podcast: I’m still training my replacement three months after I left

Episode 2 of the Ask a Manager podcast is here! You can listen to it at Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Anchor (or here’s the direct RSS feed).

This week, I talk with a caller who is still training her replacement — three months after leaving her job. Here’s the letter she sent to me, and you can listen to our discussion about it on the show (which is 12 minutes long).

I worked for a small nonprofit for 10 years. I loved the work and loved my coworkers but dealt with an abusive boss.

I recently gave notice and I left the company. Within 24 hours, I had a new job in the same field that is a really good fit.

While my boss was terrible and abusive, my coworkers and the agency’s mission were laudable, and I have no interest in harming my former boss and wished to make the transition as smooth as possible for my friends who I left behind. So I agreed to train my replacement until I was satisfied that she would be able to adequately replace me. However, my former boss ended up hiring someone completely unqualified and after three months, I am still training several hours a week with no end in sight.

Complicating the situation, it’s a small industry, and my former boss is not well-liked, but could do damage to my reputation if he claimed I deliberately tried to sabotage his agency by reneging on my agreement.

How do I ethically extricate myself from this situation, knowing there is literally no one else to train her and that the organization will be in significant financial trouble if she is not trained adequately? Where does my ethical obligation end?

If you want to ask your own question on the show, email it to podcast@askamanager.org.

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose

    It’s been THREE MONTHS. Would any reasonable person say that stopping now counts as reneging? Most people would say if the person still needs that much contact from you, then maybe the company should consider them a bad fit.

    Yeesh.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, I haven’t heard the podcast, but we’ve run into this one before. Ripcord this thing, OP, and move on.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Totally agreed. No reasonable person who hears that this went on for 3 months will think you reneged on anything. And if your boss is crazy and toxic, I suspect others in the industry know that and will take anything he says with a big ol’ block of salt lick.

    3. designbot

      Yeah this is the point when you say, I think neither of us anticipated this going on this long and we need to figure out how to end it in the next couple of weeks.

    4. anyone out there but me

      WOW.

      Your “ethical obligation” (if it existed in the first place….) ended on your last day when you walked out the door.

      At this point, you are just being used.

  2. Eye of Sauron

    Oh good grief. Stop training this person. Tell your old boss that you are done at the end of this week as you just recently learned that you are in essence still working for him and not being paid. You would either need a billable rate as a contractor (name your price here) or would need to be put back on the payroll at x salary with all back pay and taxes paid.

    [Maybe don’t do this, just start and stop with “I’m done training at the end of this week”]

    I wouldn’t worry about your old boss sullying your reputation. No reasonable person is going to think “Gee if only LW would have kept working past the 3 months they worked for free the organization wouldn’t have failed, it’s all their fault” Especially if your old boss isn’t that well liked.

    1. Important Moi

      Yes, I agree completely.

      Sometimes you can’t see the forest from the trees. Given how much the weight of references and employee evaluations, I can understand being concerned that an unreasonable boss’s opinion would have a lot of weight.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    With apologies for the fangirldom, I just wanted to reiterate that I am so excited and so happy for the AAM podcast.

    1. Teapot librarian

      Yes! This is what got me to finally jump on the podcast bandwagon. No other podcast ever made me think “I need to figure out how to listen to podcasts.”

      1. LiptonTeaForMe

        I unfortunately cannot listen to them as I am partially deaf, I wish the podcasts were still in the read format. Or even better, do you know if the podcasts offer the closed captioning?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I didn’t think I could love this any harder, but this offer is amazing and has increased the size of my heart three times!

          2. Lissa

            I also do transcription work. I am currently in an extremely busy work season, but I could help with this as well starting in mid-April, if a second person is ever needed. Don’t want to clutter up your doubtless already busy inbox but I thought I’d put it out there.

  4. Anon Accountant

    If the former boss isn’t well liked and word will get around how poorly he treats people should OP worry?

    Because when someone has a reputation for being difficult and isn’t well liked more people will consider the source before giving much weight to what he may say about OP.

    1. fposte

      Even if you *are* well-liked, being annoyed that somebody only worked for you for free for three months after she left is going to be held against you, not the person you’re talking about.

      1. Anon Accountant

        I was thinking that part would be conveniently omitted by the former boss. :)

        And I think it’s terrible OP hasn’t been paid for this training time.

      2. Annoyed

        Anyone who would think badly of OP for working for *free* for three *months* is someone whose opinion should be rightly dismissed as batshit nuts.

    2. Bea

      As someone who is aware of small industries and reminded of a guy who chased off multiple controllers over the years…when he talks everyone listens and assumes he is full of it. He has very little ability to damage someone’s reputation unless he can prove they stole from him or something absolutely horrendous. If he was to cry an old employee who is known and working for another company at the moment was sooooo bad and ditched him boohoo, they would all say “you drive everyone off, you’re lucky she stayed for as long as she did, Joe. Now shut up and hit the ball.”

  5. topscallop

    Are you planning to build up to longer AAM podcast episodes, or will they all be in the 15-minute range?

      1. Solidus Pilcrow

        I like the 15 minute range. I can take a listen on a break instead of having to dedicate my lunch hour tied to headphones. (I can’t really work and listen to spoken content at the same time.)

        1. Southern Ladybug

          Yes. I can do a quick podcast at my desk while taking a break. The longer ones I download and then never get to listen to.

        2. Joan Callamezzo

          Seriously. I would listen to soooooo many more podcasts if they were 30 mins or less. 15 minutes is perfect.

      2. Minerva McGonagall

        I like the short format. I listen to Up First, Marketplace and Indicator everyday, and then add one or two weeklies to fill the rest of the time before I leave for work. It’s hard to fit in anything longer than half an hour.

        1. Lissa

          I *love* Up First. Facebook ads got me into it, and it got me keeping up with current events in general. I listen to longer NPR podcasts on my runs now!

      3. LAC

        I was actually coming here to comment that I love that they’re short and it’s why I decided to listen! As much as I love AAM, I don’t really have time to take on a longer podcast. Fortunately, 15 minutes is just the right size!

      4. Annoyed

        I think ~15 minutes is good. Some podcasts go on, and on, and on…and on until I stop being interested. Fifteen minutes seems pretty close to perfect.

  6. Nita

    If others in the industry know that OP left three months ago, and her boss starts complaining now that her training isn’t good enough, all he’ll get is odd looks. It’s more likely to reflect well on OP’s commitment to her work that she’s been dealing with a difficult boss (voluntarily, and possibly for free) for three months longer than she has to.

    However, OP – I’ve been in your situation and it’s pretty bad for one’s mental health. You think you’ve finally left a toxic environment, and then your boss is too cheap or incompetent to hire a proper replacement, and the whole thing just won’t go away. Hopefully you can say that you think your replacement is adequately trained, and if they still don’t know something they can learn on the job, and then wish them luck and claim rock-solid commitments that will prevent you from doing any more training.

  7. Artemesia

    Let one lesson here be to NEVER agree to train a replacement unless it is paid as consultant work and paid well and there is a time limit built in. The original agreement was ludicrous.

    1. fposte

      Totally agree. I think some people are vulnerable to a certain kind of departure guilt/anxiety that means they can be easily convinced not to let go when they should. I love the commenter here (can’t remember who, unfortunately) who talked about this kind of thing being the equivalent of going back to your old house to keep mowing the lawn for the new owners.

      1. JessaB

        Not just a time limit but goals. IE new person should be able to do x by date y and to then learn to do z by date whatever.

        It’s a horribly cynical view, but one wonders if the boss didn’t care how well they hired for this because they figured they’d still have OC anyway?

        I mean if OC agreed to 3 months in advance for instance, there should be a date before then when they can say look person is not working, get another person and I’ll give you the rest of the time with them.

        It doesn’t matter if you’re training your replacement or some employee down the hall, if they’re not getting it, they’re not getting it.

      2. Jennifer

        Why wasn’t that addressed? I spent the entirety of the podcast wondering why compensation wasn’t addressed to the point where I was getting frustrated.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Because I didn’t think it was the main point (and still don’t, especially in the context of a nonprofit where some people choose to volunteer), and because I didn’t think to bring it up until after we were done recording, and because I am a flawed human being and with a podcast I get one shot at it and can’t go back and redo it. That’s my best answer.

          1. Jennifer

            Makes sense. I honestly thought there was a whole other layer of being taken advantage of financially by the old boss. That would have been my go to if she got push back. Her being compensated closes that off.

  8. Clever anonymous name

    One thing I don’t recall hearing: is she being paid for this time? I get the feeling she’s probably not, which makes the situation even worse.

        1. Oilpress

          So true. It completely flips the situation, especially with respect to how we react to the boss.

    1. it_guy

      Even if they are being paid it’s still ludicrous for this to take that long. The (former) boss is simply being vindictive.

      1. JamieS

        If she weren’t being paid I’d agree the boss is at the least being unreasonable (I think vindictive is probably too strong) since IMO even without her telling him to stop a reasonable person would realize 3 months is too long for a former employee to continue to do you the favor of training a replacement.

        However since she is being paid essentially making her a consultant, as opposed to someone doing the organization a favor, I don’t think the boss is actually in the wrong as far as him continuing to ask OP to train the new person.

        1. Oilpress

          Late to reply, but I agree. She isn’t being taken advantage of if she is being paid for this consulting work. I listened to the entire podcast thinking she was doing this out of kindness or some weird obligation to her former employer. It changes everything knowing that she is paid for the work.

    2. Ann Furthermore

      That may actually be part of the problem. If the OP is getting paid, then the awful former boss probably doesn’t see what the issue is. It’s not like she’s being asked to work for free, right?

      My sister works remotely, long-distance, and for awhile her boss was leaning on her to travel much more than what they’d originally agreed upon. When she pushed back, her boss said, “I don’t understand. I’m paying you very well, so the money should make up for the inconvenience. What’s the problem?” The problem was that my sister was spending much more time away from home than she’d planned on, losing time with her husband (plus he’s got some mental health issues and doesn’t do well on his own for extended periods of time), and in general her quality of life was suffering to the point where for her, the money didn’t make up for the other things she was missing.

  9. Miles

    I think at this point it’s clear that the boss is taking advantage of you, to anyone who hears either of your sides of the story. Are you even getting paid for this? You should be, by law, and morally you should be charging consultant rates, which tend to start at $80/hour.

  10. Properlike

    Your ethical obligation ended when you left the job. It’s hard leaving an abusive job, and there’s “survivor’s guilt” when you get out but leave others behind.

    You may also feel that because you can make this situation easier for the people/organization, you *should*. That feeling is false.

    You’re out. Time to fly. Your responsibility is to you and your new job. That’s it.

  11. Artemesia

    I feel stupid here, but I have spotify but I can’t get it to play on spotify. I have searched spotify for ask a manager — nothing. I click on the link and when it says ‘play on spotify’ and I click it, it takes me to spotify but no ask a manager. I tried searching ask a manager and askamanager and podcasts and couldn’t come up with it. What is the trick to getting it to work?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Do you have the Spotify app installed on whatever device you’re using? If so, it should take you straight there and play it (I just tested it and it worked for me). If that’s not working … what device are you using?

      1. Just Employed Here

        I’m having the same problem as Artemesia, but on Google Play (on a smart phone). Clicking on the link opens Google Play, but there’s nothing there to listen to and searching for askamanager or ask doesn’t bring anything up.

          1. plot device

            Have you found the podcast on Stitcher? That’s what I use, but I don’t see it when I search.

        1. oranges & lemons

          I had this issue with Google Play last week, but after I tried it again, it was fine. Might just take a couple of tries? It’s working for me now.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Okay, from the producer: “To the Google Play person – I wonder if they’re using Google Play Music on an iPhone. For reasons I can’t begin to understand, podcasts are an Android-only feature on Google Play, even though there is an iOS app.

        On the Spotify side… I’m stumped. We can find it on multiple phones here, both by clicking the link and searching in the app, so it looks good on the Spotify side.”

        Is anyone else having that issue with Spotify?

        1. Artemesia

          I am doing it on my Macair computer. The site comes up when I click your link. I click ‘play on spotify’ which is loaded on my computer. Spotify comes up but not with the AAM podcast and searching Spotify doesn’t get me the podcast. I am able to play music and such on Spotify just not open AAM on it.

          1. fposte

            I think the web browser doesn’t have the same functionality as the app. When I try it on my MacBook Pro, I can’t get a straight up “browse by category,” and the search function doesn’t seem to search podcasts (not only can’t I get “Ask a Manager” or “Alison Green,” Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History is headlined in the featured podcasts but “Revisionist” or “Gladwell” won’t find it for me in the search).

            So until somebody posts a clever direct link or workaround, I don’t think you can find an unfeatured podcast in the web browser.

            1. fposte

              Following up–I got sidetracked with the search question, but the direct link to Alison’s podcast in the Spotify web browser works for me in Firefox on my MBP. Artemesia, were you already logged in to Spotify when you clicked the link? If not, try that; otherwise, try another web browser to see if that makes a difference.

                1. fposte

                  It is weird and annoying that Spotify doesn’t seem to include podcasts in its search results in the browser, though.

        2. Just Employed Here

          Nope, I am trying to use Google Play on an Android phone (an LG Nexus). I didn’t realize you even could use Google Play on an iPhone, that’s why I didn’t specify Android before…

          I tried clicking on it a couple more times, as suggested by oranges & lemons above, but to no avail. I’ll try again later.

    2. fieldpoppy

      I got it without trouble on Overcast on ioS. And the new one showed up automatically after I subscribed after the first one.

    3. LQ

      Are you in the US? I’m not 100% sure spotify is location based but I think they are. So much like netflix you can’t get everything everywhere.

  12. IT is not EZ

    Where do we find transcripts for the podcasts? I wanted to read the reply to this, and to your ‘exclusive’ one the other day, but no luck. Podcasts without transcripts are kind of useless for people who can’t hear.

      1. Anna

        So glad that it might be available in the future. I’m out of the workforce right now due to debilitating migraines, but trying to keep up to date with hope that the future brings better things with it. But due to the migraines podcasts are impossible.

    1. Dinosaur

      Thank you for highlighting this issue. I love love LOVE podcasts but they aren’t an accessible format for deaf/hard of hearing folks and so few podcasters are willing to work on getting transcripts. (Thanks for being open to it, Alison!)

      1. Snark

        Unfortunately, while transcription services can be reasonably priced for businesses, they’re often out of reach for small operations, and it’s a terribly time-consuming thing to do on your own.

        1. JessaB

          True and they haven’t yet figured how to add a caption track to what is essentially a pictureless medium. There’s no video to add one too.

        2. Dinosaur

          I’m fully aware of the challenges of transcription. It still should be something that podcasters work on setting up if at all possible.

  13. ProfessorPlum

    I especially like the part of the script to “hand the training back to you” when talking with the former boss. It indicates the caller knows the training’s not complete but is putting the responsibility back where it belongs. Yay for the AAM podcast!

  14. Irene Adler

    I think it’s shameful that this boss is allowing the training to go on for 3 months-without taking some kind of action. Or even acknowledging the situation.

  15. Bea

    WUT they have you three for 3 months and don’t see this person is the wrong fit…that’s the worst part here. They sound like my last trash bin of a boss who let someone we know couldn’t do the job struggle for 4 months before firing the kid in some kind of BS stealth way nobody saw coming. Ew.

  16. Solidus Pilcrow

    Since a large part of this is the replacement is not qualified for the position, would it be a good idea to mention some qualities of a good fit (to sort of contrast why the replacement isn’t trained yet)? Or is that getting too far into “not my job anymore” territory?

  17. Mike C.

    Who wants to bet that the boss cheaped out by hiring someone who wasn’t qualified specifically because the OP was going to train them?

    1. Bea

      Nah I wouldn’t give him the credit. He’s just a moron with bad hiring skills. I say this as someone who has seen it repeatedly in my life, just trying to pick someone who isn’t even charismatic or good on paper to plug a hole in hopes they’ll do the trick.

  18. RabbitRabbit

    I had to do similar in a previous transfer within my institution – it was a little easier in that the replacement had a part-timer (my former coworker) to work with, but worse in that the Big Boss just didn’t believe my coworker’s complaints about her new colleague. And she was less ‘valuable’ than her new coworker because she was part-time (working on an advanced degree, worked herself into severe stress because she cared, finally had to give up). So part-timer left too after a few months of this, and I had to rebuff further attempts to draw me in to “fill in” or train more.

    It should have been obvious to them how awful she was. A Big Federal Agency was coming in to audit – let’s say the division involved helping to test new tea blends – a particular tea-drinking test because the tea company wanted to put the tea on the market. The newbie was super-casual about the audit preparation with our internal compliance group, to the point where the compliance analyst said she didn’t seem to understand the importance and Newbie told the analyst, “I understand; move on.” She went on vacation for the few days immediately prior to the audit, and didn’t work all that hard before that point. The tea company was helping go through records to prep for Big Agency Visit, and they and internal compliance called me in to help, as I’d previously worked on this tea testing. I found stuff she’d misplaced, called in favors with former colleagues to recall tea drinkers’ files from other sites in the city, and organized the hell out of it. (Result: No findings. Much accolades for my assistance.)

    Newbie left after a year with glowing reviews from Big Boss, and after that audits turned up what a dumpster fire she left behind, and Big Boss is getting more audits of their work, and I suspect more problems will happen soon. I know this because I transferred to the department in our institution that involves regulatory and ethics oversight for this kind of testing.

    Not my circus, not my monkeys.

    1. RabbitRabbit

      Clarification: Former Coworker gave up on the part-time job in our old department, not her advanced degree. She’s quite happy with having finished it and moved on to do what she really wanted to do.

  19. Myrin

    It’s so cool that you’re doing these, Alison! I especially like that it gives you the opportunity to have a direct back-and-forth with an OP, to clear up possible ambiguous wording or to dig deeper into issues that turn out to be more relevant during your conversation. One question: Do you meet with these OPs face-to-face or are you on the phone or similar? And do you have your answer written out beforehand or are you just really that good of a speaker that you can come up with these beautiful sentences on the spot?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      We’re on the phone! I’m using Anchor, which is a free podcasting app that lets you record and upload segments really easily. I take some notes beforehand about points I want to make sure to make, but I think writing AAM for almost 11 years (!) has made me able to go into advice-giver mode pretty much on command :)

  20. LQ

    So I hope this is an ok place to make another podcast suggestion (and I totally understand if this is way out of what you want to do!).

    It might be kind of interesting to have a…running guest, not every single show, but one your bring back semi-regularly like every other month or so to check in but also to address other new problems. Especially someone who is new to a management role or new to the work place. Sort of a mini-series of things that are common as someone has to experience those things for the first time. The first time you have to have an awkward conversation with an employee. The first time you have to hire someone. The first time you have to tell someone they aren’t working in their role. Dealing with other managers who don’t manage their staff. It would be fun to watch someone grow and develop over the course of getting into being a manager. (And hopefully to grow with them!)

  21. Mustache Cat

    With many apologies for being a messy bench who lives for the drama, I can’t wait until you have a really really juicy letter on your podcast, like the ghosting ex.

    1. Rat in the Sugar

      It’s a little lost in some of the comments above, but Alison is trying to work on getting them available.

  22. Pomona Sprout

    Just wanted to add my voice to those who have expressed an interest in and appreciation for transcripts. I’m moderately hard of hearing, which means that with my hearing aids, I can understand most of what’s being said (as long as the speaker doesn’t mumble, have a speech impediment or a heavy accent, and their voice isn’t extremely high-pitched); however, trying to take information in through my ears takes a lort more effort and is much less satisfying and enjoyable than reading the same content would be.

    I think the podcasts sound like a great idea for those who are able to listen to and enjoy them. For the rest of us, transcripts would be a godsend. :-)

  23. Nonprofit Heather

    I’m loving the podcast so far! It’s interesting to have Alison ask questions and be able to adjust her advice through the conversation.

  24. Annoyed

    Three months? That’s an entire quarter! Alison is right…you owe them nothing. Actually you never did. Cut the cord OP, today.

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