ask the readers: company that treated me poorly now wants my help

It’s time for another ask-the-readers question (although I can’t help weighing in on this one too). A reader writes:

Three months ago, I left a job I’d had for nearly six years in a ridiculously dysfunctional dental office. I would have left years ago if the money hadn’t been so good.

My old office manager has also been wanting out desperately and was offered a new job last week. She gave her two weeks notice on Friday, but on Sunday the dentists told her they wouldn’t need her to stay on.

Three days later, she got an email from the woman I had trained to take my position. That woman had been asked by the doctors to contact the old office manager for passwords, how-to info, etc. My old manager is torn about what to do.

Taking the high road is always noble, but these dentists have run their business pretty terribly for several years and succeeded in making her life miserable, yet she was nothing but honest through it all.

Would it be inappropriate to tell them this is what the two weeks notice was for and since they decided they didn’t need her, then they don’t get the benefit of the smooth transition she proposed in her letter of resignation?

Ooooh.

Personally, I’d provide the passwords because I’d be more concerned about my reputation and taking the high road than about making a point to them (and refusing to provide passwords is pretty hard to defend if people hear about it), but how-to information? That’s what the two weeks was for.

If she does decide to provide the how-to information, she should certainly be paid for her time. To make that clear before she proceeds, she should say something like, “I estimate it will take me ____ (amount of time) to go over this with you / write it up. Do you want to do that through payroll or pay me as a contractor for that time?”  And then she should follow up with an email confirming the arrangement, so that it’s in writing.

But should she do it at all? For me, if I were in her shoes, it would depend on just how badly they’d treated me while I was there. (Feel free to provide us with details in the comments.)

What do others think?

{ 140 comments… read them below }

    1. Anonymous

      Never good to lie.

      I’d do what AAM wrote – give the passwords but make them pay for the other items (how-to information). I’d rather hand over the passwords so that they can’t accuse her of anything. With the how-to information, essentially they took away 2 weeks of pay from her, and, therefore, they should have to pay her for this.

      1. Neeta

        It really depends on the amount of passwords and their complexity.
        At my old job I had at least 20 different ones, for 20 different things. And since I work in IT they were all really complex things that I could never remember. They were all saved in a file, on my work computer.

        In my case, I was asked to send an email to my boss with all this data, so it was all OK. But if someone had contacted me even a day after I left, I would’ve had to tell them that I don’t remember them. And of course tell them where this was saved on my work computer.

      2. Anonymous

        Never good to lie

        It’s easy enough to arrange for it not to be a lie. It just takes a little forward planning.

        1. anon-2

          This may be repetitive — but as far as passwords go — it is a very touchy situation from a legal standpoint. If I were that manager ….

          I would offer to go in and allow them to CHANGE the passwords — you log in, turn your back while they change it, and then get a written verification that it’s been changed.
          Signed, dated, and witnessed. And charge a fee (one hours’ pay? $100? $1? up to you.)

          That way, if anything strange happens after that, they can’t blame you.

          On the other hand, this could be a plea (or ploy) from the dysfunctional office to re-establish contact with the former office manager.

          – as far as reputation, they’re gonna say what they’re gonna say and you’re not going to change that.

          – do not be surprised if this is a tactic to try to get the office manager back in the door to talk — the bosses re-opening the door, while avoiding what I like to call the “consumption of humble pie”.

          There was a song by Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi” – and one of the stanzas is “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

          It applies if you leave a good job and wind up in a bad one.

          It also applies to managers who allow a good, but abused employee to walk away, and tell them “don’t let the door hit ya…” — and a month later realize that they really screwed up in doing that.

  1. Boina Roja

    Passwords I would provide, the how-to information? Nopes, they had their two weeks, they declined. Since they’ve treated me badly, I would refuse to do anything extra for them. Something about making your bed and…..

    1. Lisa

      give passwords only

      you will end up spending time creating how-to info that WILL NEVER BE PAID FOR. Or you could do the how-to info first, and not deliver it to them without a cashiers check, but they could refuse to pay at that point and you already did the work.

  2. Jamie

    The OP didn’t mention if she was paid out for her two weeks.

    Sometimes when you give notice and are asked to leave immediately you’re still paid for the notice period. Were it me and I was being paid I would provide the how-to info, but in the format of my choosing. For me, I’d either come in and do it in person or via email – I hate training over the phone and would refuse a million random calls. Scheduled period of time, have an agenda of what you want to cover.

    I reserve my right to change that answer if the details prove the treatment was particularly egregious and not just typical dysfunction.

    Passwords – give them up. Those shouldn’t exist solely in anyone’s head anyway. There are tons of free database programs to store them securely – this should have been done all along. People do get hit by buses, we need to prepare for that kind of thing.

    1. some1

      I really agree with the last paragraph. I assume the OP was the receptionist or something similar, and it seems odd the Office Mgr would not have trained the receptionist to back her up with things like PWs. They were working together for 3 months!

    2. snuck

      My thoughts exactly. If she’s been paid out for her two weeks she should finish up a hand over document that outlines the key work (why didn’t this exist before – what if she was out sick, or suddenly unable to work?).

      If she hasn’t been paid out for the two weeks then it’s fair to ask for a reasonable compensation for her time to train a new person.

      If the office is that dysfunctional and nasty then if she does ‘train’ a replacement for a day or so I’d make sure I wrote a list of what I’d trained the replacement in, and email that to the office management so there’s no come back.

      And passwords aren’t ‘yours’ once you leave, they are legitimate access to systems and just like keys should be handed over.

  3. Malissa

    Passwords–sure no problem. Chances are I would have written them down before I left anyway. How to’s and other work….. I hope you can afford my contractor prices. They are going to be at least twice what my salary was.

    1. Rana

      Yup. That’s what I did when the company that laid me off was clue-sticked by my supervisors (who were not consulted about this!), that my skills were essential for Very Important Report due in two weeks.

      I charged them twice my hourly rate, finished the VIR, and got a few reminders about why no longer working for them was in fact a fine thing.

      1. Anonymous

        Exact same thing happened to a friend. She was cut because she was the most expensive (executive decision, not made by her supervisors), but the newer person left to do her job couldn’t handle an upcoming deadline. Supervisors were given a contracting budget so they contracted my friend again, at twice what she was being paid before, on top of her severance pay.

  4. Candice

    Passwords are easy enough to reset, and really they shouldn’t be using the same ones after workers leave. By keeping them from the company you’re really just causing the other workers a headache, not the owners of the business. Usually it’s the lower-level workers that get hit by these revenge plots and if the business owners are running their business poorly it’s unlikely they’ll let it bother them for longer than a nanosecond.

    As for the how-to information, I agree, that’s what the two week courtesy was for. It’s not her fault they don’t have training manuals in place, and if she’s going to be providing them she needs to get a contractor salary at least equal to what she was making before for her time spent working with the company.

    1. Ivy

      +1
      Not giving them the passwords is going to make the life of your previous co-workers (the people that are in the same boat as you) a lot more difficult than unnecessary.

      And I agree with everyone on the how to manuals as well…they need to pay you for training this new person.

      1. Liz

        Ditto to all of this. Use your words if you want to express disappointment. Don’t use a backhanded invented difficulty for someone who didn’t cause the problem and can’t fix it for you.

    2. Anonymous

      Agree with all of this except the amount. As a contractor, she’ll be paying a higher tax rate on this income and so the amount needs to AT LEAST accommodate that. That’s just the minimum, however. She has specialized knowledge, and it’s up to the market (of one!) to decide what that’s worth.

      1. JohnQPublic

        Yes yes yes! Keep in mind
        1. She has to pay her own taxes on the contracting work
        2. There are no benefits anymore
        3. This job was a HUGE headache and it was their fault
        4. This is an inconvenience to her
        5. They used to have to pay overall Double what her hourly rate was when you figure in employment taxes, benefits, payroll, etc.

        I’d say as a contractor double the salary as an hourly rate is the MINIMUM I’d accept- and no one starts negotiating at their rock-bottom price. They want you back? They can pay for it. And let them know at the end of your time there how much more you’ll charge them next time.

  5. AdAgencyChick

    Passwords, yes.

    How-tos, no. She left for a new job, so if I were her I’d simply say that my new duties don’t afford me the time to train someone from the old place.

  6. Seal

    Passwords? Absolutely – in fact, they should have been passed on before the OP left.

    But she is in no way obligated to help train her replacement after she was essentially told to take a hike. She offered to assist with a smooth transition and her now-former employers refused. End of discussion.

  7. Andor

    Completely agree – never ‘take hostages’ that’s the worst can be done both reputation-wise and also you’ll feel like a complete #&@ later on.
    (Even feeling inside of justifying all the wrong treatment earlier got.)

    Be the ‘gentleman’ : send over the password (mention how they can change it! – so in case of a later-on problem of intrusion or data loss, you are perfectly covered), as well as mention in your reply that you are available on a paid basis, like Alison wrote.

  8. Josh S

    You pretty much have to share the passwords. The accounts (and access to them) is generally considered to be work product and has to stay with the company. So unless the OP/office manager wants to see herself in a potential lawsuit, she needs to give those pretty quick.

    As for the ‘how to’ stuff, my personal opinion is to say, “Sure. My consulting rate for that is $XX [where XX = 4x the previous hourly salary]. I anticipate it will take 80 hours (aka 2 working weeks) to complete.”

    That would be a nice ‘screw you’ to the owners, while still operating under the guise of some generosity. But you can also either say, “Sorry, that’s why I offered you 2 weeks,” or even simply decline to offer any assistance by saying, “I’m not available to assist with that at this time.”

    It all depends how nice you want to be. Which is dependent upon nothing but the goodness of your heart, because you’re pretty much allowed to be crappy to them after they were crappy to you.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Is there really a legal issue with the passwords? Couldn’t she just say, “Sorry, I don’t remember them” (assuming she’s not also logging into the accounts herself)? (I don’t recommend that, just not seeing how they could sue.)

      Totally agree, by the way, with you and others suggesting the consulting rate be higher than her old payroll rate.

      1. some1

        That’s what I thought about PWs. I have legitimately forgotten PWs after a week off from work before.

      2. Jamie

        I am not a lawyer – but I can’t see how there could be a legal issue with passwords. No one is obligated to be able to remember this kind of thing.

        Now if the passwords were stored properly and she deliberately deleted the database to be a pita – then, yeah, if it can be proven. Or if she used them to access after she was no longer an employee.

        How can you sue someone for not remembering something? I have hundreds of passwords I am responsible for and I can’t tell you my own direct dial at work off the top of my head. If we can be sued for faulty memory I am in so much trouble.

        1. Anonymous

          Now if the passwords were stored properly and she deliberately deleted the database to be a pita – then, yeah, if it can be proven.

          Well, it would take a little more than that. First law of data sabotage: get the backup.

      3. Anonymous

        Actually, she should be sending them politely nasty letters demanding that they change the passwords, so she cannot be accused of any subsequent malfeasance.

        1. Anonymous

          Yes. Passwords are accountability. You do not want to be held accountable for wrongdoing after you leave. If your account is the one doing the wrongdoing, you’ll have to jump through a lot of hoops to prove that it wasn’t you.

          1. Anonymous

            HIPAA got mentioned lower down…. that’s actually an interesting point. If the dentists won’t confirm in writing that the passwords have been changed/accounts deleted, then perhaps a tip-off to whatever local authority is in charge of HIPAA enforcement would be in order.

          1. office person

            That is my point. It is an medical office. I can’t imagine that the passwords are to get into anything other than medical stuff.
            We just had a 45 min meeting yesterday on HIIPPA. Keep your computer on lock when you are going to be away and do not share passwords.

            Even if the intial password is just to get on the computer that sign in is still on the system. Yes my comapny can get into see what I did but it is on their sign in. My boss doesn’t have mine.

            1. office person

              I signed an agreement that stated I will no disclose my security password and password. No whether the OP did or not I don’t know. But it was signed for the purpose of the HIPPA regulations.

        2. cncx

          THIS. She should go in for the passwords but make them change them in front of her so no one can come back and say she hacked the system. I speak from experience, someone tried to pull that on me.

      4. Anonymous

        Google “Terry Childs”

        San Francisco network admin who refused to give the city passwords and was charged with several felonies. Found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison.

        Now that said, this was a much more complicated case with all kinds of back and forth allegations. But ultimately some low level courts ruled that passwords are company property, and refusing to disclose them is like refusing to return keys, etc.

        Anyway, best to give them the passwords unless they have legitimately been forgotten. But I would insist on being paid for the how-tos.

          1. Anonymous

            Sure, but I guess what I’m saying is she better have really forgotten the passwords. If it was a password she used regularly it’ll be tough to claim no knowledge of it only a few days later.

            If she really did forget, then no problem. Of course the Terry Childs case is also unusual since he admitted he had them and refused to provide them, and they were root system passwords that couldn’t be easily reset or changed (leading to a huge cost to the city).

            1. Anonymous

              It’s possible to use a password daily without knowing it. Password management software exists so that you don’t actually need to remember all 20 high-complexity passwords that you use frequently.

              1. Piper

                This. I forget my own passwords to personal accounts all the time because of this. Then I’ll go to log in on a new machine and have to reset the password because I’ve forgotten it due to “remember my password” auto-functions. That, and I use different passwords for almost every account I have (security and all that).

                1. Shane

                  I can’t find the article on it but last year I started using a modular password for all the sites I visit online.

                  How it works:
                  – I use a single master password with numbers as well as upper and lower case letters
                  e.g. M4st3r

                  – For every site or application that needs login information I would add a string of 3 or 4 letters separated by a symbol to the password based on the site/app
                  e.g. askamanager.org
                  M4st3r_aska or ask.M4st3r

                  This way if a site is hacked and they didn’t properly encrypt their password database the hacker will have (at best) my password for that one site.

                  The real bonus here is that even though every single site or app that I use will have a unique password but from my perspective the passwords are all the same.

                  How Long would it take a PC to break these passwords?
                  M4st3r = 14 seconds
                  ask.M4st3r = 96 Years
                  M4st3r_aska = 14,000 Years
                  The modular password I use = 98 Million Years
                  (source: howsecureismypassword.net )

                2. Your Mileage May Vary

                  Ha! My husband does that. Then he gets irritated that I know all his passwords for everything. So I don’t see why using m4$t3r.amaz is safer than using something like horsecomingtodinner. It might take a computer program to figure out your M4ster, but once I’ve spent that 14 seconds, using a little imagination, I can crack your others in just a few tries. So that method might be easy to remember for the user but I will never be convinced it’s safer.

                3. JohnQPublic

                  It won’t be 14 seconds. It will be 14,000 years. And sure you’ll be able to figure out the rest of my passwords. And at that point if I’m still around I doubt I’ll be caring about that.

                4. Josh S

                  @Shane: So…you typed your password in plaintext into some website, and you expect that password to remain secure?

                5. Anonymous

                  Yes a human would be able to guess the rest of my passwords but it is not often the case that they want a single person’s account. When a login server is cracked they will likely find all the easy to crack passwords immediately and with a script enter the username/password into other sites such as paypal. Even if a human could see a pattern a computer will not meaning the rest of my passwords remain secure.

                  @Josh: I didn’t enter my password into the website. I entered it by using a very similar password replacing numbers with other numbers, letters with other letters, and symbols with other symbols. It would be impossible to guess my password from that and even if they could they will not have my username anyways.

                6. Josh S

                  @Shane: I saw that website the other day, and laughed. Call me a skeptic, but I imagined it must be owned by a hacker to cull passwords used in the wild. Possibly even associating them with IP addresses.

                  Never cared enough to look up the WhoIs, but I thought about it.

        1. Jamie

          As you said there is so much more to that than passwords.

          And he didn’t forget, he refused. Huge difference. There were also policies in place which he violated by not turning them over – if the OP’s office was so concerned they could have had password storage policies and did not (that we know of).

          I don’t think there is a correlation between the two.

        2. JT

          Terry Childs took an IT system hostage while still employed, screwing over his employer. The person in this case offered time for the employer to access important information, which the employer rejected. Not the same.

      5. Anonymous

        Any sanely set up IT infrastructure would not require anyone, ever, to share passwords. There is a real reason that all reputable places say “We will never ask for your password” because it is 100% unnecessary and bad business practice. We are way past this technologically, people! Passwords never need to be shared – anyplace that tells you otherwise has an incompetent or neutered IT department and you should run the other way.

        There should be an system administrator who can get any important information out of the account without a password. The system administrator ought to be making separate accounts for each employee. Information that should be shared among all employees (like calendars, documentation, etc.) should have permissions set appropriately so relevant employees can see it, and should be stored in a place that everyone (or the relevant subset of everyone) in the business can access.

        Important info should’ve been passed on to the manager or placed in the appropriate shared space instead of left in the private account to begin with – but that’s a separate debate and may fall under the manager’s fault for not allowing the 2-week transition period.

        Of course, it’s quite possible that their IT infrastructure or their employee accounts aren’t set up to abide by good business practices. It would be very surprising at a dental office, because they are supposed to worry about HIPAA. If that’s the case, just give them your password and move on with your life (and I hope you didn’t leave anything stupid on there).

        1. Liz

          That was my question as well – how do these bosses not already have access to everything necessary? Is there a chance they want access to the OP’s account to start building a case against a former employee? Or just for their own satisfaction? Because I have never worked at a place where only one person had the ability to access important parts of the system, and if that is the case, the OP probably should have turned over the info before leaving, to save hassles for everyone, right?

          1. Anonymous

            That was my question as well – how do these bosses not already have access to everything necessary?

            Well quite. The only exception is for encrypted data. Everything else they already have access to, by virtue of the fact that they have physical access to the systems. The OP shoiuld remind them of this fact.

        2. Jamie

          There are a lot of passwords outside of the internal network which need to be reset when someone leaves. Not having them makes it more complicated for those who remain.

          Vendors with web-based billing, tech support account, web based services, to name a few.

          I’d agree with you on the internal network – those passwords should be changed the second an employee is asked not to return. But there are a lot of others involved in most offices.

          1. Liz

            That makes sense. I should never be an admin it office manager. I do other things well, but this stuff never makes intuitive sense to me the way it does for some people :)

          2. snuck

            This.

            It’s usually (for an office manager of what is probably a two admin office) far more than the system access and client database passwords.

            It’s the passwords to order stationery, christmas/business cards/small print jobs, admin passcode to change the telephone answering message, programming the telephone security levels, possibly locks on the ?ink refill cupboard? etc.

            It is very short sighted to escort someone like an office manager from the business effective immediately without fully understanding and gaining all this information from them. But dysfunctional offices rarely have good vision.

      6. Josh S

        I know Social Media Marketing coordinators who have established personal Twitter accounts and used them as platforms for their professional jobs. (I don’t think it’s smart, but I’ve seen it.) Like “@JaneLovesStarbucks” or something. Or heck, if Dana Boyd of Apophenia.com started a @Apophenia Twitter that shared a lot of her work at Microsoft Research.

        When the time comes for the employee to leave the job, she wants to take the Twitter account with her. The company demands the Twitter account stay with the company. Whether the account is personally-owned or company-owned is a court battle to decide (or settled by lawyers outside the courts more frequently).

        So yeah, you’re *probably* not going to get in real trouble if you forget the passwords. But if you want to avoid the very real potential for litigation, you probably should hand over the passwords.

        (Or consider the very-different-but-still-related case of Terry Childs who served jail time for failing to hand over passwords: cio.com.au/article/255165/sorting_facts_terry_childs_case/?pf=1 )

      7. office person

        Yes. Sharing of passwords is a major no no especially in the medical fields. Simply say per HIPPA I can’t give you my passwords.
        You do not want anyone doing stuff on your sign in. If the OP does anything, show them how to change the password so hers are out of the picture.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Depends on what kind of passwords we’re talking about, like Jamie said. It could just be the password for the office’s Facebook page, or their password for ordering from Staples.

      8. Anonymous

        Some people above suggested saying they were forgotten the day after the person left. I don’t believe in that. You just don’t magically forget a password you use everyday. They (some of the commenters) just don’t get it that lying about the passwords probably damages their reputation if word ever gets out.

    2. JT

      They don’t have legal access to your brain (the place were the information is stored, presumably) so the lawsuit would be ineffective. Companies may be able to stop ex-employees from sharing information such as passwords, but they can’t demand ex-employees provide information from their memory back to the company.

  9. Piper

    Yep, give the passwords, but don’t do the how-tos without compensation. The company lost that privilege the second they pushed her out the door before her two weeks was up.

  10. Wilton Businessman

    Sure, here are your passwords. If you would like to setup a contract with me on a time and materials basis I would be happy to do that at $100/hr.

    1. Yuu

      +1
      If I were here, I’d say, “Here are the passwords that I can remember off the top of my head.” to cover myself on the memory thing.
      Then make the rate the amount of money that she’d genuinely wouldn’t mind doing the work for, and schedule the work according to what works with her schedule. Besides, she will most likely be working with the assistant, not the dentists.

      It sounds like the practice owners are good dentists but not good managers. If you were paid well, then I think that is in some ways acknowledging the fact that the job was difficult (perhaps extra difficult due to the way they run things) and they compensated you appropriately. I think there’s a major difference between making someones life terrible due to negligence or ineptitude (which sounds like the case here), vs. mean spirited-ness.

      1. OP

        Very astute of you.

        2nd paragraph…YES. I’d like to comment in a number of places to flesh out the facts a little, but you know, I’m at work and really want to keep this job so I ought not loiter on here til after work. :) But yes, GREAT dentists, NOT good business owners. Definitely not mean-spirited, thank goodness.

        The making things miserable for the old office manager was because she tried very, very hard to run a business, yet their ineptitude undid much of her work and they wouldn’t respond to her questions/emails/letters or any other way of trying to talk to them.

        It’s nearly impossible to run something for someone when they don’t realize they MUST communicate what they want/need and purposely ignore problems because they’re certain they will “blow over.”

        1. Two-cents

          Unfortunately this is pretty common in smaller professional practices…very often good people, good practitioners, but poor managers.
          And there must be a lot of people who’ve been treated badly by companies that they automatically assume the posture of “no way will I cooperate, in fact, I’ll lie so I don’t have to cooperate.” Share the passwords. Answer a few quick questions, and charge for anything that sounds like it will take longer than 5 minutes.

  11. Danni

    My immediate reaction is that she shouldn’t share anything beyond absolutely necessary or critical passwords. Also, if people “heard” about her not cooperating, they woud also, I assume, have “heard” about the WHY (the fact that she was told not to finish her 2 week notice period).

    However, I’m trying to look at this from the other point of view too. Maybe she didn’t leave sufficient documentation, and her managers didn’t know about that until after she left. Again, not 100% her problem, but if there was poor documentation along the way then she wasn’t doing her job.

    And I don’t know how this really works, not having been in that position, but after they told her she should leave on the Sunday, did she not think about/discuss the passwords or anything else? If I left a job without finishing up the handover process (even if it weren’t my decision), I would assume someone was going to contact me for help at some point. Again, this isn’t really her fault, but I would just assume it would happen.

    I don’t know…I personally wouldn’t help out more than I needed to, but I’m spiteful that way :P

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Couple of thoughts on this —

      “if people “heard” about her not cooperating, they woud also, I assume, have “heard” about the WHY (the fact that she was told not to finish her 2 week notice period)”

      Not necessarily. Example: Someone calls for a reference and is told, “Jane? She wouldn’t give us her passwords when she left.” No further context.

      “after they told her she should leave on the Sunday, did she not think about/discuss the passwords or anything else?”

      If you give notice and they tell you to leave immediately, it’s not really your obligation to make sure they’re protected from the ramifications of that decision.

      1. A Bug!

        Exactly. She gives her two-week notice, which is the heads-up to her employer to get their ducks in a row and make certain that they have everything they need from her. If they decide on Sunday that everything’s taken care of and they don’t need her anymore, it’s not the office manager’s responsibility to tell them they’re making a rash choice.

      2. Anonymous

        Not necessarily. Example: Someone calls for a reference and is told, “Jane? She wouldn’t give us her passwords when she left.” No further context

        On the contrary – that statement just by itself contains plenty of information about the competence (at least in the IT field) of the person giving the reference.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t think there’s any way that statement doesn’t reflect poorly on Jane, regardless of what questions it might raise about the person giving the reference.

          1. Anonymous

            Of course there is – see the repeated comments elsewhere in the thread that passwords are never shared. It only reflects poorly on “Jane” if she were responsible for designing the system in the first place.

                1. Anonymous

                  That doesn’t change the fact that they will be wrong – and that there is a very obvious way in which the statement doesn’t reflect poorly on Jane.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Jane doesn’t care whether they’re right or wrong. She wants a job, and so she wants a good reference. This isn’t about principle; it’s about acting in your own interests.

                3. Jamie

                  “That doesn’t change the fact that they will be wrong – and that there is a very obvious way in which the statement doesn’t reflect poorly on Jane.”

                  Jane is not in IT. The vast majority of people checking references for her from now until the end of time won’t give even one thought to IT best practices for security protocols.

                  If there is anyone who would, they won’t care. Because she isn’t IT. Alison is absolutely right on this.

                  I almost admire your purist devotion to the absolutes in IT (even if I’m not as fervent – I don’t think the password used to log into Office Depot should be treated with the same gravitas as that which is used to access the servers) but Jane is not of our world.

                  Many inhabitants of the non-IT world write passwords on post-it notes and think they are practicing tough security if they stick it under the keyboard instead of on the monitor. These same people sometimes use the word ‘password’ for their password. Or their birthday. And never change them. Ever.

                  They aren’t bad people. They are lovely and talented and have many gifts – we couldn’t get along without them. Do you want to watch TV in a world in which IT people are in charge of marketing? I don’t. But the things that matter to IT don’t resonate in the same way.

                  And before people get offended – I know there are many people who are not IT who are wicked responsible with passwords and very savvy about this kind of thing. But the people checking her references won’t care about that – they will wonder about a reputation for being uncooperative and that’s as far as it will go.

            1. Henning Makholm

              You’re assuming that someone who calls to check references will be looking to assign blame for the situation to either Jane or her employer, and operating from a principle that if one has done something wrong, the other must be innocent of everything.

              However, this principle works two ways.

              And, seriously, why would a reference checker even care about whether the previous employer’s IT setup was sane or not?

              1. Anonymous

                And, seriously, why would a reference checker even care about whether the previous employer’s IT setup was sane or not?

                They don’t – but that doesn’t change the fact that Passwords Aren’t Shared.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  You’re assuming the reference-checker shares that principle. Lots of people don’t think about it. The point is that there’s no reason not to take two minutes and make this a non-issue.

        2. Anonymous

          Maybe I’m not thinking right, but I can’t see my dentist having much in the IT field other than just getting software to set up different programs a doctor’s office might need (Office suite and datebook at least). I don’t know if my dentist has the passwords to the computer(s), but I’m sure his receptionist does. If she left and didn’t tell him (shoot, she could’ve changed it on him), he could be up a creek without a paddle. So if she ever needed a reference, that very sentence could be said, and he would have had to get an IT guy in to essentially hack into his own system.

          If the office is more modern and tech savvy, then perhaps they would have IT people at the ready.

          1. Anonymous

            I highly doubt a dental office has an IT department. However, if they keep any sort of files electronically which a lot of offices now do, it would be a necessity to have a contract with one to set the system up with proper security protocols etc. There are significant legal ramifications to medical documentation escaping out into the wild. Which is exactly why she shouldn’t give passwords. Systems such as this log which user id did what when. If she gives up her account password she is setting herself up for trouble down the road. What if the new employee is logged into her account and accidently (or maliciously) sends medical info over the net, that gets traced back to her account and she gets in trouble.

            Offer to give up all the passwords that don’t matter (Office Depot, facebook, twitter, etc.) if you remember them (personally I keep such things in an excel file in the comp). But absolutely do not give up passwords for the computer account. If you want to be really nice, offer to come in burn all files stored locally to a disk for them but demand they delete your account and create a new one for the new employee for liability/HIPAA concerns. (Honestly, this is something they should be doing anyways.) And if the passwords are shared (office alarm system, etc.) they should be changing these any time they lose an employee who had the password.

    2. Jamie

      The thing is the spite toward the bosses wouldn’t hurt them. They’d just make an offhand comment to a staff member to get the passwords reset. For some things this is a hassle, calling places and verifying who you are then going through the reset process.

      Do you want to punish former co-workers who are stuck in the same environment you’re leaving.

      Oh – and good time for a PSA on email addys for password resets. Your business accounts should go to an address like admin @yourcompany.com or whatever…not someone’s name.

      That way when you are resetting passwords when someone leaves (and I don’t care how trusted they were, change the passwords when they leave) you don’t have to go through the hassle of changing the email address as well – just have it redirected to the person who now has the responsibilities.

      1. DM Andy

        Sounds like it’s not a big employer, and there’s unlikely to be an IT department. In cases like that, it’s not unusual for a junior employee to end up being a sysadmin for all the local IT if they are reasonably techie and the managers are not. So the passwords could be pretty vital to the running of the dental practice.

        I agree with Alison, giving the passwords over is no big deal. It’s not the concern of the OP if her former employee is practising lax password security.

  12. Rebecca Z

    I was once in a similar situation. I was a temp in the executive office and the only one who knew how to use Microsoft Project. A new HR Director came in and decided a temp wasn’t necessary and terminated my position with pretty much no notice – I think they told me on Wed. or Thurs. that Friday would be my last day. Didn’t want anything more to do with me, just be done. Sure enough the CEO asks a week later in a exec meeting why her giant project isn’t being updated anymore. The IT Director promptly reported that I’d been let go and was the only once who could do it. She was furious and demanded they get me back in immediately (and let the HR Director have it). IT Director calls and says he’s been authorized to pay me 3x my hourly temp salary to come back – so I did. Got a referral from the IT Director a few months later for a better job closer to home and left. Totally dysfunctional office – they went out of business right after I left.

    1. Jamie

      “IT Director calls and says he’s been authorized to pay me 3x my hourly temp salary to come back – so I did. Got a referral from the IT Director a few months later for a better job closer to home and left.”

      That is because IT Directors are universally awesome. Good works like these are right in the job description.

      1. Anon 4

        Unfortunately, not all IT Directors are awesome. I currently work for a horrible one. Her technical knowledge is surface at best, and she refuses to listen to people who have strong technical backgrounds. She makes decisions that have our company operating using outdated technology that wastes my time.

        However, kudos to Rebecca’s IT Director – and all of the other ones out there who are doing great work. I know they’re out there!

      2. Rebecca Z

        Oh, he was awesome – and I so appreciated what he did for me. It also helped that he hated the HR Director (as did everyone else). Not because he was the HR Director, but because he was a grade A top-of-the-line %&$*!

  13. Katie

    I recently had an incident similar to this happen. I left a job (from a VERY dysfunctional workplace) four months ago. Before I left, I finished everything up that I could, trained several people on my job function, and wrote down all the important passwords. I left a copy of the passwords for my replacement and gave a copy to my direct supervisor. Since I left, I have gotten repeated questions from the people I trained, which I have answered. But recently, I received a message that the CEO needed HIS password for an online application (which I had set up for him, and then wrote it down and gave it to him, because he didn’t want to do it himself). So I just explained that I didn’t know his password, that I had given out copies before I left, and I suggested he used the “I forgot my password link”. I couldn’t believe that he had thought I remembered/knew his password after four months! And that he would bother me with it before he checked with his current staff!

    1. some1

      I worked for a guy like your old boss once. My counterpart retired within a month of my hire, and he was asking me to email/call her with questions (“where do you think you put this file from 6 years ago” kind of thing) over a year after she left.

  14. Anonymous

    Passwords fine, because I am a good christian person, lol.

    But training materials? As my mother always said, “your poor planning is not my problem.”

      1. I wish I could say . . .

        He was bigger on “I don’t remember” but he also used “don’t recall” . Or maybe it was “Can’t recall.” I don’t remember. ;-)

  15. Blinx

    Will it be a problem for your friend in the future, if she can’t get solid references from the dentists? If so, provide passwords and offer to come in for a half day of training, either at her former or higher rate.

  16. meg

    I wouldnt give them any of it. They should reset the passwords anyway because a former employee should not have access to it after they leave. But them being a dysfunctional office, I would tell them I don’t remember and advise them to reset passwords anyway.

    As far as how-to’s, you can remind them that you are no longer an employee there, but offer your very high consulting rate as others suggested.

    1. Anon 4

      Actually, if the office is dysfunctional, there may not be anyone else who understand how to change the passwords – or the impact of doing so.

  17. A Bug!

    I’m pretty much in total agreement with AAM’s answer, unless the office manager is currently in receipt of severance pay or pay in lieu of notice. Given the circumstances I doubt it’s the case.

    Even if that were the case, I would only provide assistance on terms convenient to me (except the passwords, I’d give those up immediately). “I can come in next Wednesday morning for three hours. Please ensure your new office manager has any questions written down in advance.”

    If they got sharp, then I’d remind them that I was terminated on Sunday, and that unless they wanted to negotiate a contracting deal then any time I spent helping them was as a courtesy only and not out of any obligation, since they expressly declined the opportunity to keep me around to pass on my knowledge.

    Of course, if I was terminated with no pay at all, then it’s straight to “Sure, my contracting rate is $X and I’m available Wednesday through Friday.”

  18. Alma

    I would give the passwords but not the other information. If you did have a job manual, you could tell the new hire where it is, but you are not obligated to train her.

    And be very careful with the consulting. I had my toxic job do this to me right after they laid me off for “not being needed”. They brought me back as a consultant at an agreed-upon rate for a project — but instead of getting a check at the end of the job, I had to submit an invoice for payment. Which they didn’t pay until I submitted it again 30 days later. This dental office sounds like a prime candidate for not paying you for the transition training time.

    When they called me to consult a second time, I definitely told them no. I did tell them where I left the instruction manual and the necessary files, but I did not work for them again. They actually offered me $100/hour, and it was so nice to be able to say no (nicely) and feel good about it.

    1. Anonymous

      They could ask for a retainer before you start work to avoid this.

      In the consulting world this is pretty common, especially for Clients who you don’t have a relationship with or are slow paying.

  19. Mike C.

    I feel slightly different about the passwords, I’m curious as to what the rest of you guys think.

    The OP no longer works for this company, and it was their decision to cut the two weeks early. In my view, the OP should have every right to charge for the time needed to collect and deliver these passwords. Time is money and if you’re a professional you never work for free.

    Now, I want to be clear that I’m not saying to hold the passwords hostage or anything like that. I’m just trying to point out at that this point in the relationship it’s now at the point of some random business wanting you to spend your time doing something for them.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think in theory, this is absolutely true. If they want your time, they should pay for it.

      In practice, though, it’s so common for people to be willing to take two minutes to do something like this that refusing will look bad. So I think it’s more of a question of custom versus what would be strictly logical if you could function without regard to what’s typical.

    2. Lilybell

      I agree with you 100%. I also don’t really think this is one of those situations where anyone needs to worry about their reputation. It sounds like these were admin/office manager type positions – it’s not an industry where people know each other or go to conferences so if no one needs the original dentist for a reference, I can’t see there being any negative consequences. Nor would I worry about legalities with passwords – again, it’s a dentist’s office, not some huge corporate office with a law dept that will try to scare you into cooperating. I would just quote an hourly rate and let them decide if they want to pay for the info or not.

  20. Another Perspective

    I agree that it’s not the OP’s fault that she did not turn over the passwords. She gave her 2-week notice on a Friday. She was told on Sunday that her services were no longer required. She could have provided the passwords during a transitional period.

    However, I do believe that taking the high road is noble. Being the mature person will pay off in the long run. I would suggest that the OP’s friend provide the passwords (free of charge) and recommend that the passwords be changed. I would then suggest that she offer to create the training manual as a consultant. However, I also suggest that she provide the manual even if they refuse to pay her. Why? Several reasons. Not providing a manual would probably hurt the former co-workers more than the supervisors who decided that they did not need her. Treating people the way that you want to be treated really is best for you. Forgiving others can be tough, but it is the best way to live. Additionally, if the OP’s friend chooses not to provide a manual, the employers can spread the word that “she left and didn’t even document her procedures”. They would likely leave out the rest, however.

    Now if the OP’s friend was paid for the 2 weeks, I think she should provided the manual (and passwords) free of charge. My $.02!

    1. Mike C.

      I have to admit, I’m absolutely frustrated with this idea that one should have to go the extra mile in a situation like this. A business relationship was severed. The fact that it hurts co-workers isn’t the problem of the person being shown the door, it’s the problem of management that refused to do basic things like document business processes and then fire the person that knows how everything works.

      The employers can say whatever they want, regardless of what work is and is not done. Why should the employee shoulder the burden of doing free work when the OP can simply explain to any future employers that, “Oh, with this job I gave my two weeks, they showed me the door the next day and then a few days later expected me to do a bunch of work for free. I told them that this wasn’t appropriate.”

      Being somehow held to the idea that you have to take care of your now former coworkers is nuts to me. Want to help them out? Take advantage of your new company’s recruitment bonus system and let them know about new openings.

    2. JT

      To a certain extent, I think giving back the passwords is the more self-interested approach (maintaining a reputation as helpful)

      On the other hand an ethical argument could be made that we shouldn’t be complicit in bad management, and should let the dentist’s office take it’s lumps (by paying staff to deal with the problem it created). That is, people/organizations who treat others badly should be have costs associated with that behavior.

  21. AnotherAlison

    Of course the “devil’s advocate” position would be that when you give your notice, you should always expect to be terminated immediately, particularly considering she had access to the patient records and billing system. This is why people resigning had their ducks in a row beforehand at my former employer. I’ve argued it before, but someone else should always have a general idea of what you do & how to do it if your position is that important. One argument is that the office manager who left should have trained someone else to know where to look for her passwords and how to do the big chunks of her job already, even if she didn’t plan to leave. If you have an emergency appendectomy, do you want the dysfunctional boss calling you for your passwords? And don’t you think it’s unreasonable he would be stuck if you did have an emergency. (The boss should have directed her to train someone, but knowing their lack of organization, she could have taken it upon herself to make sure she had a back-up.)

    1. Anonymous

      Lets not forget that the dentists are not asking the OP personally, they are using a staff member to contact her and get the information. The passwords or actually just one in this case would give this staff person access to everything. Payroll of all present and past employees, IRA contributions, pay raises, doctors’ compensations, detailed overhead reports, detailed production reports that had to be password protected to keep staff from adjusting their production numbers. The dentists do not realize this information would be leaked out and they would have a huge mess on their hands if the entire staff knew the ins and outs of the business. Yes, as an office manager, there should have been someone else in the office that knows similarly what the office manager does, she left 3 months before the office manager did.

      1. Anonymous

        And to add to the above comment, the dentist knew that the office manager was looking for a new job because she was unhappy and didn’t agree with how the office was being ran.

      2. OP

        I do believe “Jane” has just weighed in. :)

        Or someone else went through the *exact* same thing.

  22. Mike C.

    One more thing regarding the issue of reputation –

    If they are willing to say, “the OP never gave us our passwords” with no context, they’re just as willing to say, “the OP refused to compile and print up complete handbooks detailing every aspect of their job”. Or just make stuff up. We don’t know, and where does it end?

    It was the company’s decision to force the OP out early, and they need to suffer the consequences of having the ability to force people out so quickly.

    As far as it hurts other employees, yeah it does. But they’re usually smart enough to know that the boss is a jackass and that the person they needed was forced out early. I’m willing to bet that this isn’t the first time this has come up.

    1. Anonymous

      Yes. If the other employees feel “screwed”, they and everyone else knows it is the boss that screwed them, not the employee who left.

  23. AnotherAlison

    Just another random thought, but could passwords be treated as property of the company? If I take my laptop home & they fire me before I bring it back, I don’t think I get to keep my laptop. I don’t think anyone would go as far as a lawsuit, but are they really your passwords or the company’s?

    1. jmkenrick

      Actually, a network administrator, Terry Childs, was arressted for refusing to give up the passwords.

      That said, I think the claim would get fuzzy if she really did just forget.

      1. JT

        He refused to give up passwords as part of a specific effort to remove the ability of anyone else to have access to the system. Not the same as this case, where the person in question was available in the office to give passwords and was asked to leave.

        1. jmkenrick

          True. I’m not trying to argue that it’s the same thing, but I thought AnotherAlison might find it interesting given what she wrote in her comment.

          I agree that they’re very different situations.

  24. Anonymous

    When I left my old job they changed the password before I left. I was still working there, didn’t know they had done it and couldn’t access some stuff I needed. I went to the IT person and that’s how I figured they changed them. I could not have remembered them after a few days even if I wanted to.

    During my last two weeks I was asked to write a training manual for my replacement. I did, but my boss did not check to see if there were any gaps or other stuff I needed to add. Had that been the case, I wouldn’t have gone back and written the information for free.

    Also, during my last two weeks I had to train my replacement. However, this didn’t work out well and the replacement was fired a day before my last day (yeah, that’s what you get when you think the cheapest candidate is the best one). If they had asked me to come back and train the new person they hired after that, I would have said no. I have a new job now and need to focus on it.

    Interestingly enough I heard the new hire that took my position was given a different title (Senior Coordinator of X) and a higher salary than me. So I was a chum for staying with them for so long. Based on that: Would definitely not do anything for free for a company that did not treat me right.

  25. Anonymous

    Among my various job duties are processing payroll, making schedules, updating files and remembering the passwords needed to perform my various duties.

    No longer have the job = no longer have those duties (including remembering passwords)

    1. BS

      Definitely don’t do that. Give up the passwords. It would take you two seconds of your life to do so; failing to do so would result (rightfully IMHO) in the loss of professional reputation, and potentially even criminal charges (Google “Terry Childs”). And it would make you look like a petulant child.

  26. Tee

    I am about to faced with a similar situation, only in my case I am a contractor who is about to be replaced by someone in house.

    I will easily and willingly hand over any and all passwords (I am an online media person, so it’s things like Twitter, Facebook, etc access).

    Any training on these things will be billed at my highest possible rate. This will also include data transfer as hold quite a few of their files on my personal computer.

    And they already know this as it’s in my contract.

    Hand over the passwords. Charge for anything else.

  27. Hello Vino

    My former employer kept contacting me for up to a year and a half after I left! I’m a very meticulous person, and before I left, I made sure to label and organize everything very carefully. During my last 2 weeks there, I did whatever I could to make the transition a smooth one.

    During the first couple of months, I would provide passwords and answer basic questions regarding projects. Eventually, the questions got pretty ridiculous. “What file format should we use for images on a website? Do you remember what folder the final files for XYZ are in? What did you name those files? Do you know what date that project was completed?” I ended up answering questions with something along the lines of “Well, if I’m remembering correctly, the files will probably be in XYZ and mostly likely have ABC in the name. I can’t be sure though. It’s been a while, and I don’t have the files in front of me.”

    I still have close friends in other departments at that company, and from what I understand, every time my department does not deliver a project on time, they blame it on me. “Oh, we couldn’t make that copy change because she named her files by project and not by date.” They would blame things on me even when projects were started AFTER I had left. Guess they just needed a scapegoat.

    1. Anonymous

      This is why cooperating, even extensively, beyond what you HAVE TO do (i.e. helping out for weeks or months after you no longer work there) is not going to “protect your reputation” if they decide they are going to bad-mouth you.

      Bottom line, those in charge are incompetent – let them deal with and clean up the mess they made. If they make remaining employees clean up the mess, that is still NOT the fault of the employee who left. Who left BECAUSE of the incompetence, I might add.

      When it’s over, it’s over, time to MOVE ON. Just like dating, do you keep going out with someone you broke up with? Not if you are smart. Just say, “I am not available.”

      1. Laura L

        Just like dating, do you keep going out with someone you broke up with?

        No, but you do give that person their stuff back.

        (This isn’t appropriate for Hello Vino’s case, but it certainly is for the OP.)

      2. Anon...

        Your ex asking to be friends after breaking up is like… kidnappers asking to keep in touch after letting you go.

        That goes for Ex-jobs too!

  28. snuck

    One thing that is bugging me as I read these comments is the lack of push back on the fact that the documentation didn’t exist in the first place.

    The Office Manager didn’t leave because they were suddenly pulled out and removed – they were planning to leave, ‘desperate’ to leave. They knew they’d be leaving.

    Now I agree with the company paying for them to complete the ‘how to’ stuff (a day should be plenty of time for a full write up, and a handover to a competent replacement), but why on earth weren’t these done before hand.

    Now if the job was insanely busy, and the person legitimately couldn’t do them in the course of their duties in the years they’d been in the role, that I can understand (although I doubt it), what I don’t understand is why they didn’t quietly spend five to ten minutes each time they did a new task in the few weeks (at least) they were job hunting and just make some dot points about what they did.

    This doesn’t mean the business owners deserve to get it free now, both parties should have been making sure that these were done (and I’ve seen the OP’s comment about lack of business nouce on behalf of the business owners), and paying for them to be done now is fair, but the Office Manager is also a little on the hook – I consider these sorts of work instructions/outlines a basic responsibility of someone who calls them self “Office Manager”.

    If in a reference check I was told “She left without any handover or work instructions” I’d ask “what was her finishing up period” but I’d be tucking away in my head “does not do basic work instructions for a key role in an office”.

    1. Anonymous

      Good points there snuck. There is somewhat of a protocol book in the making. The fact that no one refers to it is the problem. And I’m sure in the office manager’s last 2 weeks, she could have whipped her responsibilities and to do lists together for the others to follow.

    2. 22dncr

      In all my years of working and the many, many, many jobs (16 so far) I have had there has NEVER been any kind of manual or instruction list even! The most there ever would be was a Computer Software manual, if I was lucky. Most of the time it was: Here’s your desk, here’s the computer, no one knows how to do your job or run the software, good luck! When I have come into contact with “Manuals” they are so out-of-date, inept and useless I’d really rather not have one!

      1. snuck

        How unfortunate for you! Imagine if you had good handovers how much easier it’d be to settle in.

        I know that I have always expected my staff to have on hand a list of projects, including status, items outstanding etc and to have also a full outline of their job.

        Mind you I’m in a different field – project management and business analysis – so these are expectations that are reasonable. However when managing administration staff while in these roles (and call centre staff, IT support, IT specialists, technical and contract managers, scheduling staff, reporting staff etc) I have expected them to lift their game and come to the table too with how they work and what they want. The benefit to them is that they usually are able to expand their skills and work in higher responsibility areas after working in an environment that demands more of them. Of course there’s the few staff also who like to cruise and not want to do this, but it’s not negotiable in my teams – if you are on board, you are a team player, and that means being able to hand over to any other member of the team key components of your role (not necessarily the technical skillsets) in case of an accident, illness, leave or reassignment. Then if you want to cruise and just do your job that’s ok, but part of teamwork in my eyes (and I’ve been thanked for this by a number of employees) is that you are never in a position where you a) have to answer calls about inane stuff while on leave, b) don’t feel you can’t take three days off work when your kids have chicken pox and c) aren’t left holding the can when another staff member suddenly isn’t available to do the work.

        1. OP

          Snuck, I think my old office manager and I would like working for you. :) The truth is, the doctors expected her to keep things confidential…their wives are the back-up-in-case-of-dire-emergency on payroll and whatnot and those wives don’t want to know all the ins and outs because they always hope they won’t need to use that info. (I can’t help but wonder if they consulted their wives before deciding to let her go early!)

          To give you an idea of how simple they thought her job was: they expected her to still do the tasks involving confidential info while she was on maternity leave. Good owners/bosses have a more realistic idea of what their employees do for 40 well paid hours a week.

          1. snuck

            And a very big part of understanding what they do for the 40 hours a week is actually sitting down with them, talking with them, and having the employee explain what and how they do things!

            Good managers are hard to find, great ones I have followed from area to area.

  29. BS

    I had a somewhat similar experience several months ago. I left my longtime place of employment abruptly and unexpectedly for complicated reasons that aren’t really relevant here. In my case, I knew that there was a real need for the employer to have access to a huge number of passwords and other information that would have been a major inconvenience to them had I not helped. So, I offered to give them a bunch of passwords proactively and also offered to be available to give them any future ones that were missed in the first round.

    This turned out good and bad. I spent an entire day documenting passwords and other “how to’s” that only I knew in a series of email messages. And the company paid me for that time, even though I didn’t request to be paid. So, that was good.

    The bad was when that information was passed on to other people in the organization to handle. Some of them couldn’t follow the information / ignored the details in my message / were borderline willfully ignorant. This led to many follow-up phone calls, emails, and text messages for clarification over the next month or so. Of course, I wasn’t paid for that time. Being paid (or not) wasn’t the point; I was trying to move on by then and eventually just stopped responding.

    It’s a bit of a can’t win situation. In the OP’s case, I strongly advise playing along and giving up the passwords. Don’t be cute and claim you can’t remember them or ask to be paid to give them up. But: give them a deadline to ask for exactly what they want and tell them you can’t guarantee you’ll reply in a timely manner after that date. And definitely don’t help with the training or writing up how-to’s unless you’re being paid for it.

  30. Job Seeker

    I would take the high road and help one last time. You would possibly be shooting yourself in the foot not to be professional and help. I believe if you do this, you will never have to worry about the reference you will receive from them. I understand how you feel about being treated horrible at this job. I think most of us have had someone at a job treat us terrible. Unfortunately, people that do this are everywhere.

  31. Been There!

    Stop enabling! They screwed up. Not your problem. You did the professional thing. They blew it. They’re going to give you a bad referral no matter what you do because in their eyes you abandoned them. Don’t you have a new job to worry about now? Stop being co-dependent and move on. Congratulate yourself for getting out. Politely tell them you do not have time to help them any more. If you really feel the password thing is worth it, send them a quick email and be done with it. It’s a shame they are so bad. You can’t change them. Your job is to take care of you and your family, not them. I hope your new job realizes what a great new employee they’re getting. Best wishes for being more happily employed!

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