I was laid off and now my manager wants my help, I don’t want my company car, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was laid off and now my manager wants my help

I was recently laid off on a Thursday morning with no notice and was basically perp walked to HR. I wasn’t even allowed to return to my desk to gather my personal belongings either. I was given a small severance and one weeks pay for each year I’d been there (5 years).

Today I was contacted by my former manager/supervisor requesting that I help him out with data gathering/location for a monthly report. Should I help? I’m still devastated by the no notice RIF, and honestly hope the entire organization fails. I don’t want to be a bad person, but I don’t feel that I owe them any reply at all. Would it be best to just not reply?

Ooooh, your company really mishandled this. The no notice and the perp walk is actually pretty common with layoffs; you can argue all the reasons it shouldn’t be done that way, but it’s really pretty standard. But contacting you for work help afterwards? No. Any reasonable manager should know that that’s rubbing salt in the wound, and that they gave up any right to try that once they laid you off. It was your manager’s job to think through what he’d need from you before the layoff, and if he didn’t or couldn’t, he doesn’t get to make that your problem.

However, sometimes severance agreements come with an informal understanding that you’ll be willing to answer the occasional (very occasional) question for a couple of weeks. If that was the case here, you should honor that. Otherwise, you have no obligation to respond. That said, it’s worth thinking about what kind of reference you want from him, too. That doesn’t mean you should do actual work for him; you definitely shouldn’t. But I’d answer a question or two about where a file is, in the interest of the relationship.

2. I don’t want my company car

I’ve lived and worked in a developing country for three years now as part of a contract with an overseas-based company. My role was to open and then manage a new sales office. As part of my very, very generous package, my employer purchased a lovely SUV. All expenses are covered, and I can even have a driver if I want. Great, right!?

Well, my main issue is that I have to contribute $70 a week for the car as an “employee contribution” to cover the expenses related to my personal use of the car. This would be fair, but I don’t use the car – for work or personal reasons. In the three years I’ve had it, it’s only been driven around 7,000 miles.

I’ve talked about this twice with my employer. The last time was when I returned home, about six months ago. He said he would consider the issue, but he never got back to me. A couple of months later, I submitted a formal proposal regarding selling the car and explaining that I rarely use it for work purposes, but again there was no response. I know my boss wants me to keep the car. He prefers the status quo and wants me to be able to easily visit clients. He also likes the idea of me having it for contingency arrangements. In my formal proposal, I provided very workable suggestions for resolving these problems. At the end of the day, I know he just wants me to keep the car.

In my formal proposal, I didn’t say that my issue was the “employee contribution” because I don’t want to seem difficult. Even though I earn a really good salary, it irks me that I spend over $3,500 a year for a car I don’t want. Also, there must be legal issues regarding an employer forcing an employee to spend money on something they don’t want to have.

I am about to return home for another round of in-person meetings with my boss. Should I raise it again? Or am I sounding ridiculous? I don’t want to be difficult and I don’t think it’s worth causing grief over. Plus, there’s only a year left on my contract (so only $3,500 left to spend on this car!). Some perspective would be helpful.

Yes, you should raise it — but differently this time. The mistake you made in the past was that you weren’t direct about your real issue — the employee contribution. That’s a compelling thing, and there’s no reason to hide it. And you’re actually denying your boss really important information! So far, he’s been making decisions about this without realizing what your real objection is; if you make it sound like it’s about other stuff, you boss can just decide he doesn’t share those concerns, and it’s over.

Instead, you need to clearly say as your main objection, “I’m being charged an employee contribution of $3,500 a year for a car I don’t use and don’t want. I’d be glad to keep it for work purposes if you want me to, but I don’t want to be personally paying for something I don’t use at all. Given that, what makes sense?”

3. There’s never a good time for me to quit

I am a corporate event planner and am looking to quit my job for a variety of reasons. The problem is that I am the company’s only event planner and I am always working on multiple high-priority events. I manage about 15 events every 12 weeks (each event being 3-4 days long) and am in charge of every aspect of the events (on-site logistics, travel, venue accommodations, food and events, agenda and educational sessions, sponsors, speakers…the list goes on).

There is never a “good” time for me to quit because there is not a lull time where I could transfer over event details or plans to someone else in the company. I am always knee-deep in multiple events and traveling a lot, so quitting would mean dropping many events mid-planning or right before event time. I don’t want to leave my manager and teammates with a huge mess when I leave, but I’ve been trying to quit for almost two years and can’t find a time where I could quit with a clear conscience.

Yeah, there’s never going to be a good time to quit, so quit at the time that makes sense for you and trust that your company will find a way to carry on. Companies survive people leaving, even when it feels like it will be chaos — hell, even when it is chaos for a while. It’s part of doing business.

If you’re able to give your company a lot of notice and feel they will handle that well, that would be a kind thing to do. But that’s not always possible, and if it doesn’t work out, your company will survive anyway.

You can’t stay in the job forever waiting for the right time to leave. If you’re ready to leave, go ahead and do it.

4. Manager is blocking my internal transfer

I work as at a leading worldwide pharmaceutical company as an administrative assistant. I have been with the company for 10 years and am highly regarded here. Recently there have been some changes and instability in the specific franchise I report to. I approached my boss because I was considering applying for a new position within the company and she “strongly encouraged me to explore all my opportunities.” I did and I was offered a job within the organization, but reporting to a different franchise. This would be a lateral move, but the new team was so happy for me to join that they were able to offer me a small raise to make the change.

Last night, I was informed that the head of the franchise I currently report to refuses to release me. I have been in my role for over five years and have fulfilled my time commitment (which was only a year). The only reason he won’t let me go is because “it’s not in the best interest of the franchise” and he’s “worried he won’t be able to backfill my position.” My manager, who delivered the news, tells me this should make me feel good and wanted. It doesn’t! It makes me feel like a piece of property! There has been no offer to match the salary of the new role, not promise of a promotion, NOTHING… just “you can’t leave.” What can I do? Am I stuck?

Nope. What you can do is go get a different job outside your company.

Some companies do let managers block internal transfers — which is terribly short-sighted, because it just means that the person will be pissed off and leave the company altogether, which is what you should do (wait until you find another job though).

If you want, before you do that you can try pushing back with your franchise head (or asking your manager to do it on your behalf), pointing out that this is disincentivizing you from staying with the company. For example: “I really want to stay with the company long-term, but that means there needs to be a path for me to grow here. I don’t want to have to go somewhere else just to be able to advance in my career.”

But if that doesn’t work, be ready to go elsewhere.

5. Asking whether I’m getting a bonus

I’m young and pretty new in my field but I’ve risen to the top of the food chain relatively quickly due to a lot of hard work, long hours, and dedication to producing quality work. At the end of last year there was some restructuring at my (very small) company: my boss was fired, and I got a promotion and a raise as a result of taking on the majority of his work in addition to my original responsibilities.

During the same discussion with my new boss a few months ago where I asked for said raise, he mentioned that the company would be awarding bonuses in March and hinted that I would receive one in the low five figure range. I believe he said this to incentivize me to stay, because he knew that I was considering leaving to join my old boss at his new venture.

This company has never awarded bonuses before, and I’ve never gotten a bonus at any of my previous jobs, so I’m unsure what the etiquette is around them. It’s now mid-March and I haven’t heard a peep about this bonus since it was initially mentioned. My dilemma is that I’m not very close with my new boss, and I don’t see him that often in person — although we do communicate daily via phone and email — and I’m afraid of coming off as entitled if I follow up on this.

This bonus won’t make or break whether I stay at the company (although they don’t know that). I would just like to know whether it’s actually coming or not, because it would make the difference in some personal budgeting, including paying off my student loans. Do I ask about it if I don’t hear anything by the end of the month (and if so, how on earth)? Or do I just need to let this one go, prepare for disappointment, and enjoy the surprise if it does happen?

Talking about salary is a very normal part of having a job, and you don’t need to dance around it. Your boss mentioned that there might be a bonus around now and you haven’t heard anything, so it’s a reasonable thing to bring up.

I’d say this: “You mentioned when we talked in December that the company would be doing bonuses in March. Are you able to tell me whether to expect one, and if so, what the timing might be?”

Until you get a definite answer, though, I’d plan as if it’s not coming; it’s safer that way.

{ 281 comments… read them below }

  1. Mando Diao*

    OP3: How long are you realistically willing to stay in the job? Do you think you could give two months notice (“My last day will be May31”) so they could hire someone new and have them shadow you for a while? That seems like a decent enough time to start training someone new and work out a plan for your departure. Be firm about your end date though – if you say, “I’ll stay for two weeks after you hire my replacement,” they’ll never get around to scheduling interviews. Of course, you could simply give two weeks notice and have that be it, but it sounds like you like your coworkers and feel like a swift exit would majorly disrupt the business. I think giving an extended but immovable notice period is the best way to preserve the reference.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I like the idea here, but the OP has admitted to having a problem pulling the plug here so to speak. A month is way too long for someone in her position – it gives her a longer period to talk herself out of really leaving. If she’s going to leave, she should give two weeks and be done. It’s standard, and it doesn’t allow OP to say, “Well, we’ve got that other big event coming up in two months, so maybe I should just stay until the end of that” ad infinitum.

      1. Mando Diao*

        Good point, I hadn’t put it together that a long notice period might give OP space to back down on her resolve. I suppose two weeks gives her enough time to write down her motions as she works through multiple overlapping events. If she doesn’t feel like she can provide good notes to her successor, that could be another thing that lets her employer talk her into staying for more than two weeks.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I can’t imagine OP wasn’t able to put together decent notes for a successor in the nearly two years she’s been trying to leave. She just needs to gather her strength and say, “I’m done,” and really mean it this time.

          Seriously, two years is the longest unofficial notice period I’ve ever heard of.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              I know that’s what she means. I was obviously unsuccessful in my attempt to use irony to further prove a point about OP needing to get serious about actually leaving since she’s only been thinking about it for so long.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. Always make your decisions based on your own self interest; that is why businesses do. They would discard you in a moment if it were in their interests to do so.

        1. Jack the treacle eater*

          Yes. One thing that worries me slightly about this is that it’s all framed about leaving when it’s convenient for the company, giving them plenty of notice, and so on. Where is the OP going? Leaving without a job to go to? You, and the company you are moving to (if you are) have to be the priority – loyalty and thinking of others is great, but be careful it doesn’t bite you.

          1. Mando Diao*

            Jobs like that have a way of feeling like part of the job is hanging in there until your replacement is up to speed. It’s not right or fair, but I can see certain employers having the dumb notion that accepting a difficult position in the first place is also owning an obligation to handle an exit a certain way. It’s no small issue that in very small businesses with loose structures/hierarchies, if you burn your boss’ reference, there’s not always anyone else at the company to provide a valid reference.

            I don’t agree with any of the above, but I think it’s important to anticipate certain reactions in order for OP to avoid feeling pressured to change her mind about leaving.

            I think OP feels a bit trapped because the schedule and constant traveling make it hard to line up interviews. She might not be able to find a new position until she leaves her current one.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              It sounds like her workload is pretty excessive. I wonder if she could lobby for an assistant? Then get that person somewhat up to speed and Bye-bye.

        2. Koko*

          This isn’t entirely true. My employer would let people go if they *had* to and there was no realistic way around it, but it’s a quite last resort and I’ve seen them take a hit to the bottom line to save jobs.

          1. Sketchee*

            If they had to, they would. That’s all the OP really needs to know in this situation. The OP could stay for the rest of their life, or get on with life. The experience will be a good one for the company. If they’re smart, they’ll keep in mind that people leave jobs and that’s the reality of life in gerenal

            1. Koko*

              Sure, I definitely think the OP should act in her own interest. It just seemed unfair to say her company would “discard her at a moment’s notice” when many companies don’t treat their employees that disposably. She should do what’s best for her, while following professional norms, because it’s what’s best for her – not out of animosity because she thinks the company that doesn’t give a toss about her.

    2. Aussie academic*

      This always makes me think about the “get hit by a bus” scenario. Although of course we hope this wouldn’t happen, it could happen to any of us and employers would have to manage. Employers should have their businesses set up so that people can take leave as appropriate, and that they can cope if and when employees leave. Do your best to put together notes for whoever comes on board after you, but don’t be afraid to give notice and leave – it’s not like you’re planning to (or any employer would expect you to) work there forever!

      1. Revolver Rani*

        I’ve taken to saying “what if so-and-so wins the lottery tomorrow and retires to Tahiti” rather than “what if so-and-so gets hit by a bus.” Makes the same point without the grim scenario. :D

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Well, I never play the lottery, so that is even more unlikely than being hit by a bus.

          But, yeah.

        2. Lottery Loser*

          Yes, that’s how we refer to it at my office, too. I am a one person department and no one is really able to cover for me fully. I have as much documented as I can and a one page info sheet that contains the critical info: computer/email log info and where to look on my computer for all the other stuff. It’s in a sealed envelope that my colleague has and can give to our director if I … win the lottery.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        Succession planning is part of being a good manager. If a manager isn’t planning for people to leave, any challenges around attrition is on them.

    3. Dangitmegan*

      I did this. I said I’ll be leaving three weeks after xyz trip. Guess when they hired someone. Her first day was my last day. They started the hiring process the week I was leaving. I felt bad for my coworkers who were being screwed, but it was our bosses fault.

      Also guess who had spent the year subbing on trips for them because they had to fire the woman they rush hired after a month. That would be me at twice my previous weekly rate because they still haven’t found anyone to hire.

      1. Ama*

        I left my previous job about eight weeks before a big conference my then employer was hosting (I was also coordinating participants’ travel, and we were right at the point where we were scheduled to start sending the travel info out and start booking flights). I didn’t expect to get a job prior to the conference — my previous job search a few years earlier had taken 18 months, so when I found myself with a really enticing offer only a month in it was almost as much a surprise to me as to my boss.

        I did feel bad, primarily because I knew hiring moved so slowly there they would never have someone hired before I left and so most of the immediate responsibilities for the travel coordinating/conference planning fell to our student assistant (who was great, but only worked 10 hours a week). However not that long ago, I went by the staff website and discovered that the student assistant is now working full time for them in a position that’s new since I was there — primarily doing most of the tasks I gave her a crash course in so she could cover the conference.

    4. TootsNYC*

      event planners take over for one another all the time–it’s not as hard as you think.

      Keep careful documentation and timelines and to-do lists as you go, and quit when you’re ready.

      They’ll be fine.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Me neither.

            Speaking on “wow” generally, I actually want to ask people to stop with “wow” comments — i.e., comments that say nothing other than “wow” as a way to express disagreement or offense. The idea of“wow” in response to something upsetting or offensive came from the awesome Carolyn Hax, who suggested it for in-person conversations where you’re put on the spot by rudeness and need to respond in some way. But the context on a blog is different; you have time to consider what you want to say, and the idea is to advance the conversation. I’d much rather see people explain why they disagree with the comment they’re responding to (civilly and with nuance, ideally).

            1. Mike C.*

              Thank you, it irritates me no end when someone won’t actually state why they disagree with something.

          2. starsaphire*

            “Wow” was about all I could say civilly, in the moment. And my apologies to AAM and the rest of the forum for not handling it better.

            If I’m the only one who thought that “It’s not as hard as you think” was dismissive and belittling of the OP, then I will certainly apologize for misunderstanding, but it really did seem harsh to me. I think I’ve spent too much time on CA and other similar places to just walk on by when I think I see incidents of unnecessary roughness.

            Again, it may be just me, and if so, mea culpa. The last thing I want is to be responsible for antagonism or drama here, on one of my favorite fora. And, per the commenting guidelines, I’ll drop this here.

            1. Looby*

              Nope, you aren’t the only one – just the first one who said something. “It’s not as hard as you think” reeks of “anyone can do it, you’re not that special.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Huh, I read it very differently! I read it as in line with what I was saying in the post — businesses survive, this is a normal thing and it will be fine.

                1. ToxicNudibranch*

                  I read it that way, too, as agreeing with you that the OP doesn’t need to sweat leaving.

                2. Hermione*

                  I read it similarly, as in: “Event Planners are well-equipped for taking over for other Event Planners, so long as there is good documentation,” not just “Anyone can take over for an Event Planner, it’s not like it’s hard.” More in line with they’ll survive, because they are a business who has to deal with this sometimes and as long as you act in good faith to wrap up as much as possible, they will find a suitable replacement for you.

                3. KR*

                  This was how I read it. Not trying to belittle the person but trying to convey that someone leaving is Not A Big Deal.

                4. TootsNYC*

                  Hermoine’s take is what I meant.

                  I didn’t mean her JOB isn’t as hard as she thinks, or that she’s not good at it; I meant “the act of taking over for you isn’t as hard as you think it will be, if you leave good notes and the person coming in is actually an event planner.”

                  And sure, it won’t be seamless, but the important stuff will be OK.
                  Because event planners do much the same thing for every event, to be honest; the wrinkles are really pretty little.

              2. Panda Bandit*

                I read it as reassurance. The OP is carrying around a lot of guilt over wanting to leave. Take away the guilt and they’ll be able to move past it.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I didn’t mean it to say “your job isn’t as hard as you think.”

              But event planning has conventions, and event planners can step in for other ones.
              Sure, it won’t be easy, but it’s absolutely possible.

              Maybe better wording would have been “it’s not as impossible as you fear.”

  2. Doriana Gray*

    If you want, before you do that you can try pushing back with your franchise head (or asking your manager to do it on your behalf), pointing out that this is disincentivizing you from staying with the company, but if that doesn’t work, be ready to go elsewhere.

    My only concern with the OP doing this is, the franchise head doesn’t sound like a reasonable person. If she or her manager pushes back on this, particularly using the language about being disincentivized to stay with the company, my concern is the franchise head will say, “Okay. She can go to another company – her last day is today.” I’ve seen that happen a few times, and it’s unpleasant, so if OP’s going to go that route, she needs to have a new offer waiting in her back pocket as a “just in case.”

    OP #4, you have my sympathy. As someone else who recently went through some nonsense trying to take a new position in a different division than the one I was originally placed in after a training program at my current company, I get your frustration. If my company had been crazy enough to allow my manager or division head to block my transfer, I probably would have quit on the spot from the sheer outrage. Ugh. I hope this somehow works out for you in the end. I hate when employers do crap like this because they either didn’t plan well staffing-wise or they’re just trying to be spiteful.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I think it’s in how you say it. I’d say it this way: “I really want to stay with the company long-term, but that means there needs to be a path for me to grow here. I don’t want to have to go somewhere else just to be able to advance in my career.”

      I mean, yes, there are still total lunatics out there who might tell you to leave today if you say that, but that’s so outside the normal range of responses to that that they’re the same people who might fire you tomorrow because of something else innocuous too.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        This is true (about the loons). OP’s franchise head may be unreasonable, but not a total nut. And I like that language, too. It’s less adversarial sounding than I was picturing it in my head.

          1. Jack the treacle eater*

            I had one of these loons as a boss. He came from a ‘red in tooth and claw’ sales background, and saw everything anyone said as a challenge. Not pleasant. If OP has worked with the boss for a while, though, it should already be obvious whether he’s a loon.

            1. F.*

              I worked for one of those loons. I was her Admin. She was extremely difficult to work for, and once she got her claws into you, you were hers for life. Although she couldn’t “officially” block an internal transfer, she regularly gave very negative references for excellent employees. It was also well known throughout the company that she would make life absolute hell for any manager who dared to hire away one of “her” employees. I applied for 43 internal positions in 3 years and received NO interviews.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                OMG! And I thought my last manager was awful. That is an incredibly shitty thing to do to somebody.

              2. Stranger than fiction*

                Wow. I so hope you gave her a piece of your mind on the way out. Or HR, or someone, since it sounds like there wasn’t going to be a good reference anyhow.

              3. The Strand*

                Wow, that’s really something. I am familiar with that kind of scenario but never to the degree (43 applications!) that you describe. Was she very direct in her antagonistic behavior, or was it more passive-aggressive?

              4. cupcakes in the breakroom*

                I think her twin sister was my mom’s old principal. She ended up with 3/4 of her staff just doing the bare minimum they could do without actually standing still.

                Why the heck would you want anyone around who doesn’t want to be around?

              5. Constantly seeking*

                I went through the EXACT same thing with a former boss. It was an eye opening experience to say the least, the unfortunate outcome is that I am now unemployed…but I am also free from working for this particular tyrant and have a good dose of time decompressing from the experience. Working in big pharma myself, what the OP writes resonanates with me. I have seem similar cases with other people within this industry. That attitude (everyone wants to work here) and behavior opens the flood gates for a sizeable exxodus of talent, as is currently being observed.

      2. JessaB*

        On the other hand if the franchise owner says “your last day is today,” there is absolutely zero reason the OP can’t take the other job. They cannot have it both ways, either OP is so critical they can’t let them go to the other position, or they’re not and they’re instantly fireable for any pushback.

        My response to “this is your last day,” would be “thank you for letting me to go the other job. Bye.”

        1. TCO*

          I think that in this scenario, the current manager could say, “You were just fired; that makes you ineligible for an internal transfer.” I don’t think that’s a likely outcome so OP shouldn’t freak out–but it’s possible in theory.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              Yeah I was in one place, where , I heard, to hold an employee back from a transfer, they were going to attempt to put her on probation.

              Retroactively. Uh, no. That would have been a beaut for the lawyers to handle, to be sure.

  3. Anonymous Educator*

    Yeah, there’s never going to be a good time to quit, so quit at the time that makes sense for you and trust that your company will find a way to carry on. Businesses survive people leaving, even when it feels like it will be chaos.

    This, of course, but also consider what if you got hit by a bus or suddenly had a family emergency that necessitated you taking time off from work? Businesses absolutely survive. And if they don’t without you, then the business deserves to die (for having poor infrastructure).

    Ideally, if it really is that busy (and if they’re reasonable enough that you can give them a long notice period), they’d hire someone with significant overlap (not just two weeks) with you, so you could work together and fully train your successor before you leave. It’d cost them extra money, sure, but not as much as if it would if you just up and left with only two weeks’ notice.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*


      Ideally, if it really is that busy …, they should hire someone with significant overlap…

      There, fify. And, yeah, ditto. :-)

      I cannot imagine running a company that has vital things being handled ONLY by one person with no assistance nor backup. In my company, though we aren’t as organized as a military environment, everything is supposed to be documented, we have a system that has been running and adapting to do this since pretty much the founding (early 20th C., we are over a hundred years old), and people can familiarize themselves with a project by going through the correspondence and field reports to take over EVEN in the case of an actual bus collision. Or crane accident. Or collapsed lung overnight when the wind shifted the WTC smoke and airborne debris cloud over a field manager’s neighborhood and I had to go to his site the next morning without any contact with the project previously.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Absolutely. I’m always grateful to my Civil Service years for teaching me that being the only one who can do this job/feeling indispensable, which I’d carried from my charity job years, was actually really bad for the business.

  4. Artemesia*

    #4 Oh I do hope you can find a job with another company and with 5 years in this is a great time to purposefully but in a leisurely way begin scanning the environment for something better. This director deserves to lose you asap; of course don’t even hint at this, just do it. Find the great job and then turn in your two line resignation letter. Fingers crossed. As an AA you might have lots of good options in many different industries. They don’t deserve you.

    #1. Oh hell no.

    #5, I hope you too can find a great new job if they don’t come through with the bonus. Nothing slimier than dangling a bonus when they think you might leave and then ‘forgetting about it.’ If it doesn’t come through you know they can’t be relied on to be straight with you.

    1. RVA Cat*

      #4 – Yes. Your boss should know that ‘franchise tags’ are for quarterbacks, not admins.

  5. Doriana Gray*

    OP #2 – spending that much money a year on a car you don’t even use is insane. Absolutely bring this to your boss’s attention. And if he’s adamant that he wants you to have a car in the (seemingly rare) event that you need to visit a client, is it possible to ask him to either allow you to take a cab (if you have them in your area) or rent a car and then just reimburse you for it or expense the charge back to the company?

    1. Mando Diao*

      It seems weirder the more I think about it. My payments on my ~certified pre-owned car were around $180 a month. Now that it’s paid off, I’d estimate that my weekly gas usage + insurance add up to around $30 a week. I tend to jump the gun on things like this, but it sounds to me like OP’s employer is trying to trick OP into paying for the car. OP has already paid over $10,000 toward this car. What’s a typical payment on a SUV? Does $280 sound right?

      1. Tommy*

        I was thinking the same thing… it sounds like OP is basically paying for this car themselves.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        This is what went through my find first, too, I’ll admit, but I’m actually going to try this new thing I don’t do often do and give OP’s employer the benefit of the doubt that there’s not something else going on behind the scenes like snuck said below that the OP’s not privy to that explains this very bizarre situation.

      3. BRR*

        It really depends on the car. My dad has a company car with the rule he can spend up to $25K while paying $60 a month. So for him, as someone who drives it, it’s an amazing deal.

        1. Christy*

          Yes, but that’s $60/month, not $70/WEEK. The OP’s car costs 4.67 times more than your dad’s car. That’s a big difference.

      4. Tallyvoo*

        I had a car for a while in Brooklyn and my comprehensive car insurance was almost $300 a month. That plus gas and maintenance were the reason I got rid of it after two years.

      5. ExceptionToTheRule*

        It really depends on the SUV make, model and features, but you could figure an average cost around $30,000 on a 36 month loan at 3.5% – the payments would be almost $900/month.

        1. Finman*

          You also need to remember that this person is in a foreign country. When I lived in Brazil, the directors of my company drove Ford Fusion’s and they were considered nice cars costing 110,000 Real ($40-50,000USD depending on fx rate while I was there). Cars in America can be a lot cheaper than in other countries.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’m sure that factors in to the expense, as does insurance, which is also probably a LOT higher over there.

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        There’s no such thing as a “typical payment.” It varies greatly depending on the amount of the loan, the interest rate, and the length of the loan.

        The LW is in a developing country, so I wonder if it’s extremely expensive to buy, operate, and insure a vehicle there.

        Of course, none of that would make me willing to pay for a car I didn’t want and wasn’t using.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, my employer estimates $50K per vehicle we buy for use in the developing world — they need to be super sturdy and also it costs a lot to ship a car, etc.

      7. AVP*

        I wouldn’t assume that prices for things in developing countries track with prices in the Western world, though. Not that the OP should be paying for something she’s not using, but sometimes prices for luxury items in third world countries are many times what I would expect.

      8. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m scratching my head ’cause the Op says all expenses covered except the $70 contribution, which only comes to $840/yr. Where’s the rest of the expense coming from?

    2. snuck*

      I would be asking about why the employee needs to pay for the car too – there could be an accounting or tax reason that we aren’t privvy to – if that’s the case, then can the employer bump your salary by the commensurate amount and you shake hands and don’t drive the car for personal reasons? I’m assuming you are on an ex-pat wages and have more than enough financially, this isn’t about the money, but the prinicpal yes? If so, would this resolve it for you OP?

      1. Anomanom*

        Assuming home country is the US, personal use of a company auto is taxable to the employee. Some companies estimate mileage and impute on an monthly basis and true up at year end. It sounds like they may be doing a (very incorrect) version of this.

        If this is all business usage though, you have a good argument to not have to pay anything. Track your mileage and give them real data – I drove 10 miles on 5 separate occasions, from here to here, for this purpose and here is starting and ending odometer.

        1. snuck*

          OP lives in a ‘developing country’ for three years. I’m not sure what the rules are for US income tax, as I am in Australia, but it might be nothing to do with US income tax provisions and a lot to do with local ones.

    3. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, I’m still stuck on the fact that it works out to about $1 a mile that the car has been driven, with that usage being largely or wholly for work. That’s…a bloody lot.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Also, stop feeling like you’re petty for objecting to $70 a week. That’s a LOT!

      That’s $280 a month. It’s what your car payment would be if you bought a $16,000 car. Sure, that’s not an SUV, but it’s a whole car. And if you were buying your own, you might buy something smaller & more fuel efficient that this.

      Also, $3,640 is a plane ticket home to see family.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        We don’t know what country OP is in though. S/he could be in a country where car ownership is much more expensive than the US. My husband’s family were living in Asia in the 90’s on an ex-pat package. The permit to own a car was over $30k. A car that would be $20k here was $70k there.

    5. OP#2*

      OP#2 here. Thanks for everyone’s help. Alison is right (of course) with her advice: I need to be upfront about what’s really bothering me. I was worried that raising that as the issue might be perceived as me being tight. Working alone kinda skews your perspective a bit sometimes because it’s not as easy to gauge reactions from coworkers. Plus I suppose I feel a bit guilty because I earn such good money compared to the locals here. It seemed selfish to complain about that expense.

      Anyway, the contribution is the same across all our offices worldwide, so it’s a great deal in some places but really doesn’t make sense where I am. I have counted the miles and provided that to head office, but received no response. I’ll chat with the boss and fingers crossed it’ll get sorted. Thanks again.

      1. Dan*

        You shouldn’t feel guilty about looking out for yourself. *You* aren’t a charity. You will always make more than some and less than others — no need to feel guilty about the former or bad about the later.

        I travel Asia a bit, and it’s really, really hard to project (or not project) our American standards on the locals. They may not be rich, but that doesn’t make them miserable. Yes, you and I have more opportunities than they do, but that’s just the way it is. I mean, take you for example — should you feel bad because you don’t make as much as the 1%, and therefore can’t afford a mansion and a private jet? No, you’re doing just fine. If you can enjoy life with less resources than others, then there’s no reason to assume that people with less resources than you can’t enjoy their lives, too.

    6. Vicki*

      My comment to OP #2 is, sop worrying abut “seeming difficult” and just explain the real reason why you don;t want this car (you’re paying for something you don;t want and don;t use).

      If I were your manager, I’d be wondering why you keep coming back with new “reasons”. That would seem “difficult” to me.

      The truth should never make you “seem difficult”.

  6. MathOwl*

    In reference to #1, I believe not only doing additional work after a layoff in such circumstances is not a moral obligation, but also something that’s not a good thing to do. I’m sometimes quite surprised at how inconsiderate people can be, but I think when they do act rudely, it’s important to set boundaries. Otherwise, what was intended as a one time concession to keep the peace sets a precedent for letting people push their luck.

    So in short, I agree with Alison’s advice and with the fact that answering a couple of questions is reasonable. It sets boundaries but still shows good faith and a willingness to cooperate in a way that won’t burn bridges or let the employer take advantage of you.

    1. Tommy*

      I agree. I think the wording is important, too. If you say, “Due to the way I was treated, I am not willing to go out of my way to help you,” then don’t expect a great reference. But if you say, “I’m very busy these days, but I’ll do what I can!”, then you have still set a boundary without seeming uncooperative and spiteful.

      Now, you may actually be spiteful, and you may actually want to be uncooperative, but it doesn’t serve your best interests to be straight up about that.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Right on! And don’t forget the time and a half for exceeding 8 hours and triple for weekends.

          Or the real reason “I’m sorry, but my resources are currently being directed towards finding a new job which requires all my time and focus. I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone to assist you! Best regards, OP1”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If that’s truly a reasonable rate for the work, that’s fine. But if it’s wildly above, it’s going to really harm your reputation because it will come across as bitter and unreasonable. It would be better to just say you don’t have time.

          1. Dan*

            Work’s worth what two people agree it’s worth… and it’s situations like these that lead to rates that are “above” market averages.

            You’re right in your earlier advice that some severance agreements require that the person “be available” for the random question, mine certainly did. But if that company wanted *me* to perform some actual work after a layoff, because *I* have the skills and knowledge they actually need? Damn right I’m charging the highest amount I can possibly get away with… if we can come to an agreement.

            I’d worry about my reputation only if I cared about coming back to work for that company. I mean, if I called up someone’s employer, and their reference was “he was great and then when we laid him off, he wanted unreasonable rates to do contract work for us” I’d just laugh. I probably wouldn’t care one bit about what you had to say about his actions after you got rid of him (save for literally burning down the building or some other actual crime.)

            I’d be more interested in the circumstances surrounding his layoff. Was this a big thing, or a guise for “cleaning house” and getting rid of low performers?

            FWIW, while “$200/hr” may sound high, my background is in government contracting, and while that kind of wage is likely not going to fly for a W-2 employee, if I were a 1099 and the company was paying me what they charged the government plus a markup, $200/hr isn’t outrageous. I’ve seen people (albeit a bit more senior to me) bill at that rate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              if I called up someone’s employer, and their reference was “he was great and then when we laid him off, he wanted unreasonable rates to do contract work for us”

              That’s not what’s likely to happen. It’s more likely that it will just change the tone and enthusiasm level of the reference, which can do real harm.

              $200/hour and more is perfectly reasonable in many fields. The only relevant issue here though is whether it is in the OP’s field. (As I wrote above, “If that’s truly a reasonable rate for the work, that’s fine.”)

          2. TootsNYC*

            I agree w/ Alison about quoting a reasonable rate, and making the protection of your reputation a top priority.

            The request is either appropriate or inappropriate. If it’s inappropriate, just say no.
            If it’s appropriate, and you don’t want to do it, just say no.
            You can even say, “I don’t work there anymore; I got laid off. So I’m not in a position to help in that way.”

            If it’s appropriate and you DO want to do it, quote an appropriate rate.

            But don’t try to make the point about how inappropriate it is by quoting an unreasonably high rate. That just makes you look bad–you need to act in your own best interests. Even if it means passing up the snarky satisfaction.
            Your reputation will last longer than the snarky satisfaction will.

        3. Jake*

          I think I’d do this, but I’d just set my hourly rate at twice what I was getting paid as an employee. That’s a decent freelancing rule of thumb.

    2. Kat A.*

      Keep it to email. Say you’re unavailable by phone. That way you can weigh their requests before answering and can word it so you don’t sound bitter, which your voice might sound like on the phone.

      1. Artemesia*

        And nothing is easier than being unavailable by phone. don’t let this company buffalo you. They didn’t ‘need you’; they don’t ‘get you.’

    3. Rebecca*

      I once had a former employer call me up for physical help (as in ‘can you come do your old job for a week…we’ll pay you…’) a few weeks after I’d left. I’d left for a few reasons, abusive managing being one, but primarily so I could go to school. I almost laughed down the phone line. Um, no, I’m not going to miss classes so you can take advantage of me again. No.

      1. (different) Rebecca*

        The above comment is not the same Rebecca as below. I’m a wholly different Rebecca. If we could edit replies, I’d mark that above. Sorry.

    4. #1 feedback*

      OP 1 here, after reading the questions for this week I need to add that my VP also blocked an internal transfer (similar to OP #4 above) that would have kept me in the same dept/similarly employed, he’s a real piece of work….

      1. Artemesia*

        Oh then no just ‘hell no’ but ‘not even’ and ‘never’. Be as passive aggressively polite as you want — but NO.

        1. KaloraKid*

          Agreed. OPs boss can feel free to kick rocks into eternity. I wouldn’t so much as cover my mouth to sneeze for a person like that.

      2. bob*

        Not just no but HELL NO and pound sand! And they still haven’t sent your stuff to you!

        Maybe they think picking up your stuff will entice you to come back.

  7. gawaine*

    On #1 – If they want a fifteen minute answer of some questions off the top of my head, I’d give it to them. If they want more work, I’d consult for them, but only with a contract in place. Specifically – I would see if I could find a contracting company that I knew had done business with them before, and set up a consulting arrangement with them. Then, if they call me, I’d charge for the time.

    Insisting on being a consultant – It’s not just a question of fairness, or the emotional impact of being laid off. If you’re not on the clock and doing work for them, there are all sorts of legal implications. (Copyright/work for hire, your third-party liability if the company gets in trouble, workman’s compensation come to mind.)

    Given that they were a little shady before, though, I would insist on being a consultant/contractor through a third party, not an hourly or other employee directly for them. And I’d be very meticulous about keeping timesheets and logs, to be sure you had documentation to back it up if they gave you trouble.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I wouldn’t even give them a fifteen minute answer, especially if they’re calling OP during work hours when she’ll presumably be in the midst of a new job search. I wouldn’t answer the phone period. If OP has a solid work history prior to this job with good references from those companies, this one’s opinion will mean very little if they do try to jeopardize her reference because she dared not to answer the phone. And think about how that would sound anyway. “OP isn’t eligible for rehire here because she didn’t pick up the phone when I called to get some [free] work out of her after laying her off.” Any reasonable hiring manager’s going to think, “Well, yeah. She was probably busy filing for unemployment or filling out job applications or, you know, interviewing for a new job to replace the one you canned her from.”

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Thing is, that’s certainly nothow the company would frame things when a reference taker calls…

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Oh, I know – the former manager would most likely come up with all kinds of so-called problems the OP had during her employment that was conveniently never brought to her attention while she worked there.

          Yet, I don’t think OP’s former manager will actually do that. I think he’s calling and asking for her help to see if he can. If she doesn’t engage at all, it’s less likely that these little one off questions will turn into, “Oh, I just have a quick question” – every single day. (I think I read an old post here in fact about another company trying this with another OP who quit for a new job, and the former employer called and emailed every day.) And if OP never engages to begin with, I think former boss will move on to the next thing once he realizes he’s not going to get free labor, and OP’s reference won’t be in jeopardy.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yes, this. I could absolutely see this being spun as “And after we laid her off, we discovered how disorganized she was – we couldn’t find where she filed the data we needed for the monthly TPS reports, and she wouldn’t respond to our calls to give us that information.”

          It sucks, but if it’s a simple answer like “the monthly TPS files are on the X: drive in the folder Department/Monthly Data/” OP is best to give that info to them.

          I think since they are paying OP 5 weeks severance, its valid for OP to consider helping them out with one-off questions like that for the next few weeks. After that though, they can figure it out themselves.

          However, if OP has shown her boss where the TPS report data is several times over the years (perhaps boss would do the reports when she is on vacation) I would be less likely to suggest she comply.

          1. Dan*

            I realized the other day when we upgraded versions of MS Office and my recent history got wiped wiped that I actually do not know the exact locations of things I use. Between explorer’s “recent” history and Office’s document history, I’m at a loss for the full paths. I don’t even recall what some files are actually called.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I agree with this. It sounds like the ex manager wants the help of the OP to collect data as well as the location for the reports. It’s one thing to tell manager where the files are. It’s quite another to collect and analyze the data. The second one needs a consulting contract in place.
      The appropriate response is “I’d like to help you but this looks like more than a 15 minute job. Would you like to set up a contract?” If manager whines and asks for favors then tell him you are sorry but this is a business issue.

      1. snuck*

        I didn’t get the impression that the OP was being asked to be the primary recorder of the data. This could be a very simple query – “Where does the data for the TPS report come from, and can you please give me the login and password so I can draw it down. Now… do I click on monthly reports or will I need to build a custom report from that data?” … those are quick 2min answers that should only be asked once, and only if no one else in the workplace could do it. “What are the custom filters I appy?” could be 10min max quick (and I’d probably just answer it for the sake of a positive relationship in the future). “What is the exact coding to make this come out?” is a “This is my hourly rate” reply.

        1. mull*

          All that sounds like a really good reason not be assholes when you lay off somebody. And to think ahead far enough to know whatever it is you need to know from the person being laid off.

          LW#1, if at all possible, don’t help your former employer.

          1. RVA Cat*

            If you want to be nice and help them, how about a lunch meeting somewhere nice (I’m thinking steakhouse, seafood, etc.) where you discuss it for no more than an hour while they cover your meal?

        2. #1 feedback*

          OP 1 here again, actually I was the primary recorder of the data and the ONLY person in the facility with my job title. One deep position with a job description as long as my arm to go along with it also. Coworker has told me that they’re pulling their hair out now trying to bit and piece my former responsibilities to 2-3 remaining folks…this still hurts a lot

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Well, too bad for them. But it’s their problem now. They don’t get to retroactively use you after they chucked you. If they needed to eliminate your job for budget purposes, they could have worked with you to close down your position, but they chose to do this instead.

            I honestly wouldn’t bother returning their calls. At most, I’d answer a couple of questions via email and then that would be the end of it.

          2. TootsNYC*

            You know, I would let them stew just a little–if they hadn’t followed the “perp walk” thing, you could have gone back to your desk and arranged an orderly hand-off.

            One of my old jobs did that in 3 of the different waves of layoffs I saw over the years (I got tagged in the last one). It meant people could go forward emails (work ones, as well as personal), clean off their desk, hand over files and verbal instructions.
            I never saw someone abuse that. Either they were pissed off and made it really quick, or they were philosophical and more thorough.
            It also softened the blow so much–it let your colleagues say, “Oh, rats, I’m so sorry! I’ll miss you!” which meant that if they called you a week later to say, “I’m so sorry to bother you–where is this file?” you might give them an answer because of the personal relationship.

            I’ll also say–I think your manager really blew this. If you’d been my employee, I’d have been on the phone to you that very night to say, “I’m so sorry this happened to you. Sometimes these business decisions really suck. Thanks for everything over the years, and let me know what your job-hunt plans are, and if I can do anything to help you.”

            Mostly because I would want you to have that moment of appreciation, and because I’d want to feel I’d done what I could to help you. Because I’m your manager.

            But the side effect of being a decent human being is that if I then called you up and said, “Can you help me with this?” you wouldn’t necessarily be so mad at the company that you wouldn’t want to help ME.

            That said–once you’re gone, the only thing you should give them is about six sentences.

            When I got laid off the last time, the person who got all my duties (and eventually my title, but for less money) called me much later to say, “What’s this column on the Excel sheet for the budget? What does it do?” I answered. Then she asked some other question about something that was in that column, and I said, “I really don’t know. I don’t have it in front of me, it was a month and a half ago, and I think you’ll have ot figure it out on your own.”

            1. Dan*

              You’re right about the personal relationships. And FWIW, it’s not “the company” that gives references, but likely “your boss.”

              When I was canned, my immediate boss didn’t know. I actually called him and broke the news. We worked very closely together, and they laid off half of his team from underneath him. Without telling or warning him. My boss is a night owl, and you knew to call him before noon if (and only if) something was literally on fire. I called him up at 10am, he answers in this groggy “what’s up?” “Uh, me, Tom, Dick and Harry got laid off today.” “You’re shitting me” he says. “Nope.” “Well, cause you’re calling me at 10am, I know you’re not joking, but damn, I had no idea. I would have fought for you.”

              So you’re right. It’s about relationships. My boss and I were tight, I’d do what was necessary to help him, and he’s the one who gives me a reference. But the *company*? yeah, they can go to hell.

          3. Observer*

            In that case, I’d smile as I sent an email saying effectively “this is where the files for a, b and c are and this is where the files for d, e, and f are. I don’t really have time for any ongoing work. However, if you really need some more intensive work, I am available for the next x weeks @ $y per hour, 4 hour minimum.”

            And, $y would be at the high end of the normal range for this kind of work. And, I wouldn’t provide anything further unless and until they were ready to pay the rate I named.

    3. Rubyrose*

      Yes, all of this. I would also make sure that my hourly rate was way above the average for the type of work. Remember, you really are an expert in what they want and they should pay generously for your advice.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It should be around double your pay rate to compensate for benefits, retirement, self employment taxes, etc.

        1. Rubyrose*

          And perhaps a bit more, to cover doing work for a company that treated you in the manner they did. If they don’t like that rate, their loss.

    4. M-C*

      I’d enjoy -thanking- them profusely for calling me, sniffling into the phone as I tell them how hard it is for you to find new work with so little notice, and then whipping out a contract for 4 times your previous hourly pay. Because you know, you’re twice as valuable as anyone off the street, and when consulting you need to be paid twice as much when you factor in loss of benefits :-).

      But seriously I agree with gawaine that going through a 3rd party would be a very wise idea (they should get 8 times your former rate then). You don’t want to get into a dispute over payment with these people. Sheesh.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But as I said above, quoting a rate that’s wildly outside market for this type of work will harm your reputation because it will come across as bitter and unreasonable.

        1. Dan*

          Harm my reputation with *who* exactly? My coworkers aren’t going to care (they’re probably going to laugh). And really, this is just a business negotiation — I can name a rate, the company can counter, we can agree that we were not able to come to terms. In any other situation, this is a regular occurrence. Here, the only way someone can be “harmed” for not coming to terms is with the assumption that they *should* have come to terms, and that it’s their fault for not doing so.

          Remember, if you have strong relationships with your immediate managers, you can afford to piss off some Senior VP, who probably has to sign off on any contract work you do… and probably approved your layoff in the first place.

          “Won’t answer phone calls” and “Wants a really high rate” are equivalent in my book. Who’s going to care?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s going to read as bitter and/or ridiculous, and I’m assuming the OP is dealing with her direct manager on this, who may have had a positive opinion of her up until now. That doesn’t mean it will change a good reference to a terrible one, but it certainly may change the tone/tenor of that reference, which is something good reference-checker will pick up on.

            1. Dan*

              Turning into a pumpkin is going to do the same thing. If my severance agreement with an employee reads “be available for basic questions” (as mine did when I was laid off), and that employee went poof and never responded to emails or phone calls, they’re going to get a less enthusiastic reference too.

              Somewhere along the line I thing we’re munging “quick questions” with “actual work.” I also think there’s a difference when the immediate manager is making decisions, vs some higher up vp. Let’s face it — if my immediate manager was the one who decided to lay me off (as opposed to a whole division or something) what are the odds that I’m getting a great, enthusiastic reference anyway? In a multi-round layoff, the earliest round(s) are typically various house cleaning exercises. Those guys in round #1 weren’t getting enthusiastic references, no matter what they did after they left.

            2. Observer*

              The manager’s failure to say anything to the OP, except for “we need your help” indicates to me that the odds of a very enthusiastic referral is highly unlikely. It think that this bridge in not very salvageable.

              1. TootsNYC*

                Or she could rescue it by being pleasant and professional, providing some basic information and refraining from making unreasonable demands.

                1. Observer*

                  I don’t think this is a situation that can be rescued. As for asking for a fee – even a high fee- for rescuing them from their own stupidity (and that’s what it is), is far from unreasonable. It’s not a “demand” – they are perfectly free to decline to pay the rate she asks for.

          2. TootsNYC*

            With your former manager, actually–because that’s who you’ll be quoting your rate too.

            You made the powerful point above that one’s direct manager is probably not the cause of them being treated badly, or of the layout itself. And the direct manager is the one who will give the reference.

      2. Vicki*

        Also, your severance agreement may forbid you from contracting back with the company. Mine have, twice.

    5. Jack the treacle eater*

      This seems reasonable. It might make you feel better to blank or reject them, but realistically it’s no skin off your nose to tell them ‘the files you need are at X’, and it avoids souring things at their end in case you need a reference.

      If they need more, though, it’s not unreasonable for you to politely reject it – you’ve moved on and have other fish to fry – or to be paid for it if you do it; and Engineer Girl is right – it should be done on a contract basis at 2 – 4 times the employee rate, with liabilities assumed by the company.

      It might seem satisfying to say ‘f… you’, but it might be more satisfying to be able to take the moral high ground, not burn bridges and, if you feel you can do it, extract more money from them…

  8. Engineer Girl*

    #4 The rebuttal to the logic of “it’s bad for the franchise” is “but it’s good for the company as a whole and we’re here to support the company”
    I might approach HR on this issue due to the promised pay raise. Your old manager is essentially depriving you of money by keeping you in place. I agree that this needs to be framed as a growth issue too. And be prepared to walk.

    1. newreader*

      Checking with HR is a good idea. While some companies allow managers to block transfers, does the OP know for sure that’s the case with her company? The manager may just be attempting to institute his own preference and it might not have HR backing. I’ve had managers try some interesting things that weren’t actual policy. In a few cases, I checked in with HR to inquire about the policy and found out the manager couldn’t really do what he or she was attempting.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s interesting because my company allows managers to block transfer, but only if they’re at most lateral. If it’s a promotion they have to suck it up.

    2. snuck*

      I’m assuming you’ve also gone back to the new manager and said “Sorry, current manager says he cannot release me to work for you” … because often this stuff goes up the chain then and someone waaaaaaaay higher hashes it out.

      And I’ve worked for Very Large Corporates and in each of them there’s been a policy about not poaching staff from other departments… but generally the assumption is that inter-department transfers are accepted, on the proviso that it’s not a mission critical skillset that will cripple the old department to lose, and that the person in the role has been in it for a minimum period (usually around a year for your sort of role). I’d look to your employee handbook or HR for clarification on what your company has as a policy – because it will have one.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        And I’ve worked for Very Large Corporates and in each of them there’s been a policy about not poaching staff from other departments

        That’s a really troubling policy. Like OP#4 said, it makes it sound like the employee is property to be hoarded, and like Alison also said, would probably drive the company’s more ambitious talent to leave altogether. My company’s average tenure is 25 years because people have the ability to go from division to division if they want to. Now, there are some individuals in some small pockets of the company that view internal division transfers as defections punishable by death, but the company as a whole welcomes “poaching.” They spend entirely too much money on our salaries and training/development programs to let us get frustrated and walk out to a competitor.

        1. AnotherFed*

          I think the level of “poaching” that’s acceptable varies. Most places are totally fine with jobs getting posted and taken by internal candidates from different parts of the company, people swapping locations, growth assignments, etc, and wouldn’t even call it poaching. But walking down the hall to the sister dept to mine and trying to talk them all into coming to work on my projects is generally not okay, and snagging too many internal transfers from the same original team would probably also fall over the line.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Well, yeah. But how many hiring managers internally actually do something like trying to take a whole other division’s people out from under them? I suspect not many.

            1. AnotherFed*

              A whole division is an exaggeration, but gutting a particular team? I’d say that happens pretty regularly, especially for the unsexy support-type teams.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                It doesn’t at my company. Which is probably for the best. HR’s collective heads would explode if they had to rehire an entire team all the time.

              2. Sketchee*

                For those support-type teams, those members might want to move throughout the company. Some entry level departments are like this where members enter and the best are quickly promoted out. I found that it worked well at a nationally company I worked for. I had friends in the old department which made working with them so much easier for everyone.

                It was excellent networking for my original manager who was pretty honest that she’d rather have kept me. At the same time, she had glowing recommendations to HR and to my new manager

          2. snuck*

            Yup this.

            These companies generally had long and annoying on boarding processes, they then had lengthy industry specific skilling programs. Poaching was when one of your staff quits and instead of trying to go through a reasonable process to fill it you walk downstairs and grab someone who is new from somewhere else. That person has gone through several months of checks and training, all to be wooed into another department by an insignificant payrise offer (or an offer to get off the call centres/customer facing roles into back of house) or some other offset so they don’t have to go through the onboarding issues. That’s what the policy covered. After a year everything was fair game. Until then you had to let the department that had met literally thousands of dollars of costs bringing them in get the benefit of it. If the person had significant and unique skills then you could appeal up the rungs of the ladder and senior leadership could sort it out (usually with some agreement to pay the recruitment and onboarding costs to replace etc).

        2. TootsNYC*

          Except that the poaching policy isn’t normally “no poaching at all” but is “no poaching until the new hire has been here for a set time period,” and “you can’t approach them; they have to come to you.”

          It’s not usually “you can’t ever hire someone from some other department.”

          1. JustALurker*


            Many people take jobs at organizations with the plan to “grow” or “advance” their career at that organization/company. The “no poaching ever” idea is just short sighted. If someone can “gut an entire team” that should call into question the management or direction of the team being abandoned.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      “The rebuttal to the logic of “it’s bad for the franchise” is “but it’s good for the company as a whole and we’re here to support the company””

      Unless you’re at Sears, which collapsed because internally all the divisions were set up to compete with each other, to the point where divisions would recommend outside products instead of internal-rival products.

  9. AcademiaNut*

    For #1, if what they want is more than a simple file location, what about offering to work as a contractor? For at least five times your original salary, of course.

    No notice, the perp walk, plus five weeks salary and a small severance is actually not all that bad, at least compared to no notice and no severance. But asking you to work for them for free afterwards is pretty outrageous. I do wonder if your manager is doing this without the company’s knowledge.

    1. Vicki*

      I hate to say this but, be happy you got severance and 1 week per year of service. At my previous to last RIF, we all got 2 weeks salary in lieu of notice and were told to leave by the back door.

    2. James M*

      Every job that I have resigned from, has received an offer to consult with my standard rate. It’s a carefully constructed offer of a contract, with very precise compensation rates. Those rates are as close as I can get to an hourly/1099 equivalent of whatever the employer considered “TCO”. It’s both a reasonable way of pricing my services, and a good way of illustrating that the blade of inflating TCO cuts both ways (i.e., saying that a $85,000 salary was equivalent to $102,500 because their benefits were so special.) It bit me, sort of, when an employer took me up on the offer and actually asked me to stay in the contracting role full-time. Revealing to me that they could have actually paid me a wage close to the one I had left for… I still feel sort-of bad about that one, but then, I highly doubt I could have negotiated for that salary range without quitting. The relationship continued for years, and might even be a well that I could return to, haven’t tried.

  10. Nobody*

    #1 – That really sucks. Your company treated you horribly and I don’t blame you one bit for being bitter about it. They don’t deserve your help after what they did to you.

    That said, sometimes it is best to take the high road. I can’t tell from the letter what’s the extent of the help the manager needs, but assuming it’s just a few quick questions, if you can bring yourself to help out, you should consider it (if it’s more extensive than that, though, they need to pay you by the hour). This is the last impression you’re giving to your former manager and team, and it could be beneficial when you need a reference (and you never know when you’ll run into people in the future). They did give you a severance, which is more than what some people get.

    I was basically bullied into leaving my last job, and I was pretty bitter about it, but I decided to take the high road and be super helpful during my notice period, even though what I really wanted to do was give them all the finer. I also put all the spreadsheets and cheat sheets I had developed over the years on the shared drive (even though I was tempted to delete them all because these jerks didn’t deserve my spreadsheets), and I’ve heard from a former coworker that people are still using (and grateful for) my spreadsheets. Looking back on it, I’m glad I handled it this way because (1) this is how people there remember me, and (2) if I had decided not to be helpful, it’s not like they would have realized it was because of how badly they treated me. I know you’re in a different situation because you were forced to leave suddenly, but when the sting wears off, you might be glad if you can look back on this knowing you took the high road.

    1. NJ Anon*

      I too was was forced out and took the high road BEFORE I LEFT. After? Hell to the no. They can kiss my assets!

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Of course you behave professionally during the transition period. If they give no transition and don’t harvest your knowledge, well then, their choice. Doing free work for a boss who blocked your transfer and treated you harshly absolutely not. I would ssimply not be reachable. He is testing the waters to see if you are a pushover he can keep leaning on.

    2. Brandy*

      Agree with this. Also forced out. It isn’t the CEO (who did the forcing) that would suffer if I deleted my files, it’s my peers and team, all of whom were incredibly supportive during and after my layoff.

    3. Ellen Ripley*

      Eh, I’m not sure “treated you horribly” is really fair; this is SOP unfortunately. I’ve been laid off twice, and both times it was without notice and I was required to leave the office immediately (although I was allowed to gather my personal stuff while supervised). It’s incredibly hurtful as the person it’s being done to (what, I was a trusted employee until 15 minutes ago, and now you think I’m going to do something nefarious?), but it seems to be pretty standard practice in most businesses. The lawyers have convinced everyone that it reduces liability, even a very small minority of the people being laid off would act inappropriately.

      I agree that you shouldn’t bend over backward for these people, though. It’s professional courtesy to answer a few questions, and hand over any passwords, logins, info about where files are located, etc. But actually doing work, absolutely not – if you want to, offer to finish up a project as an independent contractor at a rate that would make it worthwhile to you. But it’s also ok to refuse politely, and might be better for your mental health and moving on. Any former boss who doesn’t understand that is someone who isn’t going to give you an honest recommendation anyway.

      1. Dan*

        So something can’t be unfair if it’s SOP? My current org lays people off nicely (I’ve heard the stories.) Previous one? Tap on the shoulder and you’re gone in 30 minutes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          SOP can be unfair. But the OP shouldn’t look at this as outrageous in the “outside of the norm” sense when it’s so very standard.

      2. Vicki*

        Hmmm. I’d say it’s SOP to treat employees horribly.

        I love how we have, in two separate letters, the canonical “You are so important to this organization that we cannot let you go!” and the canonical “right up until the day we decide we don’t care about you at all and out you go!”

    4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      #1 – it’s good to take the high road – for a short period of time. That being said – I wouldn’t want to go back and work for a place that treated me like dirt. I might give telephone advice but I wouldn’t go in and work for them.

      I was in a position like that once, where they were calling me three times a week for extended guidance on the phone. One time I was away – job hunting in another part of the country and they were horrified that I wasn’t around and didn’t return their calls for a week and a half.

      Now – if they actually need your help – without being snide or cynical – I would raise the issue “uh, I think you might have made a mistake in letting me go. At least that’s the sense I’m getting. May I ask, what is the purpose of all this?” and if the dialog is apologetic and conciliatory, you might be able to re-establish yourself.

      Never close a door permanently. Well, ALMOST never. I have seen managements see the error of their ways, and reverse a bad move like this. Don’t eliminate the possibility that they may be telling you – “man we screwed up by letting you go. PLEASE come back, let’s discuss employment.”

    5. TootsNYC*

      I’ve heard from a former coworker that people are still using (and grateful for) my spreadsheets.

      Remember that your reputation is made up of the opinions of LOTS of people–and people you’ve never even met are probably hearing about “…those spreadsheets Nobody created–aren’t they great?”

      I had a boss whose M.O. when getting a resumé from a job candidate was to look at the list of places they’d worked and figure out who she knew there. And she’d call them to ask about their colleague.
      So your reputation among your colleagues is often as important as your reputation with your boss.

  11. Katie the Fed*

    Boy, the theme today really is “Have a conversation about what’s bothering you!”

    1. hermit crab*

      I think that’s pretty much the theme of this entire website. And, like, the rest of life a lot of the time! :)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        What I like about this site is that Alison gives some scripts for having those tricky conversations because it’s definitely not always easy.

        1. hermit crab*

          Yes, I totally agree! Having some suggested phrases in your back pocket can really make the difference between speaking up and getting a good outcome, vs. staying quiet and never having anything change.

    2. Buzzword Bingo*

      …And the theme of pretty much every one of your comments is usually “Why can’t everyone just do what I claim I would do in this situation?” Do you always have to be so condescending?

          1. Pope suburban*

            Especially when her comment right below is just an anecdote. No advice in sight! Just some commiseration. People, huh?

      1. Oryx*

        Wow that was REALLY uncalled for.

        It’s also completely untrue — I have never found Katie the Fed’s comments to be condescending.

      2. NotASalesperson*

        Alison has made it clear in the past that we should also keep things civil here. It’s easy to read the wrong tone in what others say, but let’s keep the counterpoints on topic and as even-toned/rational as possible.

      3. MaggiePi*

        Very uncalled for. I enjoy reading Katie the Fed’s comments and have not found her condescending.

      4. Stellar*

        As a long-time reader, if infrequent commenter, I always look forward to Katie’s insightful comments and interesting anecdotes.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        What?! That’s not true at all. Please read the commenting guidelines, which prohibit this kind of thing. (Also, as a heads-up, your comments are going to be moderated from now on.)

      6. Katie the Fed*

        I realize that to you I’m just some faceless commenter, but I’m actually a person with thoughts and feelings and that was really uncalled for. I try to be an active member of a community that I’ve found valuable and learned a lot from. I frame things in the way I would do them because…that’s how I would do them. I don’t know what’s best for others. Sometimes I miss the mark completely, too, and I’ve deserved the flak I’ve gotten for that. But your comments are just kind of cruel.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Thank you! That one caught me at the end of an exhausting week and I’ll admit that it smarted a bit. I did make a rather pithy remark this morning – I was just thinking how funny that most problems could be resolved if people were comfortable having a conversation. I never realized in my 20s how simple it was either and once I got the hang of it in my 30s was like “OH! We could just talk about things!”

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I think it’s a great observation, and very true! So often I see people asking for advice that boils down to, “I’m having a problem with my coworker (or brother, or boyfriend, or whatever) and I want to solve it, but without talking to anyone or having an interaction that might be considered awkward.” And I understand that impulse, I do, but the only real answer at that point is “… a magic wand, I guess?”

            2. Older not yet wiser*

              I am a Katie the Fed fan from way back. Almost always agree with your thoughts and definitely always enjoy your input. You are an important contributor to this community!

            3. Brisvegan*

              I like your comments, too. I see you as a sensible regular, who is always trying to be constructive.

          2. Zillah*

            I agree! I’ve always found you (Katie the Fed you, not Alison you) to be super insightful and respectful.

        1. cupcakes in the breakroom*

          Removed by Alison because you’re now posing as different commenters to agree with yourself (same IP address).

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            There’s an internet expression, for that, Alison – it’s called being a “sock puppet”.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – I once worked for a manager who wouldn’t let anyone transfer out of his department, because he wanted to keep his best people. He was really shady about it too – said he would support it, and then go behind the scenes and block it.

    In the end, every single one of his best people left one way or another, and he was left with the people nobody else wanted. It was a terrible management strategy and he got what he deserved. I was so happy to be free of him when I finally found an offer he couldn’t block.

  13. NJ Anon*

    #1 There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I would do anything for your former company after the way you were treated. I don’t care how much they were willing to pay me!

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Yeah, I keep seeing people say OP should consider it as a means of securing a positive reference from this guy. But we can’t control what other people say about us. OP could perform magic tricks for this guy, and he could still give her a lukewarm or even straight up negative reference if he’s so inclined.

      1. Colette*

        It’s not just about this guy, though – it’s about all of the other employees. The OP should answer a reasonable number of easy questions, although I agree she’s not required to do substantial work, even if they’re willing to pay her for it.

        Her former coworkers will think more fondly of her and be more willing to help her find a new job if they’re not spending their days trying to recreate a customer database because the OP won’t give them access to the old one, for example.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          You can’t control what other people are going to think of you, either. If I’m OP’s former coworker, and I saw her get escorted out of the building suddenly and without warning, it’s not her I’m going to think less of if I’m put in a position where I have to scramble to try to recreate that database – I’m going to be peeved with my employer for not having obtained that information before letting her go. If OP’s former coworkers get frustrated by her unwillingness to “help out” after the way her departure went down, that’s not really OP’s problem. It’s not her job to try to make unreasonable people reasonable.

          1. Zillah*

            You can’t control what other people are going to think of you, either.

            Just because you don’t have total control doesn’t mean that you don’t have an impact.

          2. Ms. Anne Thrope*

            After my dept’s 2 bosses were axed, even tho they weren’t perp-walked, whenever I came across an issue that no one knew the answer to, I thought ‘I know who would know. Oh well, too bad they’re not here to answer.’ I would be DAMNED if I was gonna go bother the ppl who were kicked out for info. The company didn’t value their knowledge, then it’s the company’s loss. The new bosses can figure it out.

          3. Colette*

            Personally, I have offered to help coworkers who have been let go by introducing them to people in my network – but not if their last act was self-centred and vindictive. I don’t want to poison my network with someone like that.

            1. Windchime*

              I understand what you are saying, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a self-centered or vindictive act to simply not help out the employer who just basically fired me with no notice. They either need her or they don’t. They don’t get to perp walk her out and then call her for free help when they decide that they need the information she has in her head.

              1. Colette*

                But they did give her notice via severance, probably at least a month and a half worth of pay. It’s also possible that thr lease she signed when they gave her that severance requires her to answer a small number of questions. She certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to help with more than basic questions, but there is no downside to answering a few questions she know off the top of her head, especially since, as someone else noted, the person asking may not be the person who decided to let her go.

            2. sunny-dee*

              But the OP didn’t do anything self-centered or vindictive, and she’s already gone. I had a coworker who was perp-walked out by my idiot boss who didn’t even realize she had files she hadn’t ever had a chance to put in the shared location. I do not blame her for that. He was (and, I am sure, still is) the idiot.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                When my entire team was axed, with a few of us left as a transition team, it was really satisfying to watch the upper-level manager collapse when he learned that one team did all their work on laptops and they hadn’t quite reached the level of uploading it to the repositories – because the very first thing facilities did was collect all the laptops for asset security reasons.

        2. Ramen*

          I honestly find it disturbing to allow what others think about you to dictate your actions — especially if you’re going from “I’m not comfortable doing this,” to “But others will think fondly of me so I guess I should.” If you feel inclined to do a favor out of the kindness of your heart that’s one thing … but OP is clearly fighting an internal battle and I also think that’s valid.

          And the reality is that if his coworkers already liked and respected him while he was there, how he acts after being unceremoniously booted won’t taint that. It never has for me: I’ve worked with people who I thought were great at their jobs and incredibly nice, so even after they were forced out by incompetent management I of course sent jobs their way — and would’ve even if they’d turned down a chance to help us.

      2. Zillah*

        Well, sure – but it’s incredibly defeatist to say that because we don’t have absolute control over what people say about us, our actions have no effect at all. That’s just not accurate. You don’t follow professional courtesies or take the higher road because it ensures a good reference – you do it because it makes a good reference more likely.

        In this case… They acted like jerks, but they did give five weeks salary + severance, which isn’t terrible. IMO, the OP’s best course of action is to answer a couple location questions once, and once it starts taking up more than a few minutes of her time, to tell them she’ll be available if they’re willing to pay her a consulting fee.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          You don’t follow professional courtesies or take the higher road because it ensures a good reference – you do it because it makes a good reference more likely.

          I follow professional courtesies and take high roads because that’s just my work ethic, not because I truly care about a reference I have no way of knowing is going to be positive or negative. And nowhere did I say that our actions have no effect at all. What I’m saying is, OP has already stated she has no desire to help her former employer do anything. Telling her to do it anyway because of something that might happen based on what people might think of her when she has no control over those things, and could be overly accommodating and still not be thought of well, is kind of missing the point. She doesn’t have to be nasty – just don’t engage. OP gets the call, she doesn’t answer. Her former coworkers will have no way of knowing she’s not answering phone calls unless former boss tells them, and if he does that, that’s going to reflect poorly on him, not her.

          What a lot of this stuff sounds like to me is encouraging OP to try to manage other people’s feelings, which she isn’t obligated to do in this situation. They let her go and she’s now moved on – the company should do the same.

          1. animaniactoo*

            It’s called playing the odds. No, there’s no guarantee. But you have a probability scenario, you can weigh what the probabilities are and make your choice based on *those*, not on a guarantee of anything.

            So giving the OP the self-interest perspective is useful for them in informing their decision-making.

            I agree with those saying contract the work if it’s anything more than a minute or 2’s worth of “that’s there and that’s in that other file”. At the very least, it puts the OP on a professional standing that can’t be argued with and is much less likely to get side-eyed. And OP will likely feel better about anything they choose to do if they’re getting paid for it.

          2. #1 feedback*

            #1 here, believe I’m just not going to reply to their request/s. With the way it went down, and info I’ve gotten since that my VP blocked an internal transfer (that I was not aware was even being considered) feel it’s best not to engage at all. Hard feelings/hurtful interactions won’t help me or them in the future

            1. Doriana Gray*

              After reading this, and the post you made about how they haven’t even returned your stuff yet – your former manager has a lot of nerve. You are a much bigger person than I would be in this situation by not even responding.

              1. animaniactoo*

                Seriously. Even when people get perp-walked here, they usually are given a chance to clear out their personal stuff. Admittedly it’s a very embarrassing 5 minutes with a “guard” standing over you, but you still get to take your stuff out the door with you.

                Between blocking your transfer, not allowing you to take your personal stuff, etc. – I’d be *embarrassed* to even think about contacting you for work help even if I had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to let you go.

                Let ’em hurt, and figure out how to deal with a situation they created on their own.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                What!? THEY STILL HAVE HER STUFF!?
                Oh man.

                My email would read, “I’d be glad to answer a couple of questions after the receipt of all my personal items, intact. List enclosed.” At their expense.

              3. Stranger than fiction*

                Oh wow, I didn’t see that they hadn’t returned her personal stuff. Makes no sense why she wasn’t able to gather it before the “perp walk”. I’ve been perp walked during a layoff before, but was still given a box and escorted back to my desk first. My computer, of course, had already been commandeered.

                1. Windchime*

                  When people are fired here, they have to leave immediately. A manager boxes up their stuff and takes it to HR, where the employee can pick it up later. When we had layoffs, people weren’t walked out immediately but were given a month or so notice. Those people were allowed to pack up their own belongings.

                  I’ve got a ton of stuff in my cube. I should probably take some of it home, in the event that I get laid off (not a totally unreasonable prospect).

            2. Zillah*

              Yeah, with your additional information in the comments, my vote is definitely just don’t engage. I think your instincts are spot on.

  14. Erin*

    #1 – Wow, that is outrageous. Let me walk you out of here like you’re a criminal, but hey, can you help me with that TPS report? Did he even sound apologetic or embarrassed about that?

    If what he’s requesting is small and keeping this reference is important (which I’m assuming it is) I’d consider doing it. But if he asked again I’d probably say something like, “Since I’m no longer working there and am spending my time job searching I’m afraid I won’t have time to continue assisting on work like this.”

    Another thought: Use someone else there as a reference who you worked with or ideally supervised you as a reference. Other than this person reaching out to you now. Obviously, potential employers can call there and talk to whoever they want, but maybe that could help.

    #3 – I’ve been in a similar situation. You can’t let this hold you back. Assuming you’re interviewing with other places, and you get an offer, bring up to them at that stage that if it’s possible, you’d like to give more than two weeks notice. And if you’re quitting to not work and be at home or travel or whatever you’re going to be doing, then the notice is up to you!

    Basically just give as much notice as you possibly can. That’s the best thing you can do.

    1. #1 feedback*

      #1 here again, believe I’m just not going to engage at all, and thanks for the tip of using someone else I worked with as a reference

      1. sunny-dee*

        I did this for an internal transfer when my rather vile boss put me on a PIP to block the transfer and then (when HR intervened) tried to trash my reference. I had two former managers still at the company, and both of them were really positive. If I ever move on, I’ll definitely use one of them (or my current nice manager) rather than the malicious one.

  15. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: Very sweetly tell your old boss that your consulting fee is an amount at least 2 to 3 times whatever they were paying you, and when you receive a retainer payment for 10 hours of your time, you’ll tell him whatever he wants to know. I bet that will be the last time you hear from him.

    I actually did exactly that when I was unceremoniously fired from a horrible job once years ago. It felt great.

  16. Rebecca*

    #1 I totally agree with the other posters regarding setting up a consulting contract. It’s not your problem that your company sent you packing, and now can’t perform simple internal functions. I’d be willing to bet that your manager never gave this a thought, or just reasoned, if OP can do it, certainly I can figure this out in the short term. The response to each question should be “when will a consulting contract can be signed?”

    1. Rebecca*

      I meant “when will the consulting contract be signed?” Ugh, too early and not enough coffee.

  17. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1, is the manager who’s asking for help the one who decided to lay you off, and the method of doing so? If not, I’d cut him some slack and give him a minimal amount of help (answer questions about where the data can be found, but do not touch the data yourself).

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Conversely, do the people that laid her off and booted her out asap know that her boss is asking for her assistance like this? It could be he’s not even supposed to be calling her and is going against policy.

      1. Gaara*

        Me three! If they kept my personal property, any chance of cooperation goes out the window.

        1. #1 feedback*

          OP 1 here, no, my stuff has still not shown up… Wasn’t alot of stuff, and nothing that can’t be replaced, but nothing yet

          1. Gaara*

            Whoa. Yeah, I’d totally be comfortable being like “hey, I was just wondering when I should expect my personal belongings back because I wasn’t given a chance to take them with me when I left” in response to their question about you helping them out. I mean, if it’s a box of granola bars maybe not, but if it’s anything beyond that.

          2. cupcakes in the breakroom*

            I can’t believe you haven’t gotten your stuff. I know some people would say you shouldn’t have important stuff at work, but then again…if the office is too cold everyone suggests buying a space heater, or getting an ergonomic whatever for problems caused by sitting, or noise canceling headphones to block the whiny coworker…and dammit, I want it all back when I leave. :( I’m sorry they’re jerking you around.

          3. Vicki*

            Gah! They should have fed-exed that to you immediately.

            You absolutely owe them nothing if your stuff is still hostage.

    1. Rowan*

      Yeah, I was going to suggest that the OP agree to answer questions in exchange for her stuff. ;-)

    2. Oryx*

      When my manager at ExJob was laid off and walked out perp style (we all found out via email about 20 minutes later sent by our new manager. Awkward), I know they let him come in the following weekend when there was only a skeleton staff and let him clean out his office. I’m hoping they at least let the OP do that.

  18. Big Farmer*

    Wouldn’t surprise me if #4 is my employer, except I think they laid off all the perm admin help and outsourced those positions. If it is the same company the manager has a totally legit concern about being able to replace the OP but that doesn’t mean he’s right to block the transfer. That stinks! Any chance you or the hiring manager can make a business case for overriding the block? If your current franchise is slated for downsizing, it’s better for everyone if you can make the move.

  19. Chalupa Batman*

    #3-I struggled a lot with “no good time to quit,” but ultimately it became such a toxic situation for me personally that I didn’t care anymore. I work in a field where it’s not unusual to have an idea of what’s going on with former coworkers, and it’s not going well. I still do not care. I thought I would, and my anger has softened, but the distance has made it clearer that my guilt was about fear of the unknown, not a real belief that I was the lynchpin. I’m good, but not that good. If OldJob can’t survive without me, they probably couldn’t have survived with me either.

    As a side note, I thought #5 started with “I’m young and pretty *and* new in my field…” in a letter about an expected bonus, which made the actual letter kind of a letdown when I realized that it was irrelevant whether OP is “young and pretty” or not. I expected scandal!

  20. JustAnotherHRPro*

    #4 – Alison – I somewhat disagree with your comment that not allowing internal transfers is “terribly short-sighted”. I block internal transfers all the time when the employee has a disciplinary history or other performance issues (such as PIPs or poor performance evals). My approach is that I don’t think it is right to move a problem employee from one functioning contract to another. Granted, this is my general approach – there are times when the above are in place and I still allow the transfer; however, that is a rare exception.

    BUT, that is clearly not what appears to be going on here, and if the OPs manager/director were good at their job, they would have a proper succession plan in place. You cannot rely on anyone being a permanent fixture and to do so is not a good business practice. So to the OP – I think it is time to put yourself out there. Clearly if you can be chosen for this transfer position, you are qualified enough to get an equal (or better!!) position at a more stable, less toxic, organization.

    Good luck!!

    1. Doriana Gray*

      At my company, you can’t post for an internal transfer at all if you have some kind of disciplinary action against you. And once you’re off the PIP, you have to wait a full year before applying for a new position. Maybe your company can institute that rule so that it’s clear from the outset if you don’t already have it in place?

      1. JustAnotherHRPro*

        Oh we do – but that never stops someone from either applying anyway, OR reaching out to the hiring manager themselves and being selective about what they tell the hiring manager about their current situation. The best is when the hiring manager transfers/hires them without engaging HR in a conversation about their employment history. I do the best I can but its always an uphill battle.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Oh man. See, my company has a system in place that once an internal candidate posts for a position, HR gets a notification, as does the candidate’s current manager. The manager has to sign off on the application and HR contacts the manager directly to ask if there are any problems they need to be aware of. Do you all have that kind of software? And if not, could you get it?

          1. Michelenyc*

            My company has the same thing. When I apply for an internal job my manager gets an email that I have applied and has to fill out a short recommendation. If it is not returned to HR within I think 48 hours your application can be denyed.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had a long time support staff person whom I needed to fire for insubordination and we had that policy; I basically told her she had two weeks to transfer before I turned in the paperwork to let her go. She did. She was not a terrible employee but she felt she owned the department and as a new director she felt she could roll me; when I changed the locks after a theft of computers in the department and had strict rules about keys (they had been going out to many people for many years) she decided to pass out keys to several long time occasional consultants who had no need for permanent keys except their status needs and in violation of my rather clear instructions. I suspect the experience of nearly being fired probably made her a decent enough staffer for someone else far far away from me.

    2. AnotherFed*

      Blocking someone who is currently having performance issues is totally different from blocking any transfers ever. I don’t see Alison’s answer as meaning you shouldn’t make exceptions for particular cases, just that you should not have a blanket policy or treat people like serfs to be bartered.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I don’t think Alison meant to not do that if there’s performance issues. That goes without saying.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      Sometimes “performance issues” mean that the employee won’t do something sleazy for the manager and the manager retaliated with bad performance reviews. Sometimes the employee skill set is a bad match for the job. In both cases the employee may appear to be a low performer. In both cases letting the employee out of the organization is a benefit to both employee and company.
      I hope you take the time to **thouroughly** investigate what is going on and don’t rely just on the managers input.
      For example, has the employee had a clean record for 20 years then suddenly have disciplinary problems on a program? Suspicious.
      I also hope that you are honest enough to tell employee you are blocking transfers and why. Employee needs to know that information so they can take appropriate corrective steps.

    5. cupcakes in the breakroom*

      Do you take into consideration what might be behind the performance issues? At my first job, my best work friend was doing great until they hired a new manager, who just took an instant dislike to my friend. She wanted a transfer just to be anywhere BUT reporting to that manager. They resisted at first because of the “performance issues” and then randomly let it through anyway. She never had another issue. If something in the environment is the main cause of the problem, forcing them to deal with it indefinitely is just going to burn them out before they even get to their actual work.

  21. Newbie*

    #4: Is it possible to work out a transition plan? The head of the franchise is most likely concerned about the impact to his franchise in your absence – how is the work going to be done, who will train the new person, etc. Splitting your time between the jobs for a specified transition period and/or offering to provide training to a new hire could make a difference.

    I switched offices within the same company last summer and neither office was thrilled with having a vacancy at that time. We worked out a transition plan where I worked part-time in both offices for a while and then worked with my replacement in the old office to provide training. That way both offices had someone to keep vital tasks moving.

    A few key items with a transition are to be sure expectations and boundaries are clear from the beginning – the duration of the transition; what are the essential tasks in each role expected to be completed (so you’re not expected to complete 80 hours of work every week); can people at old office expect responses to emails/calls when you’re at the new office; the duration of any training of your replacement; etc. Leaving too many things flexible or open-ended could create unreasonable expectations.

  22. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. My company handbook has a paragraph on when the bonuses are paid, and I recently received a company wide email with a message from the CEO along the lines of: “Bonuses will be paid with the next salary. Thanks for all your hard work and let’s make Chocolate Teapots Ltd. even more sucessful.”

    I am of the opinion that whilst bonuses are nice to have, you should never rely on them in your budgeting. Think of it as a special present.

    1. Michelenyc*

      Totally agree with your last line. More people need to keep that in mind. I have a friend that was mad when at review time they told her there would be no bonus or raise this year. She really thought she would be getting a bonus when the company is struggling financially.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I agree, but if they tell you or strongly hint to you that you *will* get one at X time and it should be a five-figure bonus, and it doesn’t materialize, they’ve told you something about yourself. (Maybe just that they’re bad at forecasting bonuses, maybe something more, but still.)

      But until the bonus materializes, OP5, even if you ask and are given a date, budget like it wasn’t there. At _most_ have an alternate plan to flip to when it does happen, if you want to do that.

      (I once had an internal recruiter try to sweeten me on salary by describing the great bonuses I could get when the division I’d be joining got bonuses. It didn’t really sway me at all. It’s the numbers I _definitely will_ get that matter.)

      1. Kyrielle*

        Argh! Something about themselves, not yourself. This is what I get for changing my phrasing and not proofing carefully.

        1. Michelenyc*

          My friend notoriously only hears what she wants to hear so I can say with 99.9999% that after she heard the word bonus she stopped listening.

    3. OP5*

      I totally agree with your second paragraph — I didn’t mean to imply that I was counting on this bonus for budgeting. Just that I would like to know either way, whether it’s coming or not, so that I could plan out my budgeting for the next few months accordingly.

      Good news, though! I followed up with my boss this week (before I saw Alison’s reply, actually, but using almost the exact same phrasing), and he gave me a verbal confirmation that the bonus will indeed be awarded, within the next two weeks. He must have inferred that I’m struggling to find the motivation to keep working as hard as I have been, given that I’m not in love with current direction/leadership. Well, this bonus will certainly help keep me going (at least until I land my next gig — already started looking, shhh).

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          They’re also an effective tool – if an employee was overlooked, or unfairly treated at annual raise time, they can drop a huge bonus on that person, to “make it up” without admitting error. I’ve had that… loved that when it happened.

  23. EmKay*

    #1 actually happened to me las October. I worked at the head office of a bank, there were hundreds of cuts that day, including me, unfortunately.

    A couple days later, one of my managers (I had seven) called me and asked if I had done X. My initial reaction was “aw HALE naw!”, but then I took a breath and talked to her. After all, she didn’t make the decision to eliminate my job, and she was dealing with the fallout as best she could. Turns out she had never asked me to do X in the first place.

    Still looking for another job that’s the right fit. Getting a little antsy about it. Ah well.

  24. Ramen*

    #1 just say no. You are allowed and entitled to say “No.”

    The general consensus seems to be that by “taking the high road” and indulging behavior that is already signaling boundary crossing, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run. The reality is that there’s probably a 50/50 chance they’ll give you a good reference even if you help them. They still – at the end of the day – terminated your employment. They weren’t kind about it. They were short sighted enough to not realize what they’d need from you. Would you even trust these people enough to follow through and sing your praises if a future employer contacted them?

    I understand what everyone else is saying, but oftentimes we overthink things. Your gut is clearly saying you don’t want to help them, so don’t. In reality, it probably won’t make a difference in the long run.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        True enough, and on its face, the advice you gave is sound.

        Learning more, that the OP’s VP blocked her internal transfer and still has her personal belongings isn’t common, though, and that tips the scales. I would normally agree that answering a question or two to save face is kind and will come back, but there is nothing of value for OP to salvage here. Even regarding a reference, I think that ship salied long ago. I’d recommend leaving the questions be and for OP to keep on keepin’ on.

      2. Observer*

        I would normally agree with you, but the issue is not just the perp walk.

        It’s the fact that at no point has her manager acknowledged that it was a blow, and one that was not her fault – even as said manager is asking for help. It’s the fact that the manager blocked a transfer for OP. It’s the fact that the OP’s stuff still has not showed up. It’s a combination of all of these facts.

        This manager is not going to give her a good reference.

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, this.

          I’d be disinclined to help anyway, but an ex-boss who had blocked an internal transfer and was holding my possessions hostage? They can hang, for all I care. That’s not a person who I’d put down as a reference anyway, and I certainly wouldn’t go to any trouble to make their life easier.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            If they’re holding your possessions hostage, that can become a police matter.

            After all, if you failed to turn over keys, laptop, etc. they’d sic the cops on YOU. They’re not immune from that…

  25. TootsNYC*

    Re #5:
    Alison wrote: “Are you able to tell me whether to expect one, and if so, what the timing might be?”
    I wouldn’t ask “are you able to tell me?” I think that gives your manager too big of an out–you’re giving her a ready-made excuse she can use. Make her say, “I’m not at liberty to say yet.” She’s a grownup, she can deal with being put on the spot.

    I’d ask, “You spoke about a bonus. Can I expect one? And if so, what’s the timing on that?”

    1. OP5*

      I had him on the phone one day and just came out with it — a little awkwardly, probably, because I didn’t really think about my phrasing beforehand. It ended up sounding something like, “So I wanted to follow up on something you mentioned in December. The last thing I want is to seem entitled, but you did mention the possibility of bonuses being awarded in March and I was wondering what the status is there?”

      It did the trick though — I got the verbal confirmation I was looking for. I know this sounds like an easy thing to do, but I was second-guessing myself due to the fact that I’d never gotten a bonus before, nor had the company awarded any.

      1. TootsNYC*

        The last thing I want is to seem entitled,

        I confess to not loving this sort of self-deprecating verbiage.

        People may not have been thinking of you as entitled at all, but once you bring it into the conversation, they almost have no choice but to do so.

        Just make it a question, and don’t apologize, or make their excuses for them, or give them an out they haven’t even thought of.

        Fewer words, that’s my vote. Remove clauses.
        “So I wanted to follow up on something you mentioned in December. You said there was a possibility of bonuses being awarded, and I was wondering….”

        It’s perfectly polite, not in the least demanding. But you aren’t putting ideas in his head.

        Glad it’s working out!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Totally agree. Also, it’s not in any way entitled, but by indicating that you worry it might be, you weaken your negotiating position.

        2. OP5*

          I know. I wish I hadn’t said it… but again, I didn’t really prepare beforehand and it just came out that way.

          Thank you for confirming what I suspected, though. This is a bad habit (self-deprecating) that I’m actively working on, and it helps to hear it from friendly e-strangers.

  26. Jake*


    It’s natural to ask directly about this, as long as you use Alison’s advice and make it sound like a follow up question as opposed to a demand.

    That being said, never make forward looking plans based on bonuses unless they are explicitly written into an employment contact. It is super common for “normal” bonuses to not materialize due to a downturn in business, false promises or a million other reasons. It’s usually not nefarious, it’s just reality.

  27. itsame...Adam*

    #1 easy fix. Send your former manager you consulting fee requirement with minimum of 4 hrs paid.

  28. JJ*

    #1 – this happened to me. Office closed and let go without warning, and a few days later i got a text from a coworker asking for help. I did help the coworker because we were friends and had a good relationship and i actually cared about the client involved. had it been my supervisor or any other member of their jack wagon management team, i wouldn’t have responded. we were treated very poorly during the layoff and i lost all respect for them.

  29. Matt F*

    On letter 4: most of the places I’ve worked will approach the candidate’s manager before offering the position to the candidate. If they can’t agree on a transition timeline, they cross that person off the list and go to candidate 2. It’s scummy that the candidate will never know that they lost out on the job due to their manager, but it will save the grief and drama shown in the letter.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Oh, that practice stinks, too. And don’t think the candidate’s don’t know or won’t ever find out why they haven’t gotten these jobs – people talk. If it hasn’t happened already, it will one day. I can easily see something happening where a hiring manager tells a friend at work, “I wanted to hire Jane so badly, she was fantastic, but her manager wanted me to wait six months for her to start, and I couldn’t wait that long and had to move on.” Friend tells somebody else at work and so on. Or hiring manager tells Jane directly in passing because she wants her to know the rejection wasn’t personal. And what do you do after that if you’re Jane? Go back and work for your unreasonable boss like everything’s okay? No, you probably find a new job externally and move on.

      I just don’t understand the thought process that goes into things like this. It’s short-sighted and will cause tremendous resentment in the employee, which will lead to turnover anyway.

  30. NicoleK*

    #1 In a very small niche field or small community, it may make sense to help out former company by answering a few questions (answering questions, not doing actual work). If I had a colleague, who I was on good terms with, who refused to answer any questions I would think twice before helping this person out with their job search, agreeing to become a reference, introducing them to my network, or hiring them if I was in the role of the hiring manager.

    #3 With some jobs, there’s never a good time to quit. The best you can do is give plenty of notice and offer to provide transition assistance.

    #4 Start looking for a new job.

  31. Adam's Off Ox*

    #1: Things have changed a lot in 28 years apparently. Walter Kiechel III, in _Office Hours_ (1988), writes about firings: “Almost nothing justifies nonsense along the lines of ‘Clean out your desk and be out of here in fifteen minutes'” and recommends giving the laid-off person another office to use temporarily if the manager is worried that the laid-off person might swipe proprietary company info.

  32. newlyhr*

    #1–if you can provide some information for your employer in a one paragraph email, I would encourage you to go ahead and do it as part of sending out good karma into the world. :) But I would make it short and sweet and end with something like–this is all the information I have about X. If you get another email from them, I would just tell them you do not have any more information to provide them about X. I would not get into any details about being busy or any other personal information about you. And I DEFINITELY would not offer to return to work under any circumstances. This sounds like a place to be done with.

  33. swedishandful*

    OP#3 If I may suggest: sit down and draft a super detailed handover document. What you’re working on, in what process it is in, what are the next steps, who are you waiting on and for what, how certain things are usually handed (especially when different from expectations/norms), where are the files, who to contact for what information, log-ins, literally every tiny detail about your job. It will take a few days to get to a point that others can use it as a reference. Keep it updated daily or weekly. That way when you are ready to pull the trigger you’ll feel like you’ve done it in good faith. Also, depending on your final distribution size, can help shut down any potential rumors that you left under bad terms.

    It’s also a nice reference for years later when you find yourself wondering what you actually accomplished at said job.

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