who needed special cartridges, but had been told by sub-boss to wait because she needed permission from the head office. Since she also keeps a list of every expense, she should have known that I didn’t buy any toner. Nonetheless, she made the assistant text me to ask for the toner. It took all my willpower to not reply with “probably at the toner store”, but I explained that I had never received the green light for purchase, so there was no toner.

    They also asked me where our office material list was – a list my co-worker had created and then pushed onto me with many of her other tasks, which she then started to pretend had never been hers in the first place and she didn’t know anything about them. (She was the main reason I quit.) I just replied that co-worker should know about the list and left it there.

    I’m so glad I’m out of there…

    Reply
  31. SS

    For the person that emails her personal account asking/complaining about her old boss…. if she continues even after telling her to stop then I would respond that to her that her questions/issues would be better answered by the boss so any future emails will be forwarded directly to him to answer since he’s have a better idea of his intentions than OP. That should scare her into not sending any more emails since I’m sure she doesn’t want it getting back to the boss.

    Reply
    1. Noobtastic

      Yeah. Even if the person actually does have valid complaints (and from OP’s follow-up, it sounds like the complainer does have real issues that need to be addressed), that person is complaining to the wrong person. OP can’t do anything about those complaints, so they need to be re-directed to the boss, anyway.

      Reply
  32. Alli525

    It sounds like you’re still on great terms with your old manager. Why not say “I’m getting way too many requests from my old coworkers – will you please be the conduit for their requests?” You can place some structure around that, like only being willing to answer one email (with multiple questions) per week or you can only reply on one specific day of the week … but this would then force them to talk to their manager – who can remind them to start by checking the damn documentation! – before just dashing off an email to you.

    Reply
  33. Quickbeam

    I had a stand alone job in state government regarding older drivers. After 10 years that position was eliminated and never replaced. I have an unusual last name so individuals and organizations desperate for that information continue to contact me 8 years later!

    Because the topic was a passion for me, I do briefly answer questions and steer people in the right direction. I am near retirement and many of these organizations are interested in a paid speaker. I don’t let them consume my free time but I also see some networking potential.

    Reply

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