update: my boss is pushing me to delay my start date at my new job so I can keep working at my old job

Remember the letter-writer in January whose boss was pushing her to delay her start date at her new job so that she could continue doing work for her old job? Here’s the update.

I know how much you and your readers love updates, so I thought I’d provide you with one!

I ultimately ended up agreeing to continue to do some work for my old boss on a very restricted basis – very few hours total and with the understanding that I’d only work on a few select tasks. The reason I even agreed to this was because one of my final tasks was a project that will likely turn into one or more peer-reviewed publications, which are both personally and professionally important to me.

I know you are probably not the type to say “I told you so” but…..feel free to say “I told you so.” I am deeply regretting my continued enmeshment with my old workplace. Now that I’m reaching a point where I’m finishing up my hours and moving on, my old boss is panicking about getting this project wrapped up. I too, would have liked for it to be finished, but my boss has recently moved the goalposts and now wants 15-20 additional hours worth of work, and I do not have that many hours remaining. She has started sending 3-4 emails per day, and requesting phone conversations (during work hours!).

I am holding firm and being very strict about not doing any unpaid work; after some time and physical (and emotional!) separation from my old job and my old boss, I’m emotionally and mentally just DONE with it. As I settle into my new job (which I love so far!), I’m also wondering if my old boss maybe wasn’t doing as right by me as I thought she was- for example, they are hiring someone to replace me at a higher salary and more senior title. In retrospect, I really do wish I’d taken your advice initially!

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. Louise*

    Just make sure not to budge. My old work place wanted the same thing. In fact, the director was mad that I only gave them two weeks notice (they wanted more as in the past, people stayed 4+ weeks after they gave their notice). However, I was done as it was an abusive and toxic work environment. You are done at this job. Please stand firm, and do not give into any more guilt trips they may attempt to place upon you. Much Luck!

  2. AdAgencyChick*

    OP, you don’t have to let your boss change the terms if you don’t want to. She’s probably going to nag at you that “youuuu proooooomiiiiised” to finish this project. If this happens, repeat, “I agreed to X number of hours working on this, and it seems like the project is moving beyond that. I can’t sign on for more” and “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” as many times as necessary.

    And definitely don’t accept requests for phone calls during your working hours! “I’m not able to do that. I need to focus on my job.”

    1. class factotum*

      “I’m afraid that won’t be possible” as many times as necessary.

      Pretend you are a French waiter and your boss is the customer asking for mustard on a sandwich, even though the menu does not describe the sandwich as including mustard. Just say, “C’est pas posible!”

    2. 2horseygirls*

      I recently saw this and thought it was great (and might be applicable here):

      “I’m sorry my decision is frustrating you. Other than changing my decision, how can I help you?”

      It puts the responsibility for determining acceptable alternatives back on the unreasonable person.

      Good luck.

      1. Suzy Snowflake*

        That is a great answer and applicable to so many situations. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. The Cosmic Avenger*

    In addition to the great comments so far, don’t let your old boss put ANY of this on you. You gave her plenty of warning, then more time after you left, and she STILL couldn’t manage (literally) to complete this project — that’s a MANAGEMENT failure, not an EMPLOYEE failure. Or, rather, if she can’t find other resources and ways to get it done, it is.

  4. BadPlanning*

    Don’t have regrets — At least now you don’t feel like you “abandoning” the project or your former job. You gave them more time and they screwed it up.

  5. Mike C.*

    Wait a second, given the huge amount you’ve already done for the project, can’t you get your name on the paper even if you don’t see it to the end? There seem to be some serious ethical issues here if they were to completely ignore your part in this effort.

    1. Resigning OP*

      Yes, at this point I’ve put in sufficient work that it would be really inexcusable to not include me on any papers. Really, I had done enough work before my final day that it would have been inexcusable at that point, but still.

      Also, I should clarify that they haven’t actually hired anyone yet. They have advertised the position at a higher title and rate of pay than I held, which grinds my gears a little bit!

      1. LizNYC*

        As it should! (And I use “grinds my gears” all the time haha) When I left my last job, it wasn’t until my exit interview that they had the gall to ask “well, if we increase your salary, would you stay?” after I’d asked for COL raises for the last 4 years (and was denied each time).

        1. John B Public*

          That’s a huge failure on their part, I’m glad you left!

          Sad that so many companies and/or managers don’t understand that if you don’t compensate your employees correctly, they’ll leave and cost you even more.

      2. Nicole*

        Ugh, I don’t blame you one bit! It’s so frustrating to see that happen. It’s a slap in the face for sure, but at least you’ve moved on to bigger and better things! Plus no amount of money or better title will make dealing with a poor manager and/or environment better anyway.

      3. Moo*

        Actually I totally approached my boss to write a paper specially about pub authorship in academia as I find it totally fascinating. He told me that when he was a grad student a (very important and high profile) paper was almost finished, which he made considerable contribution to, when he accepted another position. Thinking they would automatically do the right thing, they totally published it without him and simply gave him a special thanks. People get really nasty about authorship, hence he I really wanted to highlight how incredible political and territorial it is to blow the lid off it. He reminded me that I wouldn’t be able to get it published as none of our big wigs would ever back us up. Total bummer.

        I feel for you. My point? I would 110% use that as leverage and get authorship in writing before you continue your work with her. You obviously cannot trust her enough to throw her….

        Send us another update! And let me know if you’re interested in writing the authorship paper with me — I’m still determined to highlight this malarkey at some point! Lol

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Interesting – in my field, it’s totally normal to include people as co-authors even if they leave the institute; multi-institute author lists are normal (I’m also on a few papers with 50 person author lists, for large projects, to ensure that every one involved gets credited).

          One case I remember is a friend whose co-author was trying to force him to put his wife on the author list. The wife wasn’t in the field, but had tagged along on a data-gathering trip (not doing any work). He got really nasty, and threatened to tank my friend’s career, until my friend made a point of cc’ing the email exchange to the rest of the collaboration….

          If former boss gets unreasonable, and it’s a larger collaboration, that’s always an option – send your email enquiry about why you were dropped from the author list to the whole group, and use peer pressure to force him to be reasonable.

      4. Suzy Snowflake*

        I can understand why that would be frustrating. However, they may have reevaluated the job once you left and changed it significantly or simply realized it belonged at a different pay grade as they were preparing to fill it. I’ve left several jobs as an administrator where I’ve encouraged the board to raise the salary beyond what I was making so that the position would be more marketable/draw more candidates. Good luck at the new position.

    2. Adam*

      Agreed. It sounds like OP is in a field where being Published is an important deal, and she’s done more than enough to earn her name a spot on the contributors list.

  6. NickelandDime*

    This is two full-time jobs. Two bosses bugging you. Ugh. I hope the OP finds some way to close all of this out and move on. It’s so hard starting a new job, I don’t see how she managed to get this far on this project.

  7. fposte*

    I’d slap an end date on this thing and stick to it. They’re not even dangling the carrot at you any longer, you’re miserable doing this work, and it’s only getting bigger. Time to bail.

  8. einahpets*

    Was the old job at an academic / research institution? I had something similar happen months after I left, where the old boss would continue to send me emails asking for my help on a project for a paper. I had to just apologize and say no, my paying job was taking up all my time.

    Just wait until the paper is submitted and sent back with a rejection + comments to update sections. Then you’ll be asked to do just a little more work to get it published then, 6-9-12 months down the line… (Disgruntled grad school drop out here.)

  9. Case of the Mondays*

    So here is a slight twist on this scenario. A friend tried a really prestigious case and won! Yay! Now the defendant is appealing. In the meantime, she took a new job somewhere that is not a law firm and her work is Mon-Fri. Old job and old client would love for her to work on the appeal. Is there an awful downside, if old job pays her and she only does it nights and weekends when she isn’t at new job – provided old job still provides malpractice coverage? She would like the extra money and would like to see this case through to its end. I think she should at least get new jobs permission because she likely has malpractice insurance their too, even though she doesn’t have private clients.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is one where I’d do it if I wanted to do it. That is really always the first thing — if you want to do something and it can work with your new job then let the new boss know and go for it. I wouldn’t even ‘ask’ permission but rather inform the new boss that there has been an appeal of a case you won and you have been asked to help out which you plan to do evenings and weekends so it won’t have an effect on your work for them. This invites push back but doesn’t beg for it.

    2. EmR*

      She *HAS* to get the new job’s permission, provided that she is working in some legal capacity in her new job. There could be conflicts of interest issues, or at the very least, business interest conflicts that could arise that the new employer would need to consider and address.

      1. Elysian*

        Yup, this is a no-go without New Job’s permission, if she is acting in a legal capacity for new Job. And in some places (like the Federal Government) they will certainly say No and you have to take No for an answer. I imagine the conflicts potential would just be too great to allow this in most circumstances.

      2. Artemesia*

        I am not suggesting she agree without her bosses knowledge, just that she approach it in a non cringing begging way. Of course the boss can tell her she can’t do it, but there is a difference between ‘may I please do this’ and ‘would there be a conflict of interest if I worked on this after hours?’ Because she is not representing clients in the new position it might be possible.

    3. Wolfey*

      In addition to the big conflict of interest issues, if she works for anything like the kinds of firms I’ve been at they won’t take kindly to her working weekends and nights for someone else when she could be working weekends and nights for them.

  10. MissDisplaced*

    Oh gosh, what a nag! I also had an ex-boss that did this, though not nearly as bad.
    I hope you’re done with it soon. At least you can say you’ve been nothing but professional to them. And good luck on the article!

  11. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Am I the ONLY person who is going to say “I told you so”? Geeze, peoples. OP I told you to get cash on the barrel head!


    Oh hugs, you’re a good person who was trying to do a good thing. Now cut it out and listen to the other people here. (But if there’s any more work, ****cash on the barrel head, up front, not kidding around******)

  12. AlyIn Sebby*

    I completely understand the choice to try to do what you need to in order to ensure your name gets properly/positively(?) on the paper.

    But I am here to tell you, the moment you finally say and do “No.” is the most freeing liberating moment!

    It is one of the most powerful business tools I have ever used.

    Please say it, soon. You deserve it! They don’t deserve you, thus you have procured a new job. Take that down time soon, use it or lose it.

  13. Not telling*

    Well on the bright side, you can rest easy knowing that you truly did give your former boss every possible opportunity to be decent, and she blew it. You will never have to wonder if you could have done more to be maintain that bridge.

    It’s a habit to temper hard news with modifiers like “I’m sorry” and “I’m afraid’….but to people like your former boss, these terms just give them ammunition. It makes them think you are weak, and they will just push harder to get what they want. These words mean you’ve left a door cracked for them to nudge open. Don’t give her anything to work with and make it final–an unequivocal: “NO, I have fulfilled my commitment to extend my involvement in these projects and am not willing to extend it further. I wish you all the best completing this and future projects.”

    1. Rana*

      Yes. This is very good advice.

      At this point you’re not in negotiations with your former boss; you’re simply telling her the facts. And the main fact is that you no longer work for her.

  14. Rebecca*

    Say no. Say no again. Then, block oldjob’s phone number, both on your personal phone and new work phone (if possible), set up an automatic answer to any emails simply saying “no, I’m not working on this any further, please stop contacting me”, and move on.

    I need to say this as well. Companies think nothing of laying someone off at a moment’s notice when it suits them. They would have thought nothing of ending your employment if it suited them. Well, it suited you to end your employment time with them, you gave them a standard notice period, and even worked for them after the notice. But now it’s time for everyone to move on.

  15. Alissa*

    Wow, I think you need to bail quickly. The more you give the more they will expect. My old boss asked me to delay my start date at my current job because it wasn’t convenient for him and I said no. Honestly, I couldn’t believe he even asked, but he didn’t want me to leave and was in a bit of denial. Leave, quickly, if you can. They will survive without you and you need to focus on your new job, which you say you love. Best of luck!

  16. vox de causa*

    You’ve gone above and beyond already, but I feel that you’re having trouble completely severing the relationship due to the possibility of being omitted from the paper later. If being credited when this is finally published is very important to you, can you get them to sign something that spells out how you should be listed, with clear expectations that this will happen no matter how much longer the project drags on? Might not be a bad idea to also spell out what you expect in terms of future references. And in return (since it sounds as if they won’t give you anything unless they feel like they’re getting something additional) you could add on some hours to be worked in your own time (not to their deadline) toward the project.

    On the other hand, if you can let that go and be okay with them doing the credit however they choose to, do that. You are probably better off without helping them drag this out any longer.

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