boss fired me but her assistant keeps calling

A reader writes:

I worked in a domestic capacity and lived in the house where I worked.

After a couple of months of working non-stop, I took a weekend off (didn’t take time off before because I didn’t want to and there were problems finding cover). A few days later, I was fired and was bundled out of the house on the same day. I was told it was nothing personal, that’s just how they deal with firings and that they didn’t need a live-in anymore. I had nowhere to go as I wasn’t from the area so the employer paid for one night in a motel. I was on my own after that, although the assistant’s last words to me were that if I needed “anything at all” to call her.

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked when the next day and every week since the firing, their assistant has been in touch with me, trying to touch base and asking me to keep in touch. I am not sure how to take this apparent concern so, except for the day immediately after the firing, haven’t replied.

Are they trying to get me back? I know I was good at the job because their manager said she thought I was good and said it was “them, not (me)” and that it was nothing to do with me.

Even though I haven’t had a formal offer to return, I am wondering how to deal with the communication I am receiving in such a way that I leave the door open to returning (I’m not crazy – the money was good for my field), but at the same time not be a doormat. The person who had the job before me kept in touch every week, and every time she called, the lady of the house was pretty disdainful after hanging up the phone. I don’t want that situation, which is why I haven’t kept in touch with the family – but maybe the assistant is a different matter?

First let me say that dismissing you from where you live without any notice and then only paying for one night in a hotel is not nice behavior, especially when they’re saying you did nothing wrong. In fact, let’s officially categorize these people as asses. (I do realize this is not unusual with domestic live-in’s, thanks to a book I just read about nannies, but that doesn’t make it okay. And I don’t know why I read that book, since I don’t plan to have kids, but it was fascinating nonetheless.)

Anyway. Would you have any interest in keeping in touch with the assistant if you knew for sure that it wasn’t going to lead you back to the job? If so, why not do it for its own social merits? But if not, I’d just be straightforward and just ask the assistant what’s going on. For instance, “Hey, I really appreciate hearing from you, but to be honest, I’m confused. Are you calling just to be nice? If so, it’s really a nice gesture but also not something I want you to feel obligated to do. Or should I be reading something else into this? If you think the possibility of returning at some point is open, I’d be interested in talking about it, but I’m not at all sure if that’s what this is about.”

When someone is confusing you, ask them to un-confuse you.

But I’m skeptical of these people anyway. They sound volatile and not especially considerate. And maybe a little tyrannical, if what triggered the firing was that you took a weekend off. If you get anything from them, you might want it to be just a reference for your next position. Good luck!

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Henning Makholm*

    An obvious hypothesis would be that the assistant, personally, feels bad about how the firing was handled, and is not acting or calling on behalf of the employer. Why assume that her concern is only apparent?

    Were I the assistant in this situation, I would be worried sick that the OP would end up jumping off a bridge, or living under one, and if only I could have done something, except I wouldn't have the first idea what it would be possible, appropriate, or appreciated for me to actually do, but at the very least I'd try to keep in touch. The OP would probably have gotten a fairly unclear and confused message about what I wanted, just as she seems to get from the actual assistant.

    (Also, were I the assistant I would be polishing up my own resume. I'm with AAM here — this does not sound like a job you should want back).

  2. Erica*

    It sounds like this person is just … nice. Maybe he or she wants to be friends?

    And if she is trying to keep it open and get you back – then you would be crazy to consider it. And if that isn't obvious, then either there is a lot more to the story, or you are insane.

  3. Susan*

    I agree that you should not want to return to this employer. I definitely would work on getting a reference from the assistant. Just be honest with her when you call, which I think is worth it. He or she may just be concerned or even wanting to offer to be a reference. There is no way I would return even if they begged.

    Wow, I had no idea this is how nannies are treated. I really can't imagine disposing of someone like trash who was just caring for my kids the day before. That is frightening on many levels.

  4. maria*

    I am the person that asked AAM this question and thanks for your responses. I would understand the assistant's concern if she had been acting consistently, but throughout my employment, she wouldnt respond to email enquiries I had and was even pretty sarcastic a lot of the times I dealt with her. She seems to either be having a crisis of conscience (unlikely given past behaviours) or something else is going on. Besides, if she were THAT concerned, she could call me – she hasnt called once – only texts and email. Your thoughts are really appreciated!

  5. Charles*

    I vote for the "something else going on." I, too, have had former co-workers call me after I leave a position. It often turns out that they are doing nothing but fishing for information. Most of the time they want to know how I did something because they are now clueless. My response is usually a polite "sorry, but I don't work there any more."

    I would suggest that you return one of her calls to see what it is that she wants; it would be good to be open-minded, but also don't share too much or sound as if you are willing to just jumped back in as if nothing happened.

    See what YOU can get out of it. Since, clearly, no one there had your interests at heart.

  6. maria*

    Charles – absolutely see what i can get out of it – their staff that do seem to last the longest! I'm allowing a decent amount of time to pass before responding to her communication, though.
    And in the meantime I'm finding that there are a lot of other good jobs out there.

  7. TheLabRat*

    Disclaimer: I am a paranoid cynic.

    While I'd love to think the assistant is just uncomfortable with how the firing was handled I think she's fishing to find out if you are going to sue. Technically (and dependent upon the location you live in) this could be considered an unlawful eviction.

  8. maria*

    Thanks, I think you are right, Labrat. Much as I want to, I wont sue them. They were actually an elderly couple and i was their live in caretaker/caregiver. idont call me a sucker but i kind of feel sorry for them going through the stress of getting sued when they are obviously just demented and losing their marbles. i thin kit will be punishment enough that they simply WONT find as good an allrounder as me. All thoughts continue to be welcome even though I feel Im exhausting this blog.

  9. maria*

    oh – and erica – there is a lot to the story, but its not crazy to follow the money esp in these economic times.

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