contractor deleted shared files I paid for, it is OK to discuss a firing with others, and more

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

1. Contractor deleted shared files that I still need

In January last year, I commissioned a writer to write three scripts for a project I am working on, which was awarded funding. I did not specify the format that the work had to be delivered in, only that they would do the work and later I would revisit the documents to edit more.

In Jan/Feb last year, they sent me draft versions of the documents via Google Docs, along with an email which effectively said “they’re yours now, do what you want with them.” We had put a few comments on the documents, but the implied agreement was that I would come back and edit them more, and maybe they’d revisit them as well later in the project. I paid the writer for the work as soon as it was done.

Like many projects, this one was put on hold in March 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis, and I have only just been able to start work on it again. However, when I came to look at the files the writer had worked on, they had been deleted from the writer’s Google Drive. I hadn’t made a backup, since these were working documents in an ongoing project, which would likely require the original writer to come back for final edits some time in the future.

I emailed the writer, and they told me that since the project was “so long ago,” they “might have accidentally deleted the files” from their Google Drive. I realize that there has been a lot of confusion in the past year, particularly for people working in precarious fields, but the project was definitely ongoing (which I’d explained to the writer several times in the intervening period).

I am upset because the work — and therefore the money I’d spent on it — appears lost, but also frustrated that something I paid for has been deleted with no backup whatsoever. The writer doesn’t really seem to care, and the project has been significantly set back after an already huge setback. One third of our relatively small budget was spent on these scripts, which were in progress, but now have disappeared completely. I can’t afford to pay anyone to do the work again, which means that I will likely end up doing it myself.

What is reasonable behaviour in this instance? I would assume at bare minimum the writer should apologize, and perhaps offer an hour of their time to explain what they’d done so I could make a start on redoing their work.

Oh no. The thing is, though, the writer assumed their part was done (and paid for), and if you’d wanted them to do more work later, it sounds like that would have been negotiated separately / wasn’t a done deal. I can see how the writer wouldn’t think they needed to store the work indefinitely — when so much time had gone by (over a year!), it would be easy to assume they could stop storing the files in their own Google Drive. You were basically expecting them to store something for you rather than storing it yourself. That’s not to blame you! It’s easy to see how this happened on both sides. But I don’t think the writer is really to blame either.

If it’s been less than 30 days since the files were deleted and the writer hasn’t emptied their Google Drive trash, they should be retrievable, so you should ask about that. But if they’re not there … you can’t really hold the writer accountable for not storing files indefinitely; they undoubtedly (and reasonably) believed you’d taken possession of them in whatever way suited you. If I were the writer, I’d certainly apologize, but I don’t think you can demand that of them. You could probably ask for an hour of their time to walk you through what they’d done; most people would agree to that out of good will and to preserve the relationship, and because this is such an unfortunate thing. I’m sorry!

2. Can I ask to be included in the raises my office is doing from before I started?

I started a new job in February and it’s been great! They’d had a raise freeze because of Covid (same as my last workplace) and just announced they were lifting that and paying back pay to September when the raise would have originally gone through! Except I’m not part of that since I started after September. Is there any point in asking if I can be included in the raise after only four months?

If it makes a difference, the job’s 100% public facing so I’ve been dealing with wearing a mask and asking people to wear theirs almost this whole time, which has been as exhausting as it sounds. My job hasn’t changed since I started so I wouldn’t want much of a raise, just cost of living since I’m already in a low paying field (nonprofit).

You definitely can’t! They’re doing raises for people who earned them in September, which isn’t you — you weren’t even working there then. Asking for a raise after only four months on the job just because they’re now able to go back and pay out the raises people earned last year would look really out-of-touch and doesn’t make much sense. This isn’t a perk that everyone should be able to share in; it’s compensation adjustments for people who earned them via their work and their tenure.

Typically you shouldn’t expect a raise until you’ve been in a job for at least a year (unless the job changes significantly from what it was expected to be when you were hired).

3. Is it okay for a boss to discuss the details of a firing with others?

I was fired from a job nine months ago. I recently found out that my ex-boss disclosed the nitty gritty of my firing to a person who he was collaborating with on a project. This collaborator is in my field and, as it turns out, is a friend of a friend, which is how I found out that the ex-boss was talking about me. The collaborator was not working for the company at the time of my firing, so they are definitely not the one who brought my firing up.

(Not sure if this matters, but before I was fired, this boss also apparently met with several of my then-coworkers to ask them if the situation for which I was fired would have offended them them. It’s not clear to me if he mentioned that I was the person involved in the situation, but when I was fired, I’m pretty sure it would have then been clear who it was.)

This was a very traumatic experience for me so I’m having a hard time gauging if this is inappropriate or if I’m blowing it out of proportion. I’m not super interested in legalities, but is it okay for ex-employers to discuss the details of firings with other people, especially those that are working for them?

Firing someone is a big deal, and anyone who has to do it should try to give the person being fired as much respect and privacy as they reasonably can.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to discuss a firing with others, like if the something about the situation will affect their work. And it’s not across-the-board wrong to seek input from colleagues if that input is directly relevant (like if your boss was trying to determine how the situation that eventually led to your firing had affected others in the office, as part of deciding what to do). But it’s not okay to discuss it in a way that’s more like gossip — just as a point of interest, or to vent, or to hash over the details for the hell of it, or to smear someone’s name. It’s not clear whether that was the case with your then-coworkers, but it does sound like it might have been the case with the person your boss was collaborating with.

4. If the VPN goes out, does a company still have to pay remote employees?

If a company’s VPN goes out for three days, can the company reserve the right not to pay remote employees or force them to use vacation time?

If the employees are exempt, they can be required to use vacation time but they still have to be paid. The law requires that exempt employees be paid their full salary for any week in which they do any work (with a few narrow exceptions, like if they’re working a partial week because it’s their first or last week of work).

If the employees are non-exempt, the company doesn’t have to pay them for any time when they weren’t working. It’s pretty crappy to dock their pay if they’re ready and willing to work and can’t because the company’s technology isn’t working, but it’s legal.

However … were people truly free to do whatever they liked with those days or were they waiting around by their computers/phones to see when the VPN might be fixed? If it was the latter, then they were what’s called “engaged to wait” and do need to be paid (very much so if that was at the employer’s request).

5. Can I ask how my interviewer has changed since I worked for them 15 years ago?

I work in higher education and have worked at the same institution but in several departments over the past 15 years. I was hired into my first admin assistant type position right out of undergrad (that same institution for which I work) into my first full-time position. Timelapse to now, I have an interview next week where the manager for the department will be my first supervisor who hired me way back when. At that time, they were new to supervising staff and although we had no major issues, I’ve now come to recognize they were definitely learning how to supervise staff and if I came across that today, I would be likely to job hunt.

For this position, there would be an intermediary supervisor between myself and the manager, and it’s been so long since we’ve connected at all and, well, it’s been 15 years. I believe a lot of growth can happen over that period of time but I didn’t know this person would be the manager when I applied so I have not been able to consider it until now. I don’t want to withdraw from the opportunity and I’m not in desperate straits to change jobs (and I’ve watched your how to prepare for an interview guide) so this is practice at the very least for continuing to look for opportunities for the future, but how do I handle this? I’ve been told that the panel will be five people, of which no doubt, the manager will be one. Do I acknowledge the connection if they don’t do it at the beginning? How do I ask about what they’ve learned about supervision over the past 15 years and if they will be a good fit for me if we don’t acknowledge it?

It would be fine to say this: “I of course know a little bit from working together 15 years ago, but I’m sure we’ve both changed a lot in that time! Can you tell me about your management style now?” I wouldn’t specifically call out “what you’ve learned in 15 years” since that pretty strongly implies you think they had a lot to learn. (They did! Everyone does. But it still feels like an awkward thing to say in an interview.)

That said, I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in the answer, unless you get a really nuanced, insightful response that seems to indicate an understanding of their specific weaknesses when you last worked together. People are generally terrible judges of their own management styles, and their self-assessments often bear no resemblance whatsoever to what it’s actually like to be managed by them. It’s fine to ask the question — you might hear something interesting — but I’d put the most weight on what you hear from talking to people who have been managed by her more recently. (Which hopefully should be pretty easy to do since you work there already.)

{ 417 comments… read them below }

  1. Kella*

    Regarding OP1, I’m definitely open to hearing from folks who have more professional writing/editing experience than I do but I actually disagree with Alison here. Mainly for two reasons:

    1. It sounds like there *was* some amount of communication in the meantime that the project wasn’t done and that there would be a round of editing involving the writer’s input later on. As someone who has been on both the writing and editing side of things, I’d never assume that someone I had submitted my document to on google doc had made a backup when they hadn’t published it or finished editing it yet. And on the rare occasion that a project takes way longer than expected, all I need is some communication from the publisher to say “We haven’t forgotten about it, it’s just taking a while” and I leave it to them to keep track of.

    2. While sharing a google doc with someone is kind of like storing it for them, google docs specifically warns you when you are deleting a document that you’ve shared with other people. It’s not like just cleaning out your computer and mass deleting old files. So the fact that they said they “might have accidentally deleted the files” seems rather disingenuous. They definitely would’ve been prompted to contact the OP and check to see if they still needed the document or not.

    1. Blue*

      I agree wholeheartedly, as a professional writer who works with many types of clients. I would never delete client work that wasn’t fully executed, and if I did I would apologize profusely and at least do everything in my power to find a backup. It’s not like these are huge video files taking up space in the writer’s drive. It sounds like a genuine accident, but certainly not professional best practice.

      1. DEJ*

        I used to regularly use Google Drive to send large video and photo files and was constantly clearing mine out. I was always telling people ‘please move your files to your own storage space promptly’ because we did have some instances when people didn’t do that and I had to resend them later. However, if it was applicable I would unshare myself from the file/folder instead of deleting them, and that’s what really should have happened in this case. At the end of the day, I think both parties made a mistake here.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          If would definitely have been considerate for the contractor to have been clear that the OP needed to download the file, and to warn before deleting a shared file. At the same time, it was the OP’s responsibility to have an offline copy, particularly after the job was finished. It’s worth asking the contractor if he has a backup copy though – I’ve done some freelance editing, and I always keep a copy of the final document in my own archive.

          I’m wincing in sympathy here, though – this is a lesson a lot of people learn the hard way. If a document is important, never, ever, ever have a copy in only one place. A copy on the shared Google drive, a copy on the local system, and copies in whatever methods the OP uses to backup their computer drive.

          1. WellRed*

            Yes I’m surprised the writer doesn’t have a back up copy somewhere. As a writer, I can’t imagine they don’t.

            1. Worldwalker*

              You can get a 1 terabyte pocket SSD drive for cheap. I know, because I have two for my rotating offsite backup. “Offsite” doesn’t have to be elaborate. Mine is just my storage unit (climate-controlled; it’s mostly full of books) — it used to be my husband’s office desk drawer. It’s cheap insurance.

              1. TardyTardis*

                I can buy 1.5T worth of storage for $20–ok, it’s scattered over 5 32g thumb drives, but it’s still storage.

            2. Freya*

              This – I keep backups of a lot of work I’ve done over the years, for a bunch of reasons, including insurance against other people deleting stuff, and being able to do a quick self-plagiarism check! Also because the associated reference lists are a good place to start for similar projects rather than starting research from scratch.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yeah! I keep copies of all my work, you never know when you might not need it for reference. Clients have contacted me further to tech accidents, asking whether I still have a file, and I often get updates: a website I translated five years ago, that’s being added to and updated. I need to check up on the terminology, so I can remain consistent with what I’ve already produced, and I need to write in the same style.

                So yeah both parties are partly to blame here. Since the writer was paid for their work, they may have deemed it no longer necessary to keep the work on their drive, especially since so much time has passed and if it were to go to court, I think the judge would say that the job was obviously finished and the writer shouldn’t have had to keep a copy. Of course Covid has put lots of projects on back burners too.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Oh, but I would never deliver a project by sharing it on Google Drive. I always email the files. People tend to not delete emails, and even if my client deleted theirs, I will still have the sentmail copy on my laptop.

                2. Dahlia*

                  Gmail has size limits and if your file is too big, it’ll automatically upload to google drive when you email it.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              As a writer, I’m surprised both sides don’t have backups.

              But OP: You are the only one who could control whether you have a backup of the work.

              And I have been in situations where someone might hope I might come back if they needed some edits months (or years) later, but when it finally rolled around I was fully occupied with other things, or (recently) I was having surgery and couldn’t within the timeframe they needed. In which case someone else needed to make those edits, on documents the company held. If the writer had been hit by a bus you would have been out of luck, too–“one copy, on someone else’s google drive” was not a secure way to keep track of these.

              1. onco fonco*

                Yeah, I could lay hands on more or less every document I’ve ever delivered to a client – but I would be startled and a little eye-rolly if a client simply expected me to keep stuff for them to the extent that they had never once downloaded their own copy. From the other side, for anything I’ve ever commissioned that was to be worked on in a shared Google doc, *I* have created the doc on my company drive and shared it with the author for them to work in. I want to be in control of permissions etc. for that file!

            4. Chickaletta*

              This is a great point. When I was a graphic designer I used Dropbox to transfer files all the time. But I also explicitly told the client to download those files onto their own drives/computers (and preferably a second backup location) because a day would come when I delete them from Dropbox. However, I always have a copy of everything on my own laptop too. So it’s interesting that the writer doesn’t have another copy somewhere. There were multiple failure points along this whole process.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            This, especially multiple copies. I’m skeptical of just using cloud storage because accidents and failures happen.

            I don’t know how this particular writer does things, but I never delete any of my work completely. I don’t think it would be bad to ask the writer if they have a copy; even if it’s only a draft, that might be workable.

            And next time, download and back that sucker up.

          3. Nic*

            Honestly, I think “They’re yours now, do what you want with them” is a pretty clear indication that the writer believes their part of the job is at an end. If I got that message, I’d certainly expect that the writer a) doesn’t foresee any future collaborative edits to include them, and b) is expecting me to download and take the responsibility for safekeeping onto my own shoulders.

            LW#1 should have clarified the misunderstanding if they wanted further active collaboration, and also clarified timescales for leaving the files up and open to editing. Or downloaded the files and reuploaded on their own cloud storage, for further collaboration.

        2. Saint Dorothy Mantooth*

          Yes–came here to say exactly this. This was a communication misfire on both sides. I’m constantly compressing or deleting files to get storage back on my drive–but never without ensuring that the client has a copy of the work. Writer should have confirmed that OP1 had a local copy before deleting–but OP1 should have made arrangements to take ownership of the file once the work was paid for. It’s weird to me that this didn’t get brought up over the course of their interaction.

      2. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Agreed! That’s one reason why, when I was copywriting, I always submitted work in a Word doc over email (unless they really wanted me to use Google Docs).

        More than once I’ve had someone lose a document I sent them, and then it was easy to fish it out for them.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Another benefit of sending an attachment over a link is that it easily snapshots what it looked like at that time – yes you can track or audit versions, but sometimes it’s handy to be able to say “I sent exactly this version to client on this date”.

          I feel for LW and I’m sure it won’t happen again.

        2. Sylvan*

          Yeah. I’m a copywriter and this is why we keep backups. If someone loses a document due to a mistake on their end or mine, I should be able to send it again.

      3. Jinni*

        This^^^ It makes no sense to me. I feel like there’s something missing. I recently moved desktops and dragged all those 25 year old WordPerfect files along for the ride even though no single newspaper or magazine is ever asking for that stuff again.

        In LA now, I can’t IMAGINE a screenwriter deleting an entire script before the project is complete. Maybe the notes, maybe?? But the script? While the payment is one thing, the collaboration is usually considered ongoing…

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          I doubt that THAT particular collaboration will be “ongoing” at this point!

      4. NinaBee*

        Maybe the writer in the letter was more junior and hasn’t quite worked out professional norms yet (of course that’s complete speculation but could explain the scenario)

        1. TiredMama*

          That was my guess. But still pretty short-sighted to not keep a copy for your own records. I also wondered but with no proof that the working relationship had been contentious for some reason and writer did it on purpose.

      5. CheezeWhizzard*

        Absolutely not best practice. Both people involved in this incident sound inexperienced to me. I use the Google Suite frequently and when I have a client like this I a) transfer ownership of the file(s) to the client, b) email them a PDF copy of the document, and c) keep a PDF for my own records. CYA at all times.

      6. Observer*

        It’s not like these are huge video files taking up space in the writer’s drive.

        You don’t know what else is / was on that drive. And you don’t know what else that person was managing. So, you really can’t know how “justified” their decision is.

      7. tamarack and fireweed*

        Interesting to hear from the writers’ perspective. As someone more typically on the other side of that exchange (ie, the LW’s) I’d have considered it my job to take possession of the deliverables (by copying them into my own Google Drive for example. This said, a) there is enough of a grey are of communication here that I hope the writer rethinks their communication (“the files will be available in the drive until X – could you please retrieve a copy” – and then confirm this actually happened) and b) if there is a suggestion that this job might be one to continue on/build on in the future I would expect the writer to keep an archive of their past work. Not necessarily for my use, but just as good professional practice. And if not they would clearly communicate their archiving practices.

        So while the writer didn’t have the best practices neither did the LW. The writer should definitely not have deleted anything without clear communication. The LW can’t expect online file hosting for an indefinite time, though.

      8. RJ*

        I completely disagree. If you’re using Google drive, it is your responsibility to “Save a Copy” of any shared file you want to keep and never rely on someone else to retain copies of documents that are important to you. Seriously: never.

    2. Language Lover*

      It was an ongoing project for the LW but the original writer’s involvement is less certain.

      but the implied agreement was that I would come back and edit them more, and maybe they’d revisit them as well later in the project.

      The use of implied and the maybes indicate to me that there were no firm plans to bring back the original writer. It’s clearly an ongoing project for the LW but for the writer, it probably ended once they were paid and it had been over a year since they completed that work.

      Any revisit of the scripts would probably be treated like a new project for the writer.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I get the feeling this was a handshake agreement. This is exactly why I get formal contracts, even when I’m working with friends. That way, everyone’s on the same page. There are no “maybes” and implications; it’s all spelled out. I got burned too many times, years ago, with “Oh, I thought…” (and, to be fair, was the person saying “I thought…” a few times myself).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same; I have two friends who beta read for me and they’re required to agree to written terms before they do.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I’ve frequently used beta readers, but I’m not familiar with having them agree to terms, since there’s generally no exchange of any quantifiable value.

            What sort of terms do you ask for, and what’s the reason for it?

      2. NotJane*

        The word “implied” was a red flag for me as well, because it leaves so much (too much) open to interpretation. What OP thought was implied in the agreement (which I have assume was rather loosey-goosey to begin with, or else neither party would have to “imply” anything) vs. what the writer thought could be two different things, and it sounds like that might have been the case here.

        Similarly, this line also caught my attention:

        “…along with an email which effectively said ‘they’re yours now, do what you want with them’.”

        That makes it sound like the writer felt she had completed the job for which she was hired and paid, and was, at that point, delivering the “product” to OP, as Alison said. Just because the project was “ongoing” for OP (it is their project, after all), doesn’t mean its “ongoing” for the writer, despite the possibility of her being needed for edits “sometime in the future”. IMO, it was incumbent on OP to save and secure the product for which they paid, not on the writer who had completed and delivered the work she was hired to do.

        This is why it’s so important to get/put these details in writing – if not in a formal, signed contract, then at least in a series of emails back and forth, so that all parties are on the same page when it comes to everyone’s roles and expectations.

    3. Not Australian*

      Yes, it was work produced *for* the client and belongs *to* the client; the writer shouldn’t delete that without consulting the client first and/or making sure they have a back-up copy in whatever form. Of course (at least in the UK) the writer also doesn’t have the right to hold onto the text indefinitely as the copyright belongs to the client, but a minimum professional standard would involve *not* deleting the text without first checking with the client.

      1. Another British poster*

        In the UK, a writer generally owns the copyright to their own work, not the theatre/TV company/movie studio who commissioned or greenlit it. I don’t own the copyright to the finished films or plays, of course, but I do own the copyright to the actual screenplays and scripts I’ve written, at least to the original texts. A specific contract might govern future usage rights but there’s no way a writer doesn’t have the legal right to keep their own writing forever.

        LA is a bit different because the UK has a writers culture where the writer is put on a pedestal (especially in theatre) but LA treats writers as replaceable. However this doesn’t sound like that kind of scenario, and it really has no bearing on the writer being obligated or not to store the script.

        1. Worldwalker*

          It sounds like the UK doesn’t have “work for hire” like the US does. That seems a bit bizarre. If I paid someone to create something for me, what would I have? First usage rights? Nothing at all, and I have to license the thing I’ve already paid for separately? I’m kind of confused here.

          1. Ori*

            It’s different in different professional contexts. A writer would own a script, perhaps, but if you paid me to say, write a blog post, it would be your blog post.

          2. Another British poster*

            It completely depends on context and contract.

            If I’m hired to write an episode of Law and Order then the production company/NBC own the copyright. (Though I can certainly keep the screenplay and show it to potential employers as part of my portfolio.) If I’m commissioned to write a stage play for the West End, I own the copyright and the production company own first look or whatever the contract said. Normally it’s first look and exclusive rights for a year. If I sell an original TV show to Netflix, all that stuff is negotiated down to the nitty gritty details governing exact usage in different territories, ownership of characters, spin-offs, ancillaries, toys, everything.

            That’s why professional writers have literary agents, because rights are so complicated.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        But it is the writer’s google drive not the LW’s. The LW should not expect to access the writers storage after the contract ends.

        1. Sun Tzu*

          Not wanting to beat a dead horse, and with sympathy for the OP, but this is exactly the point. As soon the writer finished to write the work (and was paid by the OP), the OP should have downloaded a copy on their computer.
          This said, I am surprised the writer didn’t save a backup copy, given the extremely low prices for file storage nowadays.
          Both OP and the contractor were sloppy and unprofessional, IMHO.

          1. Klio*

            I suspect the writer does have a copy but for whatever reason is pissed off at the LW and therefore not inclined to simply pull it out.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              Me too! I’m betting the contract script writer has a copy of his own work on a (more) personal drive somewhere. I can’t imagine he did the work, legitimately deleted from the drive where is is shared with his clients, and didn’t keep his own copy.

              LW1 made a mistake. The contract has legally ended over a year ago.

              LW1 best hope chance is to pay the contract scriptwriter a “finder fee” (someone below suggested that) or my own thought use a carrot of future contracts/stick of no future contracts to get the scriptwriter to look for and find his copy and redeliver to work product.

            2. Coder von Frankenstein*

              Is there any reason to believe this is the case, other than incredulity at the idea that the writer might have deleted the file?

              (And I can totally believe the writer deleted the file. The fact that it is not the optimal workflow, or that there is no real reason for it, doesn’t mean it would never happen. People do pointless, non-optimal things all the time.)

              1. Klio*

                The quoted parts. I’d say the writer was not happy about being kept informally on the hook for so long.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                I wonder whose idea the google docs format was? My kids use this for school stuff; I don’t normally use it for work. But if a client wants me to work online on a shared document in some format, then I just work there–I don’t try to download separate copies.

                I would consider sending a Word document (if it was to be edited) or PDF (if you wanted this ‘locked’ version) as an email attachment to be the norms here. But that’s sort of explicitly if you aren’t trying to work in the only-shared-and-online model.

                1. boo bot*

                  Yeah, this is what I was thinking – this is one reason I don’t use google docs. If you’re emailing documents, you automatically have a backup system: I have the original document, the client has their downloaded copy, and we each have the email attachment!

                  It also allows for version control – I can prove what I did and when, and there’s no chance of losing a previous iteration of the document that contained necessary information. If a client really wants to work in google docs, I download the version I’m working on to edit, and upload it again as a new document. If they *really* insisted on keeping the work all in one shared document, I guess I would make all my changes, then download the updated version for myself every time, so I had it. Version control is everything.

                  That said, the OP should have stored a copy of this work.

                2. Observer*

                  Yes, if the client wants you to work on their document YOU HAVE THE DOCUMENT. There is no good reason that the OP didn’t download the document.

                3. Observer*

                  @boo bot, emailing is a pretty poor “backup” system. If you want backups, then use an actual backup system.

                  It also allows for version control – I can prove what I did and when, and there’s no chance of losing a previous iteration of the document that contained necessary information.

                  Actually, Google Docs version control is FAR better for this purpose than keeping a set of documents synchronized. Everything anyone does is recorded and you can roll back to pretty much any version, or just take bits an pieces. But you never have to worry about different people being on different versions on your document.

              3. GothicBee*

                Yeah, I find it hard to believe the writer has a copy and just isn’t sending it because that would be the easiest way to get the LW off their back. That said, I find it really easy to believe the writer deleted it and didn’t keep any copies anywhere because they were done with the project and don’t plan on revisiting it regardless of whether the LW wants to bring them back or not.

            3. Sparkles McFadden*

              I am betting that there were issues during the active part of the project, hence the “They’re yours now, do what you want with them.” email. That wording suggests “I am washing my hands of this…good luck to you.”

              Sorry this work was lost LW, but not backing up the files after the writer pretty much said “I am done with this” was unwise. You can’t expect a contracted worker to store your files for you indefinitely, even if they are still a work in progress…and especially not in an unprecedented pandemic year.

            4. Autumnheart*

              Maybe they do or they don’t. A year and a half is kind of a while between edits, and if the writer is in reasonable demand, they may have had to make room for current projects. Or they put it on a flash drive and can’t find the flash drive. Or whatever.

              Regardless, it was the client’s job to store their own file and make their own backup. They should have done that upon receiving the file back when the writer informed them and sent the file.

      3. Cat Lover*

        Hmmm, I’m not sure it’s the writer’s job to make sure the LW backs up things, especially because it was the writer’s google doc. I certainly wouldn’t expect someone to store something for over a year that wasn’t being used.

        LW needed to back that up as soon as they got it.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It’s definitely not the writer’s job to make sure the LW backs things up, and I think it’s weird that the LW didn’t save these to somewhere more secure than Google. If all the writer’s clients did this, the writer would be wading through possibly-defunct files forever.

          “They’re yours now” sounds like a firm hand-off to me and I would not have assumed that the writer was going to store them for me after that.

          1. Willis*

            Yeah, I think the fact that the OP understood the writer to be making a final “they’re yours now” hand off via the Google doc link is what seals the deal for me. At that point, the OP needed to download and save for sure. If it had been a situation where they were collaborating on a draft using Google doc and it got haphazardly backburnered during the pandemic, I’d think the writer was more responsible. But sounds like both parties understood this to be done and paid for.

            (All that being said, we definitely keep copies of client work for internal reasons and would generally have stuff like this available if a client somehow lost all our work. It sort of sounds like both of these people are not particularly organized and/or experienced, or maybe that this wasn’t that big of a project for the writer, if they didn’t bother to save it elsewhere.)

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        The client needs to receive the work though! If I have a bookcase built by a woodworker, and they put it on their doorstep for me to pick up, and I don’t pick it up… then they don’t have to leave it there forever. The difference being that files can be infinitely copied, and it would not be clear to the creator that the work hasn’t been picked up. Working in someone else’s shared drive without an agreement is not cool.

    4. Anzi*

      Honestly, it sounds like OP #1 has very little experience with contractors. Their expectations might be reasonable with an employee, but not at all with a contractor.

      1. The project might not be done on the OP’s side, but it sure was on the writer’s. The writer sent the files, OP paid the writer. Once I’m paid, that’s it. Job done. An implied agreement that I’d maybe revisit it in the future isn’t a actual job. And even if OP did come back and ask me to revisit it, that’s two separate jobs, and I am not responsible for anything that happens in between.

      2. I’m under no obligation to host a client’s project. Even if the future editing was in the original contract, I’m not a hosting service. If OP wanted me to host their files until the project was complete on their end, there would need to be a specific line in the contract stating that I was responsible for that. It’s two clicks to make/download a copy in Google Docs. Not backing up the files (because it’s an ongoing project? What?) is both irresponsible and baffling.

      About the only thing the writer did wrong was the ‘might have deleted your files’ bit rather than outright stating that they are not a hosting service and the files are OP’s responsibility.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this is how I am leaning. Also, there are good reasons to delete beyond ‘not a hosting service’ – confidentiality, as in I don’t want to be responsible if there is a data leak. Privacy in some cases.

        And, especially in the plague era, all promises of ‘this will be picked up when we can’ were questionable, for obvious reasons.

        1. Tara*

          I agree with you. There obviously should have been more communication, but there’s no way I would assume I should hold on to something for the person who contracted me. OP wasn’t paying for the use of the contractor’s Google Drive. If the contractor didn’t have anything to do with it anymore, I think it made sense to delete.

          1. Another British poster*

            I do wonder if this is a creative writing project, or more of a technical writing or copywriting kind of gig. The reference to scripts, etc. Because the entire culture behind creative writing and collaboration is completely different to any other kind of writing.

            I’d be very surprised to be referred to as a “sub-contractor” by someone who’d commissioned me to write a screenplay.

            If it’s more technical writing then I’ve changed my opinion and the writer didn’t do anything wrong.

            1. Esmeralda*

              Doesn’t sound creative. We write scripts for instructional videos for students to use our LMS, for instance, or for “welcome class of 2025” vids, etc. Scripts for webinars on llama grooming, whatever

            2. Person from the Resume*

              I was picturing a script for a training video or something similar.

              I’m not in Hollywood, but this doesn’t sound like a screenplay.

              1. Nynaeve*

                Yeah, I can’t imagine trying to do Hollywood script formatting in Google Docs. They’d likely use Final Draft or send as a PDF. This sounds more like a training video to me (or programming, as someone pointed out below).

      2. Willis*

        I agree with this. This was a third of the OP’s project budget and they didn’t save the work their contractor sent over a year ago? It’s definitely frustrating, but I think the OP’s frustration should lie primarily with themselves.

        I hire subcontractors sometimes and wouldn’t expect them to leave my work on their shared drive indefinitely once I’d accepted and paid for their work, even if I might do some subsequent editing on it and re-engage them for additional work. Last year was chaotic so I can easily understand how the OP overlooked saving the file, but I don’t think there’s much that can be done at this point other than to ask the writer again if they have a backup or ask for an hour or so of their time to talk about the work. But I’d frame that as a polite request for assistance, not an argument. If the OP was already arguing with the writer about this, I could understand if they don’t want to put additional effort into “preserving the relationship.”

        1. Indisch blau*

          Does anyone else think it’s strange that an hour would be enough time to bring LW1 up to date on such a large project?

          1. Colette*

            I think an hour is as much as it’s reasonable to ask; it won’t replace having the work itself.

      3. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yeah, wouldn’t you usually take extra care to back up ongoing projects, precisely to prevent sudden loss of data setting you back significantly?

        At any rate, I would ask the writer politely if they happen to have a back-up or for that hour of their time (though it is possible the writer will bill you for that). While an apology from the writer would be nice, I don’t think you are in any position to demand one nor do I really feel like the writer is obligated to give one – you are at least partly to blame here as well. Take this as an important lesson learned.

      4. The Ipcress File*

        Absolutely agree with this and with Alison’s response. The question to be answered is whether the contractor delivered the work that was agreed and paid for, and they have done that. The contractor is not obligated to continue to host the documents after these have been shared.

      5. Andy*

        I dont think it would be reasonable to expect employee to host company files on his/her personal google drive. It would be reasonable to expect them to not delete files from company share. But, if employee gives you file through own google drive, then the company should copy it to own space.

        1. Worldwalker*

          It’s a contractor, not an employee. They delivered the work that was commissioned, they got paid, it’s done.

      6. Nine*

        Yeah writing on contract and deleting three scripts — THREE scripts — written within the last 18 months from a shared Google document and acting this casually about it, career dead in Hollywood. Just saying.

        1. Smithy*

          I get that for Hollywood/creative projects this may be the case – but I’ve worked with writers for scripts as part of grant proposals where a video is required…..and I struggle to see those writers having the same level of investment in that work.

          Additionally, there’s the potential for the writer to have a much higher volume of scripts in process for videos that can be as short as a few minutes. It may be that the OP was taking a more Hollywood/creative view of the nature of the content. but the writer does a lot of technical writing and that’s where more of the attitude is coming from.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          What makes you think this is Hollywood?

          Sounds like scripts for a training video or something.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Seconding on the training videos, or PSAs.

            Hollywood film or TV scripts is much more of an ongoing collaboration model. This seems more straightforward work-for-hire: Produce a script for a video that will explain how to attach a teapot to a llama, within these constraints, using this style. That’s not usually an “indefinite file hosting, indefinite future edits” situation–same for the completed videos.

          2. Jinni*

            You’re right. I’ve lived in LA for 20 years as a writer, so screenplay was my first thought. But I’ve never heard of my screenwriter friends being referred to as ‘contractors.’
            This changes my opinion in favor of the writer! My first reading was that this was SO VERY unprofessional.
            I *still* can’t see tossing things out, but I’m a digital hoarder, I guess.

          3. quill*

            I assumed that scripts = programs. Say… “here’s your script to do this specific function with excel”
            It might explain LW not having other experience accepting freelance work (how often do you need to commission a minor program?) and the contractor being DEEPLY OVER any programming they did a year ago.

            1. Simply the best*

              So glad somebody else said this! Everybody is talking about Hollywood and screenplays and I’m like…what? I definitely assumed this was programming not screen writing.

              1. Another British poster*

                Having re-read it I’m now thinking it’s either corporate videos, or some little fringe thing.

            2. Observer*

              I was thinking about it, although I do think that PSA’s or the like is more likely.

              But if it was something like an SQL script, that makes it even more ridiculous that the OP would not have backed it up.

        3. twocents*

          What Hollywood production blows 1/3 of their budget on scripts alone and then doesn’t even save a backup?

          1. Autumnheart*

            What Hollywood production can’t afford secure document hosting, either? What could that cost, $100/mo? Not even?

        4. Observer*

          career dead in Hollywood.

          This does not sound like Hollywood. But if it is, then I imagine that either the writer is willing to take the risk, or you’re right and they won’t be in business much longer.

          On the other hand, is it OK in Hollywood to not make archival / backup copies of “THREE Scripts” that you need to put on hold, just because they have not been finished? Which is to say, that even if the writer committed career suicide, that doesn’t change the fact that OP did not do their due diligence here.

      7. Worldwalker*

        Entirely this.

        I commission art, not writing, but it works the same way. Once the artist delivers the files and I deliver the payment, it’s done. We have both fulfilled our sides of the contract.

        That said, I know for sure that one artist keeps backups of the files because I periodically commission changes in one piece I commissioned from him. It’s cover art for a product — it’s had to change a couple of times as the product has changed. So from his point of view those files can produce an ongoing stream of income … not much from just me, but if you multiply that by however many clients have commissioned art from him, it’s probably non-trivial.

        But he doesn’t have any obligation to do that. I got what he agreed to: a picture. He got what I agreed to: a payment. Nothing was said about file storage or backup.

        Also, OP, you can never be sure someone is going to be around to store your files for you indefinitely. They might get run over by a bus tomorrow. They might join a strange religious cult. They might decide they’ve made enough money and they’re going to move to the Caribbean and spend the rest of their life on a beach sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them. Or, most likely, they might just accidentally delete the file while tidying up … and since they had no contractual obligation not to do so, that’s okay. Back up your own files to something under your control.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I really like the one about retiring to the Caribbean and really not caring about anyone’s backup or edits ever again.

      8. Dust Bunny*

        All of this. It was the LW’s responsibility to make sure the files were backed up on something other than the writer’s Google Docs.

      9. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘About the only thing the writer did wrong was the ‘might have deleted your files’ bit rather than outright stating that they are not a hosting service and the files are OP’s responsibility.’

        I sort of lean this way too, because a contracted consultant isn’t obligated to store files indefinitely. If the OP wants to put the responsibility on the writer, she should have said so explicitly.

        However, there’s something to be said for contractors backing up their work, if only to serve as a record of their delivered work product. I returned to consulting last year and am still a belt-and-suspenders type: working doc thumb drive and desktop folders; finished work in said folders and also external drive, and Google Docs; and online back up of critical documents once a week including saved emails to the client with the final work product. I have lost work before due to laptop meltdowns, or I needed to prove delivered product to someone outside the process. Now I am absurdly cautious.

        To be fair, most vendors I’ve contracted have easily provided copies if I needed them after the fact. But unless I paid for them to host or archive the work, it wasn’t their responsibility.

      10. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “Once I’m paid, that’s it. Job done.”

        This. As a courtesy to clients and for future convenience, when I do freelance work I might save documents myself in my own project files (in fact, I almost always do unless they are huge). But the contracting entity should not rely on the contractor to store materials long term.

        “Not backing up the files (because it’s an ongoing project? What?) is both irresponsible and baffling.” Not that baffling since many people are pretty reckless with files. But irresponsible for sure.

        I would have said “I probably deleted my copies after handing them off to you, as is my normal practice, but will check.”

      11. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree with this, particularly (1), and I wonder at the disconnect: That OP could see the writer’s position was “I am done with this contract; please pay this invoice; best wishes with the project” and OP’s view was that there was an implied but unwritten understanding of this being an indefinite ongoing collaboration.

      12. There's No Crying in Managing*

        Yeah, all of this. I am a consultant so I only do contract work. I specify that once the work is complete I will hand off all files and is the responsibility of the client to maintain them. I work for SO MANY clients that to keep every file I ever created for all of them (much is writing, but a large portion are graphic files) just wouldn’t make sense. I keep everything backed up for a year, save anything I want for my portfolio, then delete the files. “Maybe you can do some more work for us at a future date” would not make me keep the files after I handed them off.

      13. JM60*

        My position is that OP1 blaming the contractor for their own failure to backup the project. The contractor may have delivered the work through Google docs, but they aren’t responsible for hosting it on their own space indefinitely, and deleting it from their side sometime within a year is very reasonable.

    5. ceiswyn*

      But if files are important to you, you keep backups. This isn’t an issue of miscommunication, or inexperience work contacting: the OP ignored a massively fundamental principle of any project.

      Add to that that these important, expensive files were in someone else’s possession, and that starts to veer towards active mismanagement of resources on the OP’s part.

      I really feel for the OP, because we’ve all been there and learned the lesson the hard way. But this isn’t the contractor’s fault; all they did was assume base competence on the OP’s part. OP just needs to accept that they messed up on this one and see what they can do to salvage the situation.

      And immediately acquire and backup any other files that are needed for the project!

      1. Worldwalker*

        At this point, I don’t think there’s much the OP can do except write it of as tuition to the School of Hard Knocks. If it’s yours, and it’s important, it goes on your backup drive; you don’t risk anyone else accidentally deleting it. Or their ex-boyfriend deliberately deleting it. Or anything else happening to it.

    6. Another British poster*

      I earn a living as a creative writer (playwright and screenwriter) and the writer here was unprofessional. I don’t know any writer who doesn’t keep everything they’ve written because that work is your portfolio. It’s also really bad not to see a project through to completion.

      1. ceiswyn*

        But the writer’s part in the project was complete. An “implicit agreement” that “maybe they’d revisit them as well later in the project” is not at all the same thing as ongoing involvement. They did the work, they got paid for it, and then there was radio silence for a year.

        Maybe they already had better examples of this type of work in their portfolio, maybe they made a mistake, or maybe they’re a bit cavalier with their own files; we don’t know. Maybe they were unprofessional.

        But what we do know is that the OP left project-critical files in the filespace of someone whose contract with the project had ended a year ago. I wouldn’t exactly call that ‘professional’, would you?

        1. Another British poster*

          Do you work in the film industry, ceiswyn?

          Because like anything, standards of professional behaviour are very different depending on industry. Industry norms cannot be ignored.

          If you are a professional creative writer and your name is on the book cover/movie poster/West End marquee, your job absolutely is not “over” until the book hits bookshelves/movie has opened/play has finished previews and had its press night. Any writer with the attitude “my job’s done the minute I hit send on the script” is never going to have a career. I’ve met aspiring writers with that attitude and they didn’t get anywhere.

          Perhaps it’s not that kind of “script” (if it’s scripts for internal corporates then it’s a completely different thing) but it’s not wrong to expect people to adhere to industry norms.

          1. Another British poster*

            Incidentally I do agree that the LW was very unprofessional to not make their own copy of the files. Just saying it doesn’t sound like a super professional situation all round.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              Lots of the commenters think the scriptwriter still has a copy of his work.

              It doesn’t sound like the LW has asked about that. But given the contract was fulfilled, the contract script writer is within her rights to be paid to deliver it again. The LW should probably be willing to admit her mistakes, apologize profusely and ask the scriptwriter to redeliver at a greatly reduced cost (under the assumption that they have a copy and aren’t having to redo the work).

          2. Cat Lover*

            I big part of this for me is COVID. LW said the last time this was touched was March 2020. It’s now almost July 2021. That’s a big assumption that the writer would keep a handed off project when the pandemic indefinitely halted a lot of things.

          3. Smithy*

            I wonder if the reason for this level of miscommunication was that in the past the OP and/or the OP’s employer had more experience with creative script writers but this time went with a more technical writer. Like a museum who typically would contract their public facing videos with more creative writing consultants but this time the nature of the video or availability meant they went with a writer who primarily does technical writing scripts.

            For my work – any script I’ve had created, I can’t imagine anyone bothering to keep. Unless it fit a very niche gap in their portfolio that they’d share with prospective clients.

          4. ceiswyn*

            I don’t work in the film industry, but there’s actually no indication that LW1 does either.

            In the film industry, is it considered professional to keep your only copy of scripts on the writer’s file storage for a year after their contract finished?

          5. Observer*

            Perhaps it’s not that kind of “script” (if it’s scripts for internal corporates then it’s a completely different thing) but it’s not wrong to expect people to adhere to industry norms.

            It doesn’t sound like that kind (Hollywood) of script. Equally importantly, even if it were and the writer was blowing up their own career with this, I still would not have too much sympathy for the OP. They spend a full third of their budget on these scripts and never bothered to make a copy of it. Because “it probably” would need the writer to make changes. For over a year!

            What would have happened if something had happened to the writer? Or if they decided that they are leaving this industry / retiring? How on earth do you take that kind of chance with a document that represents that so much of your entire budget? That’s ridiculous.

          6. Twist*

            Eh. I’m a working TV writer and while I do have copies of everything I’ve ever delivered because that’s my personality, once I turn in my contracted drafts and get my pay, I’d be pretty shocked to have a producer call and ask for it because they hadn’t kept a copy. If I had used dropbox or Google Drive as a delivery mechanism, there’s a good chance I would delete that shared folder the next time I was organizing my files — I wouldn’t even wait a year. I’d assume the producer had download a copy and was “doing what they wanted“ with it. And if they’d been disrespectful of my time or effort during the project, and I wasn’t looking to do more work with them, I wouldn’t be super motivated to turn my place upside down looking for a back up copy to send them. If I had one handy I would send it along but I would be rolling my eyes pretty hard at their lack of professionalism.

      2. Cat Lover*

        From what the LW said, there was no actual agreement that the project would be revisited. Just “maybes”. Especially with the pandemic, the writer really had no obligation to keep anything.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t know any writer who doesn’t keep everything they’ve written because that work is your portfolio. Not every writer puts everything they do in their portfolio. The fact some people DO do that does not in any way obligate others to keep clients’ work.

    7. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I am not a writer, but if I paid 1/3 of my budget for a file and paid a contractor for the deli every of the file I would never ever have left it in their possession. Even if there was more work to be done. I would have downloaded immediately. With the pandemic maybe some leeway can be granted but it has been over a year. They both bear some responsibility for not checking with each other but I lay more on the LW. This was a work
      Product they paid for. It should have been in their possession.

      1. Observer*

        but if I paid 1/3 of my budget for a file and paid a contractor for the deli every of the file I would never ever have left it in their possession

        This is 100% the case. This just makes no sense.

    8. Clem snide*

      What, no. This dude needs to backup files he owns. Hinestly he probably just needs to understand how Gdrive works in general.

      Don’t put this on the poor freelancer.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s not the freelancer’s part that the LW didn’t download the files, but I’m also astonished that anyone wouldn’t keep copies of their own writing.

    9. Cat Lover*

      Oof, hard disagree. I don’t know how old the LW is, but if they are vaguely in the range of growing up with or around technology, the first thing you learn is to always. have. backups. Do not expect technology to work in your favor.

      It’s not the writer’s fault that the LW expected the writer to be a free hosting service for over a year with no guarantee the work would be touched again.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I’m old enough so I didn’t grow up with or around technology. I’ve learned even more strongly to always have backups. I remember packing up and shipping off (and insuring for $10k!) to the factory a 5 MB (huge for its day) “Winchester” drive for repairs when it did something indeterminate to its innards. My first personal computer used a rather unreliable cassette tape; you saved twice, to different tapes, to make sure you had a viable save. I think it’s the people who *did* grow up around technology who expect non-physical things to always be there.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          My mother worked for a court system and I remember watching her make all the physical back ups of the servers on what looked like a small cassette at the end of the day. This would have been in the late 90s-mid 2000s. She made two copies – she took one home and her boss took the other. The information was too important to lose! Allllll those court records. So now it’s imbedded in my thinking to always have a backup!

          1. Worldwalker*

            That would be a streaming tape. Those things were great in their day — you could get a whole 250 MB on something that would fit in your pocket!

            What holds 10 meg of data and a pint of seawater?

        2. Autumnheart*

          That’s a pretty good point. I’m not “cassette tape in the computer” old (but I used them in grade school) but I’m definitely floppy disk old. And most of my technological expertise came up in the age where nothing was automated, and hard drive failures were a lot more disruptive. So “Save your stuff early and often!” was like Rule #1 of Technology. Hard drive/flash drive/cloud if I’m not comfortable with losing the file forever.

      2. Fierce Jindo*

        I actually wonder if the LW is young. I teach college and my students use Google everything. The ones who aren’t computer-savvy never back anything up, and don’t know how to save and find things on their computers. Their lives are in the cloud and run on auto-save.

        1. Hanani*

          Yes, I was thinking this too. Every year I teach my college students how to download something from Google Drive because they attempt to turn in assignments by sharing me on a doc. I grew up with computers but before the cloud, still don’t like the cloud, and remember having to save my work every 10 minutes because the school computers were so unreliable that they might just shut down in the middle of computer lab time.

          1. Cat Lover*

            Interesting! Most of my college professors preferred google drive since it was so much easier to use, and not everyone’s preferred method of word doc worked with everyone’s computer. We could share with a click and write comments in real time, instead of saving, emailing, downloading, fixing, saving, emailing, etc. That was a while back though, and google has changed a lot of their storage and terms and conditions.

            1. quill*

              My professors preferred any standard-formatted word doc – they didn’t want edits after the turn in date and they weren’t going to grade it for days, if not weeks, and they weren’t going to check the edit dates on 30+ papers.

              1. Cat Lover*

                Makes sense! Usually our final turn in (on canvas) was word doc, but before that (for any edits, collab, etc) was google. I was in a field with a lot of group and instructor collaboration.

              2. Dahlia*

                I think there’s confusion here between Google Docs, the word processor, and Google Drive, the cloud storage, where you can certainly put any word document you want.

                1. quill*

                  Most professors didn’t want something hanging out that they would have to search for and download to grade… and not all of them would have checked the upload date on Google Drive either.

            2. PT*

              There’s a huge difference between a doc that’s going to be collaboratively edited and a doc that’s going to be graded, though. My husband is constantly editing stuff and he makes his students-for-grades submit through the class portal so he can grade it via whatever mechanism the class portal has. Meanwhile his students-for-publication (theses, papers, grants) they do in Word/Teams so they can go through and collaboratively add markup and edit as needed.

              I know all about this thanks to WFH, I get to hear the rants when his chosen program crashes and all the edits disappear.

            3. Worldwalker*

              Now I feel old.

              My professors insisted that students type their papers instead of writing them longhand.

        2. Cat Lover*

          That’s fair! I’m 26 so I’m on that weird cusp of generations, lol!

          I’m definitely became a google user in college because we all got accounts, and it make group work and big projects sooo much easier. But in high school I didn’t and we learned to backup and save, save, save.

        3. NinaBee*

          Agree with this. This might be a case of hiring a cheaper and more inexperienced writer to save money but these types of things can happen unfortunately.

      3. Dancing Otter*

        When I first studied programming, we were still using punch cards and huge tape drives. You don’t need to have grown up with computers to know to have backups.
        Modern storage media is actually more reliable: the DP manager at my first professional job said the static from nylons could damage the tape data. He was an idiot, though, who overwrote the annual general ledger file after printing it. Because what could go wrong there? Cue frantic search through all the garbage from a 30-story office building….

        1. Cat Lover*

          True! I didn’t mean for my comment to come of ageist, it’s just from my work experience there is a definite trend (but I also think it has swooped around the other way that younger people grew up with the ~cloud~ and expect that things don’t need to be backed up!

          Programming though, I definitely see that you would learn that. My mom (for example) never really grew up around tech related things and still struggles to remember things like backing up copies of things. I usually just do it all for her, lol.

    10. Lacey*

      Not a writer, but I do some freelance design work and I have backups of everything I’ve done in the last 10 years.

      Not just because a client might not have saved their own copy, although that’s common, but because you never know when a client will come back with, “Remember this one this, the exact same, but different”

      It’s a bit different with a writer, because if they’d saved it they could just send it back to you to work from and with design you can’t as much. But still. It seems safer.

    11. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I’m an editor and writer, and the writer definitely dropped the ball. I keep everything I do for my clients, with the exception of some legal clients who specifically ask that I purge my work files for their projects after a month or two (the idea being that if a case escalates to full-blown trial, I won’t get subpoena’d for my files). I sometimes refer to earlier projects (e.g., if I’m working on a book or short story series) and on occasion a writer has contact me in a panic because they lost a particular file, and I’m able to provide it to them.

      1. boo bot*

        I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I’m also an editor and writer, and I also keep everything I do, unless the client asks me to delete it all. On the other hand, though, I don’t think of that as something I’m obligated to do, and I don’t promise clients that I will retain their work in perpetuity; it’s more something to make my life easier and cover my butt if there’s ever a question about the work process.

        So, I would have had the file for the OP, but if it had been erased by accident, I wouldn’t feel like the client had the right to demand I do the work over for free or something, because it’s not my job to maintain a perpetual backup library.

        On the OTHER other hand, as I’ve mentioned above, this is why I would never use google drive this way. In my “accidentally deleted” scenario, I would still have the documents as email attachments from when I originally sent them to the client. So, I think the original sin here was using google drive in the first place, and the writer dropped the ball by doing that

    12. Knope Knope Knope*

      Wouldn’t this really all depend on the contract? I’m not a script writer but when I’ve hired vendors like wedding photographers or blue prints for my house or occasionally photographers or freelance writers for work we hammer out the details of how many edits will be included in the price or if it’s an hourly rate for edits, deliverables, ownership etc. Maybe the writer thought the job was done and wasn’t planning on the “implied edits”.

    13. Esmeralda*

      Maybe it’s because I’m from the era of 5-1/4 floppies, but I cannot imagine not making my own copy of any important document or file. Label it “draft DATE”.

      As a writer / editor, I also can’t imagine not keeping something like this, if only to have a copy for my own portfolio.

      But the bigger mistake was not making one’s own copy.

    14. Observer*

      It sounds like there *was* some amount of communication in the meantime that the project wasn’t done and that there would be a round of editing involving the writer’s input later on.

      Unless someone has a track record, you simply cannot blame a contractor for deciding that a year of “yeah, yeah, we’re working on it, and we’ll get to it Real Soon Now (TM)”, the job is actually ended, even if the person they are talking to is not deliberately blowing smoke. Yes, it would have been smarter to contact the OP and tell them to make a copy of the work and come back to them when the project is ready to move forward. But the thinking is not all that off base.

      It’s also pretty clear that the last communication (on a project that hasn’t seen any work for over a year) was not in the last couple of weeks.

      While sharing a google doc with someone is kind of like storing it for them,

      Not “kind of”. This IS storing a document for them. Now, when you are doing the primary work on the document, then it makes sense to leave it in your control. But if it’s just sitting there – it’s just sitting there, taking up storage space.

    15. quill*

      I mean: accidentally can mean “these files haven’t been worked on in over a year and I clicked ignore on google’s warning since they had all been shared and cannot be unshared.”

      Personally I think more than anything else this shows the need to either dedicate more storage space or delineate GDrive as a handoff point rather than a storage solution when the contractor negotiates with clients.

    16. Lauren19*

      It’s hard to comment on this without knowing the specifics of the ‘long-term’ aspects of the project and how well those were communicated. BUT every time I’ve done content collaboration with someone there’s a set time limit of how long those will be hosted (usually six months), and the expectation is that I ALWAYS have to download and host myself.

    17. LifeBeforeCorona*

      This sounds very old school but if my work is vital, I print out a copy. Right now I’m looking at paper copies of some work from 2010-15. It was written 3 laptops ago and it would be impossible to retrieve.

      1. ann*

        that does sound very old school. I have documents in my Google drive from 2007 (several laptops ago) that would be impossible to retrieve except that I…. saved it to my Google Drive. A USB drive would also have been an option, though all the USB drives I’ve had during the intervening years are now lost, so I’m glad I went for the online copy. Also current laptops don’t always have USB ports. I have had more apartments than laptops during that time, so carrying around boxes of printed papers would not have been sensible.

    18. The Other Katie*

      I’m a professional writer. I handle a few hundred projects a year (anything from a 300-word product description to a 50,000-word report). I think she was too kind to the writer.
      I don’t store files for customers – if I have passed it off to them, I assume they have stored it somewhere for their own use. (If for some reason I do have to transfer it via Google Drive, like the file size, I make sure to remind them to do so.) I only clean out my storage about once a year, so that gives an effective two-year window where I can probably retrieve your file, but I don’t guarantee it.
      I also would not consider a project that was abandoned for over a year with no contact to still be “in progress.” People sometimes do suggest there will be further input and editing and then it doesn’t happen for whatever reason, and that’s fine – people’s needs change and their plans change, and sometimes they just don’t like my work and don’t want to tell me, I’m sure. But there is a limit on how long I will reserve disk space or brain space for a project.
      It’s really unfortunate that this happened, but in my opinion the writer didn’t do anything wrong.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree. I’ve done freelance writing and editing in the past, and while personally I did keep copies of the work I did, just because I’m that kind of person, I wasn’t using Google Docs and I totally would have assumed that once I’d done the work, submitted it and been paid, the work would then be in the hands of the client. There were times when people asked me to go back and do some more work on something, and there might have been one or two ‘Oh god, I deleted the file, you don’t happen to still have the copy you sent me, do you??’ – as an aside, that’s also why I’d always send things via email, because then it would still exist in my sent items even if I hadn’t saved it – but that would have been fairly immediate, not a year down the line. After a year I’d definitely assume it wasn’t my responsibility.

    19. Manana*

      I disagree. It is unimaginable to me that LW never once saved a copy of the writer’s work outside of the writer’s own Drive. Even if it was shared, it was LW’s responsibility to care for the work, it’s not a contractor’s responsibility to store old work once their part of the project is done, especially in this case since it didn’t seem like the file was touched in a year.

    20. fhqwhgads*

      I think if there really was that original moment of “they’re yours now” that was the not-as-direct-as-it-could’ve-been indicator to download this, upload it to your own google drive, whatever. But that was a pretty clear “handover” moment, to me. So even if there may have been the possibility of future collaboration…I think the contractor was saying “take this, it’s yours”.
      That said the contract for the work probably should’ve spelled out how it would be stored and who by and for how long. And if the contractor does clear our their drive periodically of old projects, that handoff message coulda/shoulda/woulda been more explicit about Save Your Own Copy Now Please. I also think the OP erred in now keeping their own copy all along the way, too. Even if it were a collaborative working document, if she’s the owner, it’s kind of odd to me it’d be stored somewhere “owned” by the contractor rather than herself.

    21. RagingADHD*


      Freelance writer here, for a variety of types of projects. If I were on retainer, or had a definite contract for future work, then yes I would maintain the file or a backup of the file.

      This was a work-for-hire. Once it’s delivered and the client pays, I don’t own the file anymore. I don’t have copyright. I have no rights or interest in the file at all.

      It is entirely the client’s property, and it’s the client’s responsibility to store it. If they want to make edits to it after delivery, they have ample opportunity to make their own copy and I would assume they have.

      If you have a shared Google Doc, literally all you have to do is click “File – Save A Copy.” That is it. Now it’s yours to keep, edit, download, whatever. If the client can’t be bothered to click ONE BUTTON for a YEAR, that is not my problem.

    22. Chase*

      I’m kind of mystified by both parties, honestly. As a writer, why would you not save a copy of work you did for commission at least to keep in your portfolio? As LW1, why would you not save a copy of the work that you can access offline?
      I (briefly) wrote freelance articles for a groovy ezine a few years back and was paid by the article. The zine has since gone away, but I still have a folder saved–offline!–named something like “Groovy Ezine” with all the stuff I wrote for them, in case I need it for a writing sample.
      At my job-job that’s not freelance, one of the many hats I wear is to take photos and store them on a shared network drive for my workplace to use for publicity. However, there is not a whole lot of room on the network drive, so I periodically have to delete stuff. Whenever I do that, I send out a company-wide email saying something like, “Hey y’all! Deleting everything in Spring Folder by This Date. If you still need it, save a copy. Thanks, byeee!” (But y’know, more professional-sounding than that.)
      But I still write everything down in case someone wasn’t paying attention and I need to upload it again. But none of that will help if you have a system failure caused by some twit opening the wrong email, and/or a pandemic takes everyone out of the office and can no longer access the shared network drive.
      Basically: don’t trust the Cloud. The Cloud will not help you. Back up EVERYTHING.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I’ve done work when I needed the money on stuff I would never show in my portfolio. Especially when the client wanted artistic choices I disagreed with.

      2. The Other Katie*

        You don’t keep work-for-hire in your portfolio – you don’t own the rights to it, it’s not yours and it’s often confidential. My portfolio is all either stuff I’ve done specifically as examples of what I can produce, or stuff people didn’t pay me for.

    23. Meep*

      They hadn’t heard from the OP in a year. I too would assume you changed your mind about rehiring me and moved on. Are they supposed to track down everyone? And it ignores the fact that OP should’ve had a backup regardless. Expecting someone to store YOUR files on their Drive for more than 60 days is foolish when they are the ones presumably eating the cost of the drive space.

    24. Delphine*

      I agree with this. I work in a similar field and we always make sure that things we’re deleting are only being deleted for *us* and not for anyone else on the shared folder. And if something was deleted during an ongoing project? That would be a major deal.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Except it was no longer an ongoing project for the contractor. They had delivered the product to the LW and been paid for their work. They were done.

    25. Remote Worker and Dog Lover*

      Yeah, I agree here. I think Alison got this one wrong. I used to freelance a lot, mix of graphic and web design, and I’ve been using digital collaboration tools for a while. When I freelanced, I very rarely deleted files, and I paid very close attention to what was shared where. Honestly, part of this goes beyond being a good freelancer and just good digital etiquette. In most cases you shouldn’t arbitrarily delete files that other people are shared on. You change ownership, remove yourself from the file or folder — that should happen before you go deleting things.

      Also, even if I did delete project files as a freelancer, I’d probably still have a copy of the final deliverable saved somewhere as a PDF that I can forward to the client. If the final copy was a Google Doc, I absolutely would have changed ownership of the doc before doing anything else on my end.

  2. Person from the Resume*

    I think LW1 is definitely the one who made the mistake. The contractor delivered a product, you reviewed it, and paid them for it. It’s yours now and it’s your responsibility to store it. What if the contractor had stopped freelancing, retired, or died during COVID, the work could also be lost.

    That said, I doubt the contractor doesn’t have a copy somewhere else. That would be shocking to me. Haven’t either of these characters heard of backing up important information?

    You might could ask nicely for the product he delivered to you (without any edits you made probably) and if he can produce it you continue to work with him. If he can’t, then you can choose not to work with him again.

    But legally I think he’s in the right and certainly doesn’t have to do rework because of your failure to save an important file. But I’m doubtful there’s any rework to be done. So refusing to work with him again is a bit over the top but may get you what you need.

    In assuming the google drive is his and not the company’s.

    1. Language Lover*

      I agree. I feel badly for the LW but it wasn’t the writer’s responsibility to store the files forever. They should have been moved somewhere safe, especially once the project got put on hold.

      I feel like the LW wants the original writer to apologize for the fact that the LW never considered a more reliable system for accessing these documents because the feeling of wanting to kick yourself is the worst feeling.

      If anything, it’s a good lesson for the future. Not only back up work received from outside contractors but be clear about how things are delivered and stored if need be.

      1. Nadia*

        I agree with both of you. I am baffled that OP1 didn’t immediately download the files from Google Drive upon receipt.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I bought a new external hard drive last month primarily to store STL files (3D print files) I’ve gotten through various Kickstarter projects. Sure, they’ll probably be available on Google Drive, MyMiniFactory, DriveThruRPG, etc., for the foreseeable future … but what if they aren’t? What if, say, an artist has a bad breakup and their ex has their passwords and deletes all their files? (I know someone this happened to) If it’s important, store it yourself!

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        This, yep. There’s an awful lot of “implied” and “maybe” and “likely” in this letter, so I think the best lesson OP can take from this is to be super clear about exactly what is happening with contracted work – especially if the work represents 1/3 of your entire budget!

        1. Sylvan*

          I really agree with this.

          (At the same time, I’m a copywriter and this is why we back up our documents. It seems unusual that neither the writer than the OP saved them somewhere else. Oh, well.)

          1. Sylvan*

            Oops, I’m going to nitpick my own wording because there’s a typo here. I meant to write: “It seems unusual that neither the writer nor the OP saved …”

          2. Meep*

            I kind of wonder if it is the way OP approached them. If someone came in guns ablazing accusing me of deleting year-old files off of a drive I probably pay good money for on top of ghosting me when they promised me further work, I would most likely not want to bother searching through my archives for their files either. It comes down to time and money and it seems like OP thinks they are entitled to both for free.

        2. Lacey*

          Yes! A lot of clients don’t want a contract because they’re afraid of accidentally agreeing to something they don’t want to, but contracts help nail down these details so that everyone knows what’s expected.

    2. BRR*

      “ What if the contractor had stopped freelancing, retired, or died during COVID, the work could also be lost.” I think this is such a good point. It’s just not advisable to rely on an outside contractor to have the sole responsibility of storing work.

      I will say though I can easily see myself doing the same thinking as the LW and this letter is serving as a learning experience for me.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Tuition prices are steep at the School of Hard Knocks, but the lessons are lasting.

      2. Marcella*

        I’ve worked as a creative director who relied on freelancers and they occasionally lost work due to roof leaks ruining a laptop, theft, kids playing on a laptop, tech meltdowns, and other reasons. I would provide cloud storage for them to avoid all this but it still happened sometimes. I would never rely on an outside contractor to store an ongoing project.

        But some clients do. As a freelance writer myself, I maintain copies of everything for myself, email every draft, and am never surprised when clients text in a panic saying they can’t find a certain project or version. That’s on them, but I’m usually able to supply it.

        That said, I’ve had my Google Drive get clogged up with different drafts of long-dead projects, so I understand how this writer may have deleted the drafts.

    3. North Wind*

      100% agree.

      Also wanted to note that I use Upwork as a freelancer, and it’s in the standard contract/Terms of Service that the freelancer *must* delete a client’s files when the contract ends.

      If I have to use my personal Dropbox to deliver large files, I do let the client know that I only keep files temporarily and they should download them right away. If I go to delete a file in the next week or so I’d probably check in with the client that they’ve already downloaded it, but I definitely wouldn’t think to do that a month or more out from the end of the project.

    4. Ciara Amberlie*

      I’ve frequently used Google Drive and Dropbox to deliver files to clients. But that’s exactly what it is, a means of delivery. It’s not an unspoken offer to store those files for an indefinite period of time until the client decides that they no longer need them.

      I’ve always assumed that clients download deliverables immediately and store on their own systems as soon as I share access, it’s never occurred to me that someone might use my Google Drive to edit what should now be their version of the file. But now I’m definitely going to add a line to my contracts stating that clients need to download and store the finished work, just in case I encounter someone like LW1.

      1. Meep*

        I think it is pretty standard to expect them to have downloaded their files 30 to 60 days after delivery. Then again, I am not a jerk and understand you typically pay for that space, not me.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      What if the contractor had stopped freelancing, retired, or died during COVID, the work could also be lost.

      This is such a good point. I don’t have much sympathy for LW#1 in this situation. They also could have removed the contractor as a collaborator once their part was done.

    6. bananab*

      Agreed completely. I deliver files via Drive all the time and do try to keep old files more or less indefinitely, but even there things happen—and I definitely don’t still have absolutely everyone’s files. Those files were delivered, and if the client failed to retrieve them, I would feel bad for em on a personal level. But I wouldn’t feel any particular responsibility for it professionally unless I was selling a file archiving service.

      1. bananab*

        Adding that I always share read-only (allows downloads) anyway. I don’t want clients writing to my folder!

    7. meyer lemon*

      I’m getting the feeling that the LW doesn’t typically use shared documents, and this was their first time getting bitten by the other party deleting a shared file. But I do agree that ultimately it was the LW’s responsibility to back up the file, not the contractor’s. This is a particularly hard way to learn the lesson, but I’m guessing they won’t make the same mistake again.

    8. onco fonco*

      Yeah, this. It’s certainly good practice for everyone to have a backup of basically everything – but only one party here was RESPONSIBLE for storing the document, and that was the client.

  3. maybe maybe*

    It’s understandable where you’re coming from OP3 but if you think about it, maybe your rate given when you joined the company is already the “raised” rate and you’ve been enjoying the “raise” before your coworkers.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think it more likely LW is on the lower “our rates have been frozen” wage and will be paid less than similar colleagues when the raise is applied.

      1. JKateM*

        Which kind of makes sense if they have been with the company for less time. They should get whatever raise they are due for tenure, etc on the next raise cycle. But currently they have only been with the company less than six months. Even if they are receiving the frozen wage they wouldn’t likely be eligible for a raise at this point in their tenure anyway.
        The only thing that would make it reasonable to discuss a raise is if starting pay was increased and their pay was not adjusted to take that into account, but it doesn’t sound like what is described here.

        1. WS*

          Yes, it sounds like a regular cycle of raises. LW wasn’t there in September, they don’t get the raise from September. They’ll be eligible next time around.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        That’s how I read it as well. Say the rate for a “llama groomer” is currently 40,000 in a company where they apply a 2% annual cost of living raise. Then in that September, the going rate for a llama groomer would have become 40,400 except they froze the raises, so LW was recruited on the lower rate. Now the other llama groomers have the 2% raise applied retroactively, leaving LW out of step to where she would have been. And this applies not only with the “back pay”, but also with the effect of compounding on every subsequent raise cycle.
        In her position I would probably at least mention it to the manager after, say, 6 months in the job. I wouldn’t expect the back pay but I would ask them to consider reinstating the rate that “should” have been paid, if that’s what happened.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          You explained it far better than I did!

          If LW was hired on something in the middle of the pay band then they’ll definitely need to wait for the normal pay review cycle (caveat: an employer who has “only just given everyone a raise” might want to delay or skip that step). But if they were hired towards the bottom of a band then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask how their compensation fits within the adjusted band.

          1. I.T. Phone Home*

            It depends on whether they are giving merit raises or adjusting the bands though. If new hires will start at a higher rate than where LW is currently, it’s crummy to keep LW below that and they should get raised up to parity (but not back pay). If the salary ranges per position are staying the same, but people are moving up in those ranges based on performance, LW really doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Not only wasn’t LW employed when the raises would have gone into effect, those raises are based on performance for September 2019 to September 2020. LW wasn’t an employee during any part of that period. You can’t start a job in October and ask why you didn’t get the yearly merit raise for September.

      3. Yorick*

        If these are cost-of-living increases, OP should get the increase and back pay as of when they started. If the increase had happened in September, then OP would have started at that rate.

        But if these are merit or longevity raises and the base rate for new employees hasn’t changed, then OP is not entitled to a raise because they haven’t been there in September when it happens.

        1. AntsOnMyTable*

          My job doesn’t do COLA adjustments and our merit raises are often just barely above inflation so I think it is interesting that they felt a COLA was small and not asking for much.

  4. Ginny*

    LW#1, having been on both sides of this type of work, you really should have backed these files up when you received them, and then again after any revisions. That said, I don’t think that either you or the writer is actually at fault here. The writer may be able to provide you with a version of the completed documents – even if not the final, final version – unless they actually completed the work via Google Drive.

    LW#3, your ex-boss sounds like a terrible person and manager. I am really sorry that this happened to you. Depending upon which jurisdiction this occurred in, and depending on how this cruel gossip has impacted you, you may be able to take legal action against your ex-boss, the company, or both.

    LW#4, if you are the decision-maker here, I wouldn’t be docking anyone’s pay because of a failure of company tech. Depending on the jurisdiction, it may – or may not – be legal to do so. But it’s definitely a great way to ruin employee morale, tank productivity, and ensure a high staff turnover going forwards.

    1. Sparrow*

      Yes, #4 definitely seems like it’s in the “legal but a bad idea” category to me. If I was forced to use PTO because of a company issue, I would be internally seething, and I actually get a reasonable amount of PTO (relative to many others in the US, anyway). LW doesn’t mention how much PTO the employees get, but if it’s a company that gives something like 10 days total and they took 3 days away for reasons completely out of the employee’s control? I’d absolutely be job hunting.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      LW3 cannot take legal action. Something can be cruel and harmful gossip but if it’s true, it’s not slander. Nothing to do legally.

    3. Artemesia*

      Gossiping about an employees firing is just heinous behavior; no matter what terrible thing the OP did to get fired (or not) it is grotesquely unprofessional for the former boss to be dishing about it to others. Sorry this is happening to you.

      Docking someone’s pay because of a company failure is callous; companies who do this deserve to have their competent staff leave at the first opportunity.

    4. CmdrShepard*

      I don’t know that LW#3 ex-boss is such a terrible person/manager. OP said the boss asked coworkers if they were offended. If OP went on some kind of discriminatory rant I don’t think they should expect the firing to be kept secret. I think it would have to be pretty severe for a single instance to lead to a firing, unless this was the final straw in a series of discriminatory remarks/rants. Also gossip in and of itself is not illegal (in the US at least) especially if it is true, if you do something that can hurt your reputation if people know about it that is on you for doing that thing/action not on people who talk about it. If the ex-boss exaggerated or lied about what OP said/did that is a different story, but OP did not mention that in the letter.

      Since the person the ex-boss talked to and OP are in the same industry maybe the boss was warning them about the kind of person OP is, and it is more than gossip.

      1. Pickled Limes*

        I have a former colleague who was asked to resign because of repeated lying and having been caught eavesdropping on people multiple times (like, super obvious cartoonish level eavesdropping). Our manager did talk to other employees during this colleague’s disciplinary process, because she needed to know how this person’s behavior was impacting our work and our morale, and later because she wanted to assure us that the behavior was being taken seriously. And I know she’s mentioned the situation to others in a “this was a learning experience for me as a supervisor” kind of way. It’s possible that OP3’s former boss wasn’t just spouting off about OP3 just for the fun of it, but either way it probably would have been kinder to tell the story without the names involved.

    5. Starbuck*

      I dunno about LW 3, this quote makes me think that perhaps they were fired for some serious issue and the boss was checking in with people who might have been affected by it?

      “this boss also apparently met with several of my then-coworkers to ask them if the situation for which I was fired would have offended them”

    6. Observer*

      Depending upon which jurisdiction this occurred in, and depending on how this cruel gossip has impacted you, you may be able to take legal action against your ex-boss, the company, or both.

      In the US truth is an absolute defense against slander / libel. So, no legal action available here.

      Legal and ethical / moral are not the same thing. By the same token, what goes round comes round. And people can get into trouble for things that are perfectly legal.

  5. learnedthehardway*

    LW#5 – I would be VERY careful about how you ask about your former manager’s management style today, if you want to be considered. In fact, I would NOT ask them specifically about their management style at all. They wouldn’t even be your direct manager in the role for which you are interviewing – they’d be your grand-boss. The only reasonable interpretation your former manager can come to, if you ask about their management style today, is that you thought they were a poor manager back then, and want to be sure they’ve changed their ways. In fact, by asking them, you’ll be pretty well telling the rest of the panel that your former manager was a lousy manager, when you reported to them.

    Instead, ask the person who is going to be your direct manager what THEIR management style is – that’s a legitimate question and is the one that really matters. Also ask what the biggest challenges / priorities are in their department – you’ll get an idea of what matters, and you’ll also get an idea of whether their department is well run.

    You can also ask about the culture of the organization, to get a more general idea of what the “tone” is at the organization.

    You could potentially get some indication of whether you’d interact a lot with your former manager by expressing enthusiasm about working with them again, but I wouldn’t lay it on too thick, as you don’t want the hiring manager to get the idea that you would be doing end-runs around them to your former manager / prospective grand-boss.

    1. Allonge*

      I was also thinking that asking about organization / department culture is a nice workaround for this one – both because the description should include the boss’s vision of how things should be and because sometimes you can have a good boss and grandboss and org. culture is still icky due to other factors.

    2. A.N. O'Nyme*

      It’s also possible potential grandboss is now cringing at how bad they were at managing back then and won’t appreciate the reminder, or be concerned that OP won’t be able to see them in any other way than the poor manager they used to be.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I think it’s even more possible that potential grandboss doesn’t give a toss for OP’s opinion of their management style!

        1. Artemesia*

          The odds that a bad manager then is a good manager now are also close to zero — yes people sometimes get better at managing, but if the issues were more personal like micro managing or being conflict adverse — that stuff never changes.

          1. CmdrShepard*

            The way I read it was that OP said they manager was not really a BAD manager, but more of a new bad manager, in the same way that someone who is new at doing something is going to be bad at it.

            It is the same way an employee who had being doing X task for 3 years is BAD at it, but an employee just started and is doing X task for the first time is bad at it but with time and training they will get better.

          2. Starbuck*

            “at that time, they were new to supervising staff and although we had no major issues, I’ve now come to recognize they were definitely learning how to supervise staff”

            If the only complaint OP had is what they wrote, that the person was clearly just new and inexperienced, I would think 15 more years of experience would make a big difference.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with your approach.

      Saying, “I of course know a little bit from working together 15 years ago, but I’m sure we’ve both changed a lot in that time! Can you tell me about your management style now?” still comes across as a judgment on their management style back then. I wouldn’t say that at all.

      Besides, the former manager won’t even be OP’s direct manager so why even bother asking?

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I don’t think it implies a judgment on their past self at all, just acknowledgment that the little knowledge they have from their previous time together is now out of date.

    4. Sara without an H*

      If Old Manager was going to be the OP5’s direct manager, I think it would be appropriate to ask about management style. But Old Manager is actually going to be grandboss now, so those questions would be better addressed to whoever OP5 is going to report to. Questions about organizational culture will probably be more fruitful.

    5. OP LW5*

      Thanks for this! I hadn’t considered the implied criticism and I see below others didn’t get that from Alison’s response either, but caution was what I was going for. Things have changed drastically in higher Ed in the past year, so I think asking about how the unit has handled work from home or communication among the team remotely etc. may be a better approach considering that was not even a thing 15 years ago.

  6. Cat lady*

    For LW3, I’d recommend having an attorney send a cease-and-desist letter to your ex-boss, copying in the company’s legal department.

    A lawsuit may be expensive and difficult to win, and could result in the gossip spreading more widely than it already has.

    But generally, having an attorney remind someone there can be consequences to bad behaviour is often enough to get them to stop, even without teeth behind it.

    1. Sue*

      But just because it was crummy, doesn’t mean it was illegal. In the vast majority of cases spreading gossip is legal and the OP doesn’t say the story was untrue. An effective attorney letter is going to need to cite some legal theory for why the story can’t be told and I’m not seeing that here.

      1. DrGirlfriend*

        I was fired about 5 years ago, and I had to sign a separation agreement stating the firm could discuss my departure with anyone internally, “in any terms it may wish.” I signed it and didn’t care because I was in the middle of switching to a completely new field where it would never matter, but it did seem weird to me that they built in what seemed like an office gossip clause.

        1. Nadia*

          Depending on where you are, that sort of clause is not actually legal. In many jurisdictions, such a clause is either outright illegal, or in a legal grey area where it still wouldn’t actually be considered acceptable practice. What the hell is wrong with some bosses and workplaces?!

          1. DrGirlfriend*

            This was an admin job at a law firm, so I think it probably was legal, but it did strike me as a weirdly catty thing to put in an otherwise reasonable separation agreement. I reinvented myself and am now in medical school, so luckily this will never affect me in any way, but I could see how internal gossip could really mess with the career of someone planning to stay in the field. All it takes is for one employee to move to a different firm and spread something damaging around, and you’re blackballed from a bunch of jobs…I’m very glad to be rid of this whole situation lol. I actually had the separation agreement framed, and it hangs on my wall next to my med school acceptance letter to remind me how far I’ve come :)

            1. Nadia*

              Law firms can actually be some of the worst offenders when it comes to illegal, or “grey area”, firings. They think they know best, and that they will get away with it, as they tend to have the resources and money to fight any claims.

              I am so sorry that you went through this awful situation, but am thrilled to hear that you are now doing so well!

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Probably because there’s a chance your professional reputation could be harmed. Depending on where you are, that could meet the bar for libel or slander.

              Just my best guess. But it does seem pretty odd.

              1. Nadia*

                Probably because there’s a chance your professional reputation could be harmed. Depending on where you are, that could meet the bar for libel or slander.

                Yes. And, depending upon jurisdiction, if you can prove that you lost a job, or the opportunity of one, due to the gossip, it could also meet the bar for loss of chance. This is one of the many reasons why smart people who have to fire people keep their lips firmly sealed and do not gossip.

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Yeah, I don’t understand how this would be illegal unless there’s an implication that the firm could lie. But I imagine it was there to avoid people complaining about being discussed internally, when the reality is that many times it’s important to discuss why someone was fired, even if it puts the fired person in a negative light. Slander is obviously not ok, but “X did this and it was terrible and she was a horrible employee” isn’t slander.

              1. Nadia*

                Depending upon jurisdiction, while truth is a defence against slander/defamation, it will not always succeed. Factors such as motivation, what words were used, and what damage was done (especially in comparison with the severity, or lack thereof, of any damage done by the actions being discussed/gossiped about) also play into it.

      2. quill*

        Not a lawyer, but I don’t think there’s a formal legal definition of gossip. There is, however, for slander, defamation, and libel, but all of those require the information being spread to not be true…

        1. Nadia*

          It’s more complicated than whether or not what is being said is true. This varies between jurisdictions, but the truth is rarely a complete defence.

    2. Non non*

      I’m imagining Harvey Weinstein in LW #3’s position. Sometimes people discuss why someone was fired to help others avoid a similar situation.

      1. singlemaltgirl*

        i’ve always been taught that you never say you’ve fired someone publicly. in private with mgmt/hr, you may be discussing the options or that you are going to do it and covering the steps needed, but publicly, all i’ve ever said is ‘so and so is no longer with the org effective [date]’. people can speculate but i don’t share anything more than that.

        i have, in the lead up to performance mgmt mtgs or with a pip, talked to other staff about specific concerns whilst trying to keep names out of it. sometimes, i have to ask directly about someone’s supervision style or if concerns were expressed about an individual, have things changed/improved, etc. with that individual.

        when people have come across significant egregious dismissible issues with a particular individual’s work, i have indicated there’s a ‘reason why that person no longer works here’ and nothing more. but in many of those cases, i haven’t actually fired those individuals – they left when they felt the pressure of their performance coming to roost and resigned before getting fired.

        1. Andy*

          > people can speculate but i don’t share anything more than that.

          The speculations and myths can do more harm then accurate but minimal information. To literally everyone. Especially when it is something like sexual harassment and where the gossip can get super victim blamy. It can get quite ugly for victim.

          But also in many different more easy situations – people blaming random people, assuming company fires for ridiculous reasons and so on.

          1. singlemaltgirl*

            i’m surprised by the responses to my post.
            1) i think anyone fired deserves the dignity of not having their dirty laundry aired out in public.
            2) even when i’ve worked in toxic work environments, there wasn’t much in the way of victim blamy stuff over sexual harassment b/c no one got fired for sexually harassing anyone. women got fired for being ‘troublemakers’ for whistleblowing and all the women knew it. the men knew they were untouchable. my experience (when i haven’t done the firing) is that the victims are the ones that get fired.
            3) in orgs i’ve led, there’s a pretty regular and consistent performance mgmt process. there hasn’t been speculation about why someone may not be working there anymore – but maybe it’s b/c i’ve led orgs in that under 50 employee camp and people generally know the problem children and why they’re problems. they have all been, with the exception of 1, been members of staff that other staff have complained about. it’s never been one egregious breakdown – dismissed staff usually have a pretty clear pattern in the workplace and most people are relieved when they’re gone.
            4) ultimately, mgmt will always be blamed for everything at some point. my job isn’t to avoid taking blame. i’m there to help people be productive, feel valued, help develop, mentor, coach, and address concerns.
            5) the places i worked for that were toxic – we knew they didn’t fire for ridiculous reasons. they fired to maintain the culture, support the toxic environment they’d created, and reward those who sucked up best or went along with everything without question. where i lead, i’m usually going into dysfunctional workplaces that need fixing. usually the people i fire are all people identified by other staff to be fired – and i just take too long b/c i need to assess, performance manage, and give them a shot at succeeding. so none of the ‘vacuum of info = speculation that’s harmful for morale’ has ever been my experience.

            i think, perhaps, if the corporate culture was secretive and untrustworthy, all these criticisms may make more sense. but ime, male dominated cultures while often untrustworthy (for women, for men they’ve got their back), don’t make it a secret about what will get you fired and what won’t. and the orgs i lead, i maintain a level of transparency and openness throughout the culture so people know they won’t get turfed for no reason or a ridiculous one.

            as for people understanding what will lead them to get fired, there are clearly delineated dismissible offenses which people are reminded of when shit comes up. it doesn’t mean i need to say x person was fired for a, b, and c. however, if i’m doing a reminder on policies and processes that could get you fired, that isn’t gossip or throwing a person who was fired, under the bus. just a clear reminder about following policy.

            1. Andy*

              > 3.) in orgs i’ve led, there’s a pretty regular and consistent performance mgmt process. there hasn’t been speculation about why someone may not be working there anymore

              You of want it both ways – to say that everyone knows and also that whatever lead to firing is secret. It cant be both at the same time. And people do speculate – sometimes assuming the actual firing was over much worst act then it actually was. Other times blaming people who had nothing to do with firing. Yet other times guessing completely wrong and thus making wrong conclusions about how company operates.

              > 2) even when i’ve worked in toxic work environments, there wasn’t much in the way of victim blamy stuff over sexual harassment

              I have seen exactly that. The person was fired for actual real harm, but the rumor has it that she was oversensitive. It was not particularly toxic environment, the bad guy was cut of rather quickly. And the rumors were counteracted by telling people that no, she was not oversensitive, it was not misunderstanding.

              > 4) ultimately, mgmt will always be blamed for everything at some point. my job isn’t to avoid taking blame. i’m there to help people be productive, feel valued, help develop, mentor, coach, and address concerns.

              People dont feel safe or valued if others get fired without good reasons. Instead, they conclude anyone can disappear quickly. Again, I worked exactly at workplace like that. People concluded that you can in fact be fired for the most minor things or randomly, so they avoided talking about issues a lot more then is normal.

              > 1.) i think anyone fired deserves the dignity of not having their dirty laundry aired out in public.

              Unless the secret keeping is harming other people. Or, unless the secret keeping is making job more difficult for other people.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “i’ve always been taught that you never say you’ve fired someone publicly. i”

          This is wrong. If the person does something very bad, it’s important for other staff to understand what they did that led to the firing. Both so they can not do the same thing, and also for morale of staff who are worried about themselves being fired and are not doing anything close to as bad.

          If it’s not known why (at least in a general sense) someone is fired, it can really undermine morale of staff who think they might be next. Whereas when staff learn that the other person was seriously F’ing up, it avoids that.

          ” ‘reason why that person no longer works here’ and nothing more. ”
          This vagueness is a recipe for increasing fear among remaining staff.

          “The speculations and myths can do more harm then accurate but minimal information. ”
          THIS. And all the rest of what Andy wrote.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            ” ‘reason why that person no longer works here’ and nothing more. ”

            Adding, if you’re not going to give details at a minimum say (if it is possible to do so truthfully) that the person was warned over the course of several months to improve their performance/behavior and did not do so. Otherwise people will wonder is the person was blindsided and worry that they might be too.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            Yeah. When an employee was actually arrested for selling people’s personal info online, pretty much everyone knew why that guy was fired.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              Yeah, if everyone knew. If most people didn’t know, and the guy was otherwise a good performer, then many people will think “Whoa, he did good work and got canned. For all I know I might be next..”

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                The arrest happened at work, so it was pretty obvious. (And he had gathered the data as part of his job.) So, everyone did know.

                His other claim to fame was wearing leather pants to work at least once a week.

          3. Once Fired*

            As someone who was fired from a job for performance issues, I actually wish in our separation meeting I had talked with the CEO about how they planned to tell the small staff. The role morphed into something that wasn’t a fit for my skillset; the CEO felt like my performance wasn’t up to par (I’d disagree on some aspects of this), but regardless, the firing was performance related.

            I was well-liked on staff and among my direct reports. No one else on staff outside of top leadership saw, heard, or knew of any performance issues. The CEO apparently sent an email and then had a meeting to tell everyone the “she’s no longer with us and to respect her privacy, I can’t give any more details.” Because no one else thought I was a low performer, you can imagine that their minds filled in the reason for the firing with some outlandish things (e.g. I must’ve stolen from the company, done something super unethical or illegal to get such an immediate firing). I would have much rather the CEO just said that there were performance issues and we had met about it multiple times. I had good relationships with people on staff so I was able to let a few people know it was performance-related so they could get that circulated and squash any other rumors. But if I hadn’t been able to stay in contact with other staff members, I can only imagine what stories would be still circulating to this day.

        3. Observer*

          i’ve always been taught that you never say you’ve fired someone publicly.

          There is no legal backing for that though, which is the issue with the suggestion here. And to be honest, while this is a good idea in most cases, it simply is not the case that it is best practice 100% of the time. There are situation where the dignity and / or privacy of the person who was fired is not the issue with the most precedence.

          1. Nadia*

            There is no legal backing for that though

            This varies heavily on jurisdiction. The truth is not usually a complete defence against defamation/slander/libel etc. Factors such as motivation, damage, the way in which the information was communicated, exaggeration, how “bad” the original act being gossiped about actually was, etc, all play into it.

            1. Observer*

              The truth is not usually a complete defence against defamation/slander/libel etc.

              In the US it is, though

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        Yes this is what I was thinking as well. I don’t mean to imply I think OP is that terrible or terrible at all; we have no idea what the situation is! But if they were fired for doing something offensive, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the company wanting to make sure people 1) are clear that it’s a fireable offense and don’t repeat it and 2) feel safe at work knowing that the company takes whatever happened very seriously. How this was handled may genuinely be relevant to discuss in a number of situations, with current employees or potential employees or contractors.

        There’s just not enough information here to determine whether anything inappropriate is happening, in my opinion. It doesn’t say whether OP was called out by name, or if the event was just discussed in a general manner and OP obviously knows it was about them.

    3. Bagpuss*

      But is it gossip? OP says they were fired and doesn’t suggest that the information their ex boss shred was factually wrong. I’m not familiar with this area of law but if they were sharing factually accurate information then unless it was a situation such as a medical or legal scenario where there is a confidentiality issue, would a cease and desist be appropriate?
      Depending on the reason for the firming it might even be relevant for it to be shared with someone else in the industry – people do have informal conversations as well as formally seeking references, for instance. It could also be relevant if the person concerned was now working for LWs ex employer, or considering working with them – I think if you were thinking of working worth/for a company and heard that someone you knew had been fired by them, you might want further information to decide whether it was a red flag for you in working there, for instance.

        1. EPLawyer*

          But it doesn’t make it illegal. A lawyer is not going to take the time to send a cease and desist letter over gossip. They just are not.

          Who knows WHY the the former boss was talking to the contractor about LW. Maybe they are old buddies and sharing stories about their jobs. Maybe the contractor was thinking of head hunting LW and wanted to know more about LW. Or maybe LW did something so egregious that it needs to be told to protect others.

          The fact that fomer boss asked LW’s colleagues how OP’s actions affected them tells me this is more than just a boss deciding someone wasn’t working out. OP needs to consider WHY they were fired and concentrate on repairing their reputation, not making sure everyone doesn’t talk about it.

            1. Another Lawyer*

              I suspect we practice in different jurisdictions, but I disagree with both of you.

              Even if this doesn’t fall foul of workplace and/or contract law, it could still fall into defamation law, depending on what has been said to whom, and when.

              A significant number of firings are done in questionable grounds, including questionable legal grounds, in the first instance. Unless a firing involves an actual criminal act, keep your trap shut about details. And even when actual criminal behaviour is involved, it is still best practice to keep your trap shut on details.

              1. Allonge*

                Even if the ‘gossiper’ does not name names? OP writes that they are not sure if the boss named them, just that the timing makes it obvious (to OP? everyone involved? everyone in the industry) that it was about them.

              2. Coder von Frankenstein*

                I thought defamation required (at least in the United States) that the statements are factually untrue?

              3. not a doctor*

                Not a lawyer, but doesn’t defamation have to be false? It doesn’t sound like that was the case here.

              4. EPLawyer*

                Truth is an absolute defense against defamation — even if it is just gossip.

                Most attorneys are not going to waste time on someone complaining about others talking truthfully about why they were fired. The LW did not say it was untrue or questionable in any way.

                1. Nadia*

                  Truth is an absolute defense against defamation — even if it is just gossip.

                  This isn’t the case in the (non-US) jurisdiction I practice in. Truth certainly is a defence, and it can be an absolute defence, but factors such as motivation, intent, damage done, the way in which the information was communicated, how severe the original actions being gossiped about actually were (especially in comparison to the damage done), etc, all play a role.

              5. Jam Today*

                It would be defamation if it was false, no? The way LW describes the behavior is…intriguing to me, asking people if they would be “offended” if they had encountered LW’s behavior in the workplace. This sounds like it was definitely for cause, and something that had or would have a harmful impact on other people in the workplace.

              6. Observer*

                Even if this doesn’t fall foul of workplace and/or contract law, it could still fall into defamation law, depending on what has been said to whom, and when.

                In the US? The OP is clear that the former boss did not make anything up. In what jurisdiction in the US is truth not an absolute defense against libel and slander?

                1. Nadia*

                  In the US?

                  I am not the commenter above that you are referring to, but their statement is accurate to the non-US legal jurisdiction I practice in, wherein the truth is a defence to defamation, but other relevant factors (such as motivation, damage done, severity or lack thereof of the original actions, how the information was communicated, etc) all play into it as well.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Pure speculation on my part, but the sentence “this boss also apparently met with several of my then-coworkers to ask them if the situation for which I was fired would have offended them them” makes me think LW #3 was fired for sexual harassment. My guess is boss is one of those out of touch older dudes who was probably sharing the story with their colleague as a “guess what we’re not allowed to do anymore” type of thing.

            I could be wrong and just projecting my own experiences here, but that was my immediate assumption.

              1. Juli G.*

                I don’t think it’s that odd. The fact that the boss was asking people if they were offended coupled with the fact that the LW doesn’t claim this was an unjust firing leads me to believe this had to be something that would be considered a type of discrimination or harassment.

                Unless you mean the assumption of the reason that the boss was sharing it with the colleague, which is a bit more conjecture but not outlandish.

                1. quill*

                  I assumed harassment or descriminatory remarks, just based on what a reasonable company would 1) consider a firing offense 2) preemptively ask about things being ‘offensive’ 3) the LW would not want talked about but would also (interpereting a little into the letter here) be something that many people, historically, have perpetrated and then wanted others to forget for the sake of their careers.

                2. MCMonkeybean*

                  To me the fact that the boss was talking to coworkers is a sign that they wanted to take it seriously and investigate whether others were harmed by the situation, which is pretty much the opposite of “omg can you believe what we’re not allowed to do anymore.”

                3. Autumnheart*

                  I don’t either. Maybe the boss was feeling out whether they were looking at a hostile work environment situation vs. a case of, for example, targeted harassment. (e.g. someone hitting on ONE person specifically, vs. someone making all the men/women at work uncomfortable by acting a particular way)

              2. JKateM*

                Honestly sexual harassment “but it’s a compliment” or something like racial jokes “but I’m not really racist of course” or something else like that is exactly what my mind jumped to. Those offensive things that the offender always seems to think are somehow fine and everyone is “overreacting” because they “didn’t mean it that way.”

            1. Andy*

              Talking to potentially affected people down the hierarxhy and asking them how the situation looks like from their point of view strikes me as correct action. It is not being out of touch, it is opposite.

              Bad boss would just made judgement bases on how he is personally treated. Regardless of whether we talk about something like harassement or just skipping work duties.

        2. Andy*

          And does not have to be. Gossip is not any information someone does not want other to know. Going by the dictionary, nothing imply this was “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true”.

          As a side note: I worked in company where we followed “do not talk about others especially not negative” and at the time found it great. Until problematic manager got hired and it turned out massive weakness. Easy to exploit weakness. We all become enablers, and it took quite a lot of time till we were finally able to compare notes and damage was done. As in people were harmed by our collective unwillingness to risk “gossip”.

          Not exactly the same situation, but the lesson from it for me was quite strong. And the reason for firing is situation where that piece of situation simply can be relevant to others to stop further harm to various people.

    4. Observer*

      For LW3, I’d recommend having an attorney send a cease-and-desist letter to your ex-boss, copying in the company’s legal department.

      That is a TERRIBLE idea for the OP, especially in the US, where truth is an absolute defense against slander / libel. Even assuming that the former boss is just a malicious gossip, what he is doing is completely legal. At best, the FB is not going to pay attentions and the OP will be out the money it cost to get the lawyer to write the letter – assuming they can get a competent lawyer to do it. At worst, it’s just going to cause MORE gossip and damage to the OP’s reputation.

      1. Nadia*

        LW3 should definitely get legal advice from a legal specialist within their jurisdiction on this.

    5. em_eye*

      TIL people believe that gossiping about a former employee is *illegal*.
      Spoiler alert, no, it’s not. At least, not in the US.

      1. capdeca*

        There is a difference between gossip and slander. It continues to alarm me that so many people are incapable of telling the difference.

        Could this gossip harm this person, or their livelihood, especially in a way that is far more severe than whatever has caused the gossip? If the answer is “yes”, or even “maybe”, keep it to yourself.

        Another thing to consider is asking yourself if you would like people talking about you in this way, about this particular issue or event? If the answer is “no”, even a soft no, keep it to yourself.

  7. staceyizme*

    LW1: I don’t know. Seemingly, you were given access to the files via a link to the writer’s Google Drive. That’s NOT the same thing as delivering them to you. Granted, I’m a small business person, not an office/ business systems person. But if a consultant had given me a link and considered the deliverable (graphics or copy or whatever) as being delivered, I wouldn’t think much of them. I’ve never had a consultant come back and tell me that they no longer have the work product available (and I’ve had to ask). Now, truly, your mileage may vary. But it should have been at least a Word file, PDF or some similar item. Drive is a transmission and collaboration tool, in my view. Not a likely forum or format for final form documents. It wouldn’t be remiss to express some consternation. (But that may not be the universal take, obviously.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not in my experience! Nearly every publication I write for now prefers to receive my stuff via Google doc, and once I send it to them that way, it’s considered delivered.

    2. Allonge*

      Eh, I don’t think so. Giving access to the product is delivery in sooo many cases.

      If we are talking about Word documents, I kinda see your point (in that it would not be that much more difficult to send the docs as an email attachment) but as someone dealing with large-ish files (video, InDesign package etc), sometimes sharing the location is the only way to go for delivery, and it’s certainly common to do it that way. And it’s not like emailing is a foolproof way of sharing files.

      Is it better to check with the client before deleting / be clear about when the files will disappear? Sure thing.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Files size is a good point – I’ve had PDFs at work that were too large to send as email attachments, and data files are generally larger than that. I’ll often put documents in Dropbox and send the link, as I don’t usually work in Google Doc formats.

        You can, incidentally, also get to a point where you have too much data for *internet* transfer. I have literally run into cases where writing the data to a hard disk and mailing it to the recipient via registered mail was significantly faster than downloading.

        1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          Sneaker transfers via external hard drives is definitely a thing. Have some friends who work as professional couriers, and they say it’s pretty common in their jobs.

        2. Quoth the Raven*

          My dad’s a photographer and he’s had to mail hard disk drives before because the client requests the images in RAW, and they take an absurd amount of space, and it is significantly faster than trying to upload them.

        3. Freya*

          My day job is bookkeeping, and before remote access to files was a ubiquitous thing in MYOB, you had to send a backup of the data file to the accountant at least once a year, on a CD. The smallest I ever managed to compress a MYOB data file was still too big to email, and at the time, USB sticks were more expensive (also a CD copy could be destroyed but not edited so you had a snapshot of what things were at a particular point in time)

    3. Nadia*

      That’s a really interesting perspective, and one I have never heard before.

      Google Drive is considered an industry standard mode of delivery, to the point of it being the requested mode of delivery by many clients, including big companies and brands.

      You receive the Google Drive link to a file containing the work, and then you download it to your device (and/or your own Google Drove), so that you have your own copy, and problems like this don’t occur.

    4. Tiny Soprano*

      My side hustle is digital art, and I absolutely deliver finished work as a Google drive link from time to time, simply because some of the files are too big to attach to an email, and it’s overkill to make a zip folder for one file. Of course, I’m not sure what the standard is for written work, but I just wanted to push back on the idea that sending google links is not delivering a product.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Translator here: I have been asked to submit my translations through Google Drive (and OneDrive) links and through WeTransfer, and the document is considered submitted once I send the link, especially if I got confirmation that the files were indeed retrieved.

        The agency I do most of my work for asks that I keep a copy of the files for two months, and then I’m expected to delete them. Others do not specify how long I have to hold on to the translations for, but I probably would not keep a copy for longer than a year.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          On the flip side I’ve authorized payments to translators based on a URL deliverable. I do download locally to verify content, even if it is not ready for release for months.
          That said, stress can make us forget steps. I’m thinking of projects where we ask ‘how did that happen’ and the answer was human error in a horrible time. Sept 2001, July 2005, March 2020… and any personal tragedies in between.

          1. Observer*

            Sure. People make mistakes, and forget to do things. The problem here is that the OP has failed to recognize that they did make a mistake. In fact they essentially say that they decided not to back up the document (because it was not in final form).

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Fellow translator here. I once worked for a paranoid client who needed me to delete everything immediately after delivery. OK, I did, but it was all in my TM (translator memory) still, so I could have reproduced the document if necessary.
          It was some ongoing document, and it would have been a nightmare to translate the update the following year without reference to the previous year, and the client was unable to supply me with my translation from the previous year, so I’m glad I kept it in the TM, otherwise I may have translated some terms differently to before.

    5. BubbleTea*

      I just bought something off Facebook Marketplace. I paid by bank transfer, and the vendor left the item outside their house in a bag and gave me their address. If I hadn’t gone to collect it, that would be my fault not theirs.

      There’s obviously an additional angle with physical items that could theoretically be stolen (in this case she put it out at the time I said I’d arrive, so it wasn’t out long) but I feel the comparison is similar.

    6. Sylvie*

      Nope! Google Drive is industry standard here, and OP is at fault for not saving a copy to their own Drive. They were thoughtless, careless and irresponsible and are now looking to shift the blame.

    7. LadyByTheLake*

      I write freelance for publications and deliver them via Google Drive. After that, they need to save them to their drive — it would never occur to me that I was supposed to be storing them for the publications in my Google Drive and that I couldn’t delete them.

    8. Fierce Jindo*

      I’ve always had photographers deliver their products to me via a link to a site they control.

    9. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Chiming in from a banking and/or legal context, if I send you a link to a document via some kind of secure e-mail scheme, I have legally “delivered” the document to you, at least in the areas where I practice law. There are any number of documents that I will deliver this way rather than as attachments in ordinary e-mail for security and confidentiality reasons.

    10. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “If a consultant had given me a link and considered the deliverable (graphics or copy or whatever) as being delivered, I wouldn’t think much of them.”

      This is super-common way of delivering things nowadays. Especially if the files are too large for email (but not so large they have to travel on a physical drive), but even when they are not. Sending a link for the recipient to download is delivery in many many fields/workplaces.

      “Drive is a transmission and collaboration tool”
      Yes – the transmission is the delivery.

    11. RagingADHD*

      You know that Word and PDF files can be transferred by Drive, right?

      The LW received the docs, they just didn’t download them or save them to their own Drive. The contractor has absolutely no control over that.

      If you got the file by email and the attachments were eventually stripped out (which some email servers will do if a file is dormant and archived), would you think it was somehow the contractor’s responsibility to send it to you again? No.

      If it’s valuable to you, you save it.

    12. Lyra Silvertongue*

      There is no functional difference between a Google Docs file and a Word file. It’s 100% on the LW for not downloading the file. I frequently work with PDFs and docs that are too large to send via email (the limit for many email providers is actually pretty low) and Google Drive is the norm and has been in freelance writing/media circles for years and years.

    13. Observer*

      But it should have been at least a Word file, PDF or some similar item. Drive is a transmission and collaboration tool, in my view. Not a likely forum or format for final form documents.

      A distinction without a difference. The OP doesn’t say what format the document was in. And it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the document WAS delivered. All the OP needed to do was download it. And they chose not to. That’s totally on them.

  8. JC*

    Gosh there’s a lot of clueless LWs in this batch…
    OP1 if a document is important you make back ups of the backups! If someone told me they “may” revisit a project, I would want firm details and a retainer/ payment- I wouldn’t keep files around for over a year. There’s definitely an assumption that anything, especially important paid for projects, are saved internally. Sadly, it’s a lesson learned from this miscommunication.

    OP2- no you can’t get a raise backdated to before you joined the company, when you have only been at the company a couple of months! I’m assuming you are super new to the workplace, but your hr or manager will usually explain the raise/ promotion practice for your company. Typically it’s once a year and you would have to have served a certain length of time with the company before being eligible. Maybe there’s a workplace bonus you are eligible for that may compensate you for the extra effort over the past few months. A lot of companies are giving extra vacation days for example. Worth asking discretely.

    OP3- gossiping is never ok, but it sounds like a serious offence happened, so I would expect management to have discussed this with other staff to gauge the extent of the issue before you were fired. If someone suddenly disappears, there’s a lot of gossip anyway and your manager probably had to explain what happened and what offense occurred. This is normal. It’s unfortunate, but probably best to ignore it and move forwards. Let your friend know the issue was hurtful and traumatic and you would appreciate them not talking about it with you or others. If the gossip is serious enough to impact your career- eg the friend prevented you from being offered a job, or told all of their industry contacts your work history, then it may be worth looking into legal action.
    OP5- it’s ok and accepted to ask questions, but 15 years is a huge amount of time and most people would have changed significantly, especially someone new to management. Your angle should be to see if the team is a good fit, not call out someone to see if they have “improved”. This person isn’t even your direct manager, so really your questions should be mainly directed to your supervisor. I would be surprised if the person hasn’t already mentioned your past connection to the panel, but definitely acknowledge it- even a simple “good to see you again” makes it very clear to everyone you have met before.

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      It’s really unhelpful to dismiss letter writers as ‘clueless’ when they are asking for advice. We all have to start somewhere, and dismissive responses like this put people off asking simple questions online or in the workplace.

    2. LW2*

      LW2 here. Yes my question was out of touch, but that’s why I wrote in and asked someone with more experience than me. No one is born knowing these things, including you. This is my third professional job but all have been in the nonprofit ‘passion’ field where we are all underpaid and almost half of the people burn out because we can’t afford to keep working here. So money is very much not a thing that’s discussed by my coworkers and me because we all know “there’s stacks of resumes” on managers desks from new grads who want the job and can live off ramen still. So I’m learning where I can

      1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

        And I’m glad you felt able to write in to ask. I’m an older Gen X-er, and I have still learned a tremendous amount from Alison, even if some workplace norms discussed here don’t apply on my side of the pond.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Asking Alison, when the answer is ‘no’, is often better than going out and asking someone who will then consider you to have burned a bunch of political capital by asking that question.

        “Is this a norm?”
        “No” or “Not in most fields” or “No, the opposite is the norm.”
        ^ Totally normal question/response pattern here.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Just imagine if that one very new and junior OP who added herself to a senior leadership conference had instead asked Alison “Alison, can I take advantage of someone’s broken foot to add myself to a conference I was told I couldn’t attend? I would pay my own way.”

          Sometimes an OP needs to gather some gumption, and sometimes an OP needs to dial that gumption way back. Asking is one way you learn what’s appropriate in a given new-to-you context.

          1. Observer*


            But I don’t think that this is a fair comparison. The letter that you are referring to had some behavior that was unethical and should have been a red flag even to someone who has not been in the workplace long. On the other hand, this OP asked something could be seen as unreasonable, but not egregiously so. And what they are asking about is CERTAINLY not in any way unethical nor would it cause anyone to wonder about their ethics.

        2. quill*

          Yeah. There are a bunch of things that you just don’t know when you enter an industry because… well, why would you? It’s literally the first time you’ve had to handle the situation, and even if schools did offer courses on “office ettiquette” they would be largely useless due to the diversity of the workforce, and/or how long since high school or college you might enter a completely new workplace… or how different academia is from literally anything else, etc.

          See example of my boss at Pig Lab From Hell making fun of me, circa 2015, for not knowing how to use a fax machine. It was not reasonable, in 2015, to expect a 24 year old to have ever had to fax something before, let alone routinely, let alone on the same type of ancient, unlabeled fax machine that we had instead of a copier that would scan to email.

    3. serenity*

      Insulting letter writers is pretty explicitly against the commenting and community rules of this site

  9. Nadia*

    OP1, I do feel for you, but this all could have been avoided if you had downloaded the files from Google Drive when the contractor sent them to you in the first place.

    Hopefully, the writer will have these files backed up on their actual hard drive somewhere, and will be willing to send these to you. Note that these files may not include any edits that you requested later, but I’d be surprised if the writer didn’t have some version of the work backed up somewhere, even if only for their own future reference.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I think this could have been clarified even earlier by writing into the contract a definition of when something is “delivered.” That way both parties are on notice of when the work is considered done. If they want to vary from that, they’d have to take that up later, or create a new/modified contract.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        It doesn’t sound like the issue was a misunderstanding of when the work was done. The LW even says “I paid the writer for the work as soon as it was done.” So they knew it was done, they just didn’t realize that it was then their responsibility to save it.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Honestly, I think they knew perfectly well it was their responsibility, but got overwhelmed with COVID and just didn’t want to think about it.

          Now that’s biting them in the butt and they are looking for a reason why it isn’t their fault.

      2. Nadia*

        Delta Delta, you cannot contract your way out of legal obligations or rights. It is also quite possible that the Google Drive mode of delivery was agreed upon either within the contract, or verbally or in writing outside the contract. The mods of delivery does not appear to be a contractual breach on behalf of the writer.

        It is also likely that Google Docs is an industry-standard form of delivery, as it is in many writing sectors, and that OP1 has failed to follow the other industry-standard assumption and saved their own copies of the work completed.

  10. Eco-Logical*

    LW1: The other thing to consider is does the contractor have professional indemnity insurance? At least in the U.K. they should do (if they have any sense!), and it would be worth asking if you’re USA based. If they do, then you might well have a case against them for them not keeping the documents, which would cover the financial loss at least. I have to keep documents for 7 years after the project is finished under the terms of my PI insurance, though I’m not a writer, and the validity of my work expires after a max of 2 years (and sometimes sooner). I have backups on backups of everything, no matter how I send it to people, and something would have to be ancient for me to get rid of it. It’s worth asking at least about their PI insurance.

    1. dx*

      OP isn’t a party to whatever contract the contractor may or may not have with their insurer, so it doesn’t mean anything for OP if the contractor is in violation of the insurance T&C – it wouldn’t mean there would magically ‘be a case’. Furthermore, whether or not the contractor has insurance has no bearing on whether or not the contractor (or their insurer) owes anything to OP.

      1. Eco-Logical*

        The entire point of Professional Indemnity insurance is that it covers you if the client has a claim against you. So if the contractor has PI insurance, then the client (in this case the letter writer) can claim. Mine includes cover if the document has been deleted, so if I’d deleted the report and then a client asked for it, my PI cover would cover the financial loss, should they decide to make a case against me. Which is why it’s worth LW1 investigating this. My PI insurance has a seven year limit of liability, so anything older than that they don’t cover, but if I wrote a report 6 years ago, deleted it and then the client decided to claim for damages because I couldn’t provide a copy, then I’d be covered by my insurance. Ive literally renewed it today and talked all this through with the broker.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          On what we have from LW, I don’t see that LW has any claim against the contractor. The files were delivered; “they’re yours now, do what you want with them” is very clear language, to me. Absent some other facts about the contract and the course of conduct of the contractor and LW that we don’t know about, from what we see here the contractor has not breached any terms of the agreement. Without a breach, LW has no claim for damages.

    2. Juniper*

      If a timeframe wasn’t stipulated in the contract between the LW and the contractor, however, would they have a case? Unless this was explicitly stated at the outset, they can’t really argue that the contractor was negligent. I have a hard time seeing how an insurer’s conditions to their clients would have any bearing on the contractual obligation between the customer and contractor, though I’m not an insurance expert.

    3. Nadia*

      A lot of that would depend very heavily upon the legal jurisdiction the LW and the contractor are, and what industry the writing was being done for.

    4. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Oh yeah why not start some kind of legal issue an independent contractor because you didn’t download or think about documents for a year. What a really cool thing to do that will definitely not result in other freelancers refusing to work with you.

    5. JM60*

      The OP doesn’t have a case against the contractor unless the contract has some clause requiring the contractor to keep a copy for X amount of time. They delivered the file, so they fulfilled their end of the deal. The OP just failed to take possession of it, which isn’t the contractor’s fault or responsibility.

      I don’t want to encourage the OP harrass the writer with a lawsuit.

    6. Observer*

      If they do, then you might well have a case against them for them not keeping the documents, which would cover the financial loss at least. I have to keep documents for 7 years after the project is finished under the terms of my PI insurance, though I’m not a writer, and the validity of my work expires after a max of 2 years (and sometimes sooner)

      No. It doesn’t matter what the insurance is. Unless the OP’s contract with the writer had / has a clause requiring the writer to keeps a copy for x amount of time, the OP won’t have a case, and the PI insurance will not cover it.

  11. June*

    You can’t rely on other people to save documents that are important to you. It’s so easy to save them. The writer provided the product, was paid, moved on. It’s frustrating but not the fault of the writer.

    1. Mongrel*

      And if it’s important save it in more than one place.
      Have a copy locally, have a copy on YOUR cloud service(s) of choice – not just a link to their cloud host and a couple of cheap USB sticks that you can store out of the office\home.
      (I say cheap because large, branded thumb drives are stupid cheap right now – 128GB for under £15 atm)

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, this is where I fall. If someone send you files, whether it’s a link or an email attachment, it’s on you to save those files if they’re that important. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to retrieve them later.

  12. watashi*

    Well, OP1 did say you’ll revisit it which the contractor might have also assumed on their end that you have a copy of your own to revisit. When you paid, they took it as an end to their contract with the assumption that they have fully delivered the product to you and you are in possession of the said product. In this uncertain game of assumption between the two of you, you ended up the short end of the stick.

  13. Julia*

    Nothing to add re the answers today, which are great. I just wanted to thank Alison for apparently shifting more often to gender-neutral pronouns these days. It’s nice to normalize the use of the word “they” so it stops feeling strange to people who grew up being taught not to do it.

  14. Baron*

    I’m not sure I understand what’s going on in #5. Asking someone how they’ve changed / what they’ve learned would seems to imply that you had a problem with their management style, but you also say you had “no major issues” with them. If not phrased carefully, this question could seem a bit confrontational, and I’m not sure why you’d go to that place with someone you had no major issues with.

    The LW also acknowledges that any past (non-major) issues were because the supervisor was new and learning to supervise. Of course, sometimes someone just isn’t a good manager/supervisor, and no amount of time will help that; sometimes, someone has areas where they need to develop, and they do develop over time. But the LW makes this sound like a really straightforward case of new-manager jitters, and it seems likely that anyone would have outgrown those in fifteen years.

    I think there are situations – i.e., if you had an issue with someone, or if you thought they had problems that went beyond inexperience – where asking “how have you changed?” could make sense. But in this situation? I don’t get it.

  15. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    OP 2 — It wouldn’t surprise me if the raise freeze impacted the salaries of people who were currently working (and perhaps kept their salaries from being market rate) but that you were still hired at the market rate. That is: your salary wasn’t impacted by the freeze and thus doesn’t need to be adjusted.

  16. Finland*

    …I did not specify the format that the work had to be delivered in…I paid the writer for the work as soon as it was done…I hadn’t made a backup,

    …the writer…told me that…they “might have accidentally deleted the files” from their Google Drive…What is reasonable behaviour in this instance?

    Hi OP#1, if I were you, I would do the following:

    1. Apologize to the writer.
    This person apparently had no written (or even verbal) agreement to store files for you for any length of time. You can’t make demands for things you didn’t communicate and agree on.

    2. Offer a finder’s fee.
    An additional fee for recovering the files for you (if possible) might be motivating for the writer to do the additional search work. Pay half upfront in good faith for the labor and time, and then half afterwards if the files are found; that way the writer gets something even if the results are nil. The writer seems to be a trustworthy person, given that you mentioned no complaints about their work or their delivery.

    3. Communicate absolutely everything in writing, including the initial search request.
    Make sure all verbal conversations have written confirmations and agreements specified in detail. Make no assumptions whatsoever about anything not explicitly written.

    4. Make back-up copies in multiple formats of whatever is found. Mark them with something incredibly obvious such as “File Name [IN PROGRESS—DO NOT DELETE_2021-06-28].doc

    5. Don’t make unreasonable demands of writers or expect free work if you want this relationship to continue.
    Expecting a writer to remember and to speak about writings from over a year ago, with no written agreement between both of you about storage requirements and no contact with each other within that time, is unreasonable.

    Signed, a professional writer.

    1. Writer*

      As someone who is also a professional writer, this is an excellent comment. I agree entirely!

    2. Forrest*

      Yes, this seems to me the path most likely to lead to a good outcome– OP getting the documents back!

    3. The Other Katie*

      Thank you! As also a professional writer, I have extensive backups and would undoubtedly be able to help someone who lost their files within the last year or so. I would be much more inclined to do so if they didn’t come in with guns blazing, blaming me for deleting it or as suggested upthread threatening to claim on my insurance (wtf?).

  17. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

    LW1 – it’s worth noting that in the time period you’re discussing, google made some changes to the overall storage space schema they’d been using. Assuming this contractor uses the same google account for personal and business purposes, they may have been motivated to free up storage because of those changes; I’m guessing that’s where the “accidentally deleted” language came from

    1. RagingADHD*

      Yes, they likely batch-deleted everything marked “Paid” that was over X months old, or something like that.

  18. Me (I think)*

    At work when I send large batches of photos to people, I send Google Drive download links. After 30 days or so, I delete the .zip file from my G-Drive. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who email me a year or more later, telling me their link doesn’t work and what am I going to do fix it? What?

    When I do any freelance photography work, my paperwork specifies that the client is 100% responsible for downloading and storing any photos that I deliver from an assignment. I don’t want to be on the hook if my cloud-based archiving service has technical problems or goes out of business.

    1. Fierce Jindo*

      If you get the questions consistently, it make make sense to put a reminder in the email where you send the Drive link (even though the policy is in your contract).

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I typically say “Please download – I’ll remove the files from this location at the end of [following month or perhaps end of month after that – aiming for 45-60 days out]”

        Though I do store most deliverables I create locally as well.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Do you all work for the same organization? If so, there’s a certain logic to the files being stored in one place, rather than creating separate copies all over the place. With people wthin my organization, I’ll share them as “Here is where they are kept” (and also have a backup somewhere). Rather than wanting different users to store them.

      With people outside my org, yeah, they’ve got to get the files.

  19. Bookworm*

    OP1: I’m really sorry that happened, regardless of where the mixup occurred. Just throwing out there that depending on some factors, Google itself may be able to retrieve these files for you. Long story short, I worked at an org that was trying to reorganize its files into something that was easier to manage and find things as a resource. Some files were somehow lost in the transition so it was on no one’s G Drive, let alone the main one.

    Google was able to retrieve some of the files (not all of them) and we had to pay for this service. It was also only a matter of months vs. over a year.

    This may not do anything to salvage the relationship with the writer, but there’s always a chance you might be able to at least not start from the very beginning? Good luck. :(

  20. AnonforThis*

    I will say when my employer’s VPN went down for a few days due to a fire in the server room, they had us all log system downtime. Fortunately this overlapped a holiday weekend so we had a chunk of the time off anyway. We were paid but excused from working. It was literally impossible for us to do any of our work with the network down. Even our public website was down. I work for the government, however, and this affected thousands of employees. We do literally have a code in our timesheets for IT system downtime.

    I understand the government does things differently but it does seem very unfair to force people to take leave for the employer’s issue.

    1. Blackcat*

      Yeah. My husband’s company is pretty stingy with how PTO can be used, and even they pay people during times like this. Since they do time-tracking, they have a timecode for “unable to work due to equipment failure” which is used during times like that (also if your computer goes kaput and you need IT’s help to get back to work).

  21. Akcipitrokulo*

    Is the answer to LW3 maybe a culture-specific thing? Because I would be horrified at the idea that a raise is being given to everyone on level x, but excluding new people.

    Obviously you don’t get it backdated to when you weren’t working here, but backdated to your start date and moving forward? Of course you get the rise along with everyone else! I can’t see any justification for withholding it.

    The company has agreed that doing x is worth y to them.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      No, my understanding is this would be a retroactive raise back to September for those who were there at the time AND experienced the salary freeze. I definitely wouldn’t expect to give this type of raise to someone who wasn’t there at the time and has only been there four months.

    2. Forrest*

      yeah, the culture difference that strikes me is whether you see it as a bonus/performance-related vs. increment or cost of living. If everyone is on fixed salary scales and it’s a 1.5% uplift across the company, it would be quite weird to leave OP on the 2019/20 rates! On the other hand, if pay is individually negotiated and this is based on August 2020 appraisals when OP wasn’t there to be appraised, it would be weird to include her.

    3. NoviceManagerGuy*

      LW3 was likely hired at a slightly higher salary than most of the people at their level who were already employed there.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      I think it is entirely based on whether their hiring and retention budgets were managed separately. Plenty of people during the pandemic (and other times too of course) had freezes on raises but still hired people on at the normal salary rate. If that was the case here, then the people who already worked there are being brought up to where they should be but OP is already making the correct rate.

      If the company was hiring people on at lower salaries than usual, then it would make sense to argue that OP should also be included in the raise–but ideally that’s something they would have discussed when negotiating their offer. I agree with Alison that it’s not great to ask for a raise now when they agreed to their current salary just a few months ago and nothing has changed for them.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think it’s closer to a pay reinstatement than a raise, in a way. Think of it this way: a bunch of people were supposed to get a COL raise in September, pay was frozen, pay is now restored so it includes that increase.

      Without the “raise”… my pay was cut at my old job. It was apparently restored in January, which for some was a 20% bump. If someone started in December, their pay wasn’t cut, so they don’t get to have their pay “restored”– there’s nothing to restore it to, they haven’t lost anything. Whereas the people who were there when the pay was cut did lose out.

  22. Harper the Other One*

    I think LW1’s situation is muddied because the document is a virtual one, and people are used to having those resources just… floating in the cloud forever. But if there was the same scenario with a paper document, everyone would agree that the LW was responsible for storing and keeping track of the product, and that the contractor couldn’t necessarily be expected to keep that project on hand just in case. (Many writers would, but just as many happily purge their paper files every few months except for materials they’re contracted or legally required to keep.)

    Our brains haven’t quite calibrated to how working with virtual materials is the same or different than paper, and that means everyone has a slightly different standard they apply. I think this is a good reminder that contracts have to stipulate document storage for virtual materials: who’s responsible and for how long.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I don’t trust the cloud and don’t use it. I use Time Machine backups and periodically archive older files to a separate hard drive. Yes, I’m a something of a Luddite.

      1. quill*

        I mean, the Luddites weren’t “anti technology” so much as “against companies using technology to hold their livelihood hostage” so when it comes to backing up files rather than potentially losing access to them in the cloud if tech changes or fees are introduced…

  23. Anon for this*

    When one of my coworkers was fired, my boss told our department why. Not really in much detail, we didn’t want gossipy detail, but since coworker was still in their training period and we all shared responsibility for training them equally, we needed to be told that they weren’t fired because we trained them wrong when we started panicking at the prospect of training their replacement.

  24. LW2*

    Thank you for answering! That’s what I thought. I wanted to check just in case, but definitely didn’t want to bring it up to my manager if it was out of touch!

  25. Not So Super-visor*

    On LW4, I’d be curious to know if the employer offered the option to come into the office to work when the VPN went out. We have work stations currently set up at our office in case of power, internet outages, etc. The policy that was sent out is that the employee is having an outage of over 1 hour that they can choose to either come in to the office and dock at one of these stations or to use PTO to cover the time.

  26. Kyubey*

    LW #4 – I believe they should pay you. I had a similar situation happen. A few years ago when I was still in an office, the power went out in the building, due to unknown reasons (not a storm or anything). We spend 2 or 3 hours waiting for the power to come back, and we were absolutely paid for it.

  27. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Never underestimate the usefulness of PRINTING out important documents! Once you have those hard copies, no computer glitches of any kind can erase them! Retro? Sure – and also secure.

    1. Beany*

      True, but then they have to be retyped to make them useful. Or more likely, OCRed, edited, and reformatted.

      So it’s *a* safety net, but I’d want a couple of digital ones in place as well.

      1. A Person*

        OCR is really good these days, especially if you use a paid program. OCR plus spell-check will find most of the weird OCR errors because very few words actually have square brackets or pipe characters in them. Then it’s a matter of needing someone fully literate to read for meaning, to catch remaining errors. (And THEN you can get to editing the content.)

        And yes, have digital backups also. Of course. But paper really does have a place in the world.

  28. Dwight Schrute*

    I honestly think this is on you OP1. It’s been over a year now and they delivered the document to you. It’s on you to back it up and save it. Since there weren’t any firm agreements that the writer would be continuing to work on the project with you and you paid them, I totally see why they thought it was fine to clear their own storage

  29. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    Regarding LW#1, the document might have been shared with them, but they weren’t given ownership. When a document is shared, that new person is given access. However, the original is stored on the drive of the person who shared it. As such…well, LW#1’s situation demonstrates it perfectly. When Ownership is transferred (by sharing it, clicking on the person, and then clicking on “make owner”) the doc is then stored on the drive of the new owner. As such, the original creator can delete it whenever they want and it will still exist for the new owner.
    Unfortunately, this won’t really help LW#1, except to say that you should ask contractors in the future to actually make you the owner when they say they give you ownership.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Either way though, the onus is on the client to retrieve the files and back them up on their own system, and this could’ve been figured out early one if they didn’t have access.

    2. bananab*

      AFAIK Drive files can either be shared read/write or read-only, and both allow downloading or copying to your own Drive account. Not that there’s not a file owner, but that doesn’t really matter in a file delivery context.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        But if the writer had made LW1 the owner, then it wouldn’t have mattered when they deleted it from their own drive – it would have stayed in LW1’s (it also wouldn’t have affected the writer’s storage limit, which presumably was the prompt for the clear out). However, it’s not clear from the letter if LW1 is a regular google user – if they aren’t a google user at all, and just had “anyone with the link can edit” access then it may not have been possible to transfer ownership. But if you’re not a google user, you really can’t expect someone else to host your files for you indefinitely, and should absolutely have downloaded a local copy.

    3. RagingADHD*

      This can also be accomplished by the recipient by clicking “Save Copy On My Drive”.

    4. Observer*

      except to say that you should ask contractors in the future to actually make you the owner when they say they give you ownership.

      Not really. I mean, it won’t do any harm. But totally not necessary. All the OP needed to do was to actually download / copy the file.

  30. Lab Boss*

    OP2’s story makes such a huge case for why salary transparency is important. I want to believe (as other’s have suggested) that the existing employees had their raise to market rate delayed back in September, while the OP was brought in at market rate for their position- so the backdated raise is just bringing the existing employees up to where they all should be relative to the OP.

    BUT, corporate budget bureaucracy can do weird and ugly things. My company is in the midst of a massive top-to-bottom salary re-structuring to bring everyone up to market rates. Salary bands have been set but there’s still quibbling over who will land exactly where in their bands. While that’s all hashed out, my department has to hire someone and has been told to bring them in at the current, sub-market-rate. Once they’re brought in they won’t be eligible to be pushed up into their market rate salary band for 1 year due to company policy about how often you can get raises that large. For reference, the increase to market rate will be a 20-25% increase from the current base pay for the position.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Oh good heavens I put an apostrophe in “others” in my second sentence. Be gentle with me, commentariat, I don’t know what I was thinking :D

  31. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Graphic Designer here. When the paid contractor or freelancer delivers your files the onus is on YOU to collect them and back them up on your OWN system within 30 days. You really can’t fault the contractor for removing them after, although some people DO backup their client files offline to a drive.

    I think the best you can hope for is to ask them to PLEASE have a look through their files and see if they did backup anything. But you can’t really blame them if they didn’t. I’ve had this happen over the years with stock photos and InDesign files, and generally because I do backup and archive client files, I can find them. But if this process takes them more than an hour, you really ought to pay them a nominal search fee (like $25-$50) for their time and trouble.

  32. MCMonkeybean*

    For LW 4–in addition to it being a crappy thing to do (those people have not budgeted to suddenly lose three days of pay!) if they really did want to go that route they better make sure people were actually not working.

    Over the last year of remote work there have definitely been a few times that there were server problems or various other technical issues but I still got some work done because I have some things saved on my desktop, and there are some things we do that just don’t require VPN. I’m sure those were far from my most productive days, but I was still working.

    1. quill*

      Yeah, every job I’ve had has had internal improvement projects I don’t necessarily need the company VPN for, as well as reviewing documents, and a fair bit of documentation / archiving work.

      After 3 days without VPN I’d have a clean inbox, a new data template, and the rough draft of an SOP / informal work instruction, depending on what was needed.

  33. Observer*

    #1 – I haven’t read all of the responses, but one thing jumped out at me:
    I hadn’t made a backup, since these were working documents in an ongoing project,

    That is a TERRIBLE way to handle backups. Backups are NOT just for finished products, but for ANYTHING you cannot afford to lose, and ANYTHING whose loss would create an issue for you. That’s true whether it’s work you are collaborating with others on or work that you are handling personally. If there is an investment in time, effort or money that would be troublesome to replicate, you BACK IT UP.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      THIS. I regularly save drafts of everything. Don’t get the logic of not backing up ongoing project work, especially expensive, paid-for work. OP, I understand your frustration and dismay, but the contractor is not at fault here. It seems you misunderstood the contractor’s cloud to be some type of permanent storage that you could access at any point in time. Implied means nothing. The contractor did nothing wrong, and may view additional effort a year down the line as extra-contractual. Be nice to them, maybe they will go the extra mile to help you out, but please don’t come across as self-righteous.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      I agree, for many reasons. For example, what if you had wanted to compare a new draft to its previous version?

    3. ceiswyn*

      Yeah – backups are for things you NEED, such as files that are used in an ongoing project. Once a project is done and they don’t need the files for anything anymore, *that’s* when OP starts to care about not losing them?!

    4. meyer lemon*

      Yes, I think this LW was confusing two different kinds of backups–“working” backup files and a permanent archive. I think it makes sense to not want to hold onto a bunch of intermediary files for all of your past projects, but it’s just asking for trouble to give contractors all the responsibility for storing working files. If it’s important to you, it’s wise to keep a backup.

    5. June*

      Plus it ceased to be “a working project” when contractor was paid. Some soft idea of maybe and future is not an ongoing project.

    6. Tiger Snake*

      I will admit I wanted to scream when I saw that line. Not just because I work in IT (code is never ‘finished’, its just ‘low priority for BAU fixes’), but because I simply can’t follow the LW’s thought process [I]at all[/I].

      The writer said “here are the files”, and gave a link to a google document… and the LW didn’t download them to their own system, ever? Took no action or ownership at any point? If I pay someone to do my taxes, and they provide the submission in an email, its up to me to take it out of the email and store it safely for seven years. If I contract work on my house and the invoice is through a web portal, its up to me to take a copy of that invoice and put it in my records for tax purposes. The internet is always transient.

      I just do not understand the LW.

  34. Another Michael*

    For #5 – it’s probably more useful to use your on-campus network to find out more information here than even asking directly. It seems like this is a large institution since OP hasn’t been in touch with previous manager over the course of their tenure at the school, but surely in the past 15 years they’ve developed enough of a network to ask around. Higher Ed, even large campuses, can be so small when you start to think about who you know and what relationships you have that can be fruitful for getting this type of information.

    1. OP LW5*

      Thanks for this also, this is definitely the way I’ll go if I like the position after the interview. Campus is large, but I know about everyone. One of my current coworkers went to grad school with the prospective immediate supervisor so I have some insight there already. It’s a small world.

  35. KellifromCanada*

    For LW1, I’m so sorry that you lost the scripts and the money you paid for them, but unfortunately, I think this is your error. The script-writer told you they were yours and you should do as you pleased with them. To me, this would be my indicator that I needed to take possession of them. This was the point at which you should have backed the scripts up on your own drives (in multiple places). I think this is an expensive lesson learned. Best of luck with your project.

  36. NewYork*

    OP1, I have not read all the comments, but typically we save work internally and can repost when asked.

  37. Dr. Rebecca*

    I must admit to being deeply curious about why LW3 was fired. I know the whole point of the letter is that they don’t want the story being spread around, but the way it’s written (discussions of “if the situation for which I was fired would have offended them” sounds like the LW did something that affected a protected class of people) and that…really changes where I land on the “gossiping” side of things.

    IMO, things shared to protect your current employees and to prevent egregious harm from coming to external stakeholders (the friend of a friend/collaborator with former boss) are not gossip, and are necessary for business.

    1. WFHHalloweenCat*

      Yes, thank you! This is where I come down on this, too. There is a lot of detail missing from the letter that would potentially change the answer. Even taking LW at their word — if there is even a question of the fireable action being offensive to someone, it very well might be something that needs addressed. The LW even says Boss didn’t name them to the coworkers but framed is as a hypothetical. The boss may have been asking coworkers if they took offense to make sure they didn’t need to do any further intervention/HR mediation.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        Yes this. I had to fire one of my team who laid their hands on another employee, which was witnessed by several other people, and was very unsettling and scary for them. It even rattled me, and I’ve witnessed some egregious behavior over the years. I had discussions with my team and the witnesses, but I can assure you it wasn’t to gossip, it was to answer questions and provide support, direct them to EAP, etc.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      Yes, there is a major difference between “Omg can you believe that Bob did X!?” or “Did you hear about what happened when we had to fire Bob last month!?” versus something like “We take X very seriously at our company. We recently had a situation arise and after discussing it with some of our staff we ultimately had to decide to let someone go.”

      And there is no way to tell from what is written here which is happening.

    3. Helvetica*

      Yes, I had a similar sense. Was it gossiping or was it actually something more like telling people it’s not okay to make racist jokes? The way it’s worded is very suspicious to me and it doesn’t seem like the manager would be at fault.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Yes, and if the circumstances of the firing could have created legal liability or harmed the reputation of the company, the boss may have been doing damage-control with their contact by assuring them that the perpetrator was fired.

    5. Meep*

      We had to fire a guy because he was difficult and rather than ask for help sat there playing Runescape on his computer. He also took it upon himself to be extremely combative whenever I asked for help (because female). I was told I couldn’t share why he was fired (which I had no intent to do outside of a cocktail story among friends not even in the field). Of course, the manager who fired him spread it to everyone outside of the company. People who she just met more often than not.

      It got back to his new coworkers of a month and they came looking for dirt at a conference. Deflecting it was a whole other time bomb as it turned out he was also talking crap about us. Became very high-school he-said, she-said where he expected me to be talking crap about him.

      Meanwhile, we had just hired three new people who had been there a month when he was fired and it created a lot of fear in how they handled the entire situation because he played the misunderstood martyr to them while the said manager was acting like a villain twirling her mustache. She was never forward about it and why it was important. Just vague and petty. It was a mess.

  38. lilsheba*

    On number 4: “If the employees are non-exempt, the company doesn’t have to pay them for any time when they weren’t working. It’s pretty crappy to dock their pay if they’re ready and willing to work and can’t because the company’s technology isn’t working, but it’s legal.” Isn’t this the same as attempting to go to work in the physical building but it’s closed due to weather or some other issues? It’s a virtual closing of the building, and I would think they would need to be paid.

    1. CmdrShepard*

      It is the same as working in a physical building, but if a person is non-exempt (meaning they are paid for hours worked and are owed overtime) if the building closes and the employees are told not to come in or sent home they don’t legally have to be paid for the time they did not work. Unless the non-exempt employees are told to stand by and wait for a call to come in to the building work. Non-exempt employees must be truly able to do what ever they want without being expected to be able to come into work. But ass Alison said it is a crappy practice, if your employees are willing able and ready to work they should be paid.

      1. lilsheba*

        I just ask because in the past if a building was closed to weather or something unforseen we were paid for the day, regardless. I would think this would be the same.

        1. A Person*

          I don’t think there’s laws around this (yet) so that was probably your employer having an extremely reasonable policy.

  39. DiscoCat*

    #1 I always, always make backups of documents- whether when working as a contractor or as the contract giver. You never know what might happen to shared folders, desktop copies or whatever. Always save, save a copy in another specifically named backup folder, and then also onto another drive. It’s surprising that neither the OP nor the contractor do this.
    In the days of SharePoint and OneDrive I’m actually back into saving backup files in my desktop folders and personal drive because the syncing issues between WFH and the server at work are giving me bad flashbacks to my time at high school and uni when I lost work due to power surges…

    1. June*

      Two back ups of important documents. I’m paranoid.

      Also cloud services cost money. Documents will not be stored by the original contractor forever.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I do not trust SharePoint or OneDrive, or any cloud drive for long term file storage.
      I keep files on my computer and I run a mirror backup every day. I end up needing it!

  40. I'm just here for the cats*

    For #4 and the VPN if you are expected to be able to jump on as soon as it comes back online then you should be paid. I think it would be the same thing as if you worked in the office and the network went down. You would stay at your desks or in the building waiting for it to come back online.
    Now if they said it’s going to be 3 days to get this fixed, no work to do until then that would be different because it would be just like if the office closed.

  41. StudentA*

    I would never use Google Docs for a project hand-off if I can help it for precisely the reasons you see in #1. The risks of mishaps are massive.

    1. June*

      Google Docs is fine. It’s the not saving the files and making assumptions about storage that is the problem.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Absolutely nothing about the situation was due to the nature of the delivery system.

  42. Lyra Silvertongue*

    OP#1, it was on you to make a backup. I do freelance writing for people, unless explicitly agreed, I am not also storing documents for you long term (it sounds like it was a full year before you revisited these documents?). I am not a cloud service. Usually I’ll tell people that they have X amount of time to download this material before I delete it, but the responsibility there is yours. When you’re hiring people for contract work, they’re not a part of your overall project – what is a “working document” to you may not be a “working document” for them but a finished draft as per contract. I get that the pandemic disrupted things for you as well, but you need to appreciate just how often people who want to work with arts freelancers will remain in sporadic contact for weeks or months on end without the actual work or pay or clear timeline ever appearing. The fact that you emailed someone doesn’t mean that they’re still actively engaged in a project with you.

  43. StressedButOkay*

    OP2, I have both been in your shoes and also have had folks I manage been in your shoes. When the raises are announced, our senior management team always, always makes a point to say that the raises will go into effect for those working at the company since X amount of time – anyone working there for less than that, unfortunately, would not be eligible. It’s just a part of being the newer person.

    Asking for a back dated raise that you didn’t earn will earn you no good will at your company and make you seem out of touch.

    The good news is that you’re working for a company who clearly wants to do what’s right by their employees. They didn’t have to do the back pay! So, that’s an excellent sign for your future with them.

  44. twocents*

    I feel for LW1, but ultimately: 18 months ago, a contractor delivered the work, you paid for it, and you hoped that maybe you’d work together in the future, potentially, there were some implications.

    That is one fulfilled contract with a lot of wishful thinking attached, and none of that precludes the necessity of downloading the work you paid for. I feel for you, I do, but I’m thinking of even documents I’ve paid for online that are delivered via a download. I download them, save the docs, and email myself a copy because that’s $25 I’d be out if I lost my download. (Maybe the company would be nice and let me re-download it with proof of purchase… but I wouldn’t count on it 18 months after the fact.)

    I also get that this is very scary to have to tell the other people on the project or your company that a major, expensive deliverable is just AWOL and you’re SOL on recovering it. Try the finder’s fee steps Finland recommended above and see if that’ll get an old version at least. If not, then you’ll have to action plan for how you make sure this never happens again and have some sort of solution to try to recreate what you can, and just hope things work out for you. Best of luck.

  45. HLK1219HLLK*

    If LW has a backup, they may have the edited versions. If they sent them by email, or opened them in their Word. For example, MacBook has TimeMachine. Microsoft users have OneDrive, etc.

  46. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW1: I got burned on this early on when I deleted work product just over a year from delivery. I didn’t necessarily do anything wrong but it did end up costing me additional work with that client.

    Now I provide engagements with advanced notice based on how they want to move forward. If they’re looking for a one-off consulting role, they’re told ahead of time when to expect delivery informed of how long I’ll retain the files (usually 6 months). Once the work product is delivered, they’re reminded of the 6-month retention. If they’re looking for an on-going relationship, I’ll hold the files as long as they’re maintain the client relationship. After termination of the retainer, the files are cleared out after 6-months.

    However, I also keep copies of interesting, unique, and difficult to create pieces so that I can draw inspiration for future clients.

  47. Former Retail Manager*

    OP #3….While I definitely think the most professional thing for your former boss to do would be to limit details about your departure and keep it as vague as possible, the reality is that that doesn’t always happen, and for the person in your grapevine to have heard about it, in a presumably gossip-y way, implies t0 me that this wasn’t a run of the mill firing due to poor fit or performance issues. It sounds like it was something more severe. My apologies if that is not the case. I think your focus may be off…..yeah it sucks they’re airing your dirty laundry, but I’d instead focus on ensuring that you don’t make these same mistakes again. In all fairness, maybe you already did that, I just can’t tell from your letter.

    In every situation I’ve ever encountered with firing due to serious wrongdoing, there were discussions about it afterward….sometimes legit need to know discussions, sometimes quiet gossip between trusted parties, but frankly, if you’re getting fired and there is serious wrongdoing I think it’s a bit naïve to assume people won’t gossip about the situation to some degree. I think the best you can do, if someone comes to you with it, is express regret over your actions and emphasize that you want to move forward. I’m sure some would say you should refuse to discuss it, but honestly, I think that just adds fuel to the fire and allows people to speculate. Unless your former boss is destroying your reputation or trying to prevent you from finding future employment, I think it’s best to own your mistake and move on.

    1. Nadia*

      Eh. Without fail, in my own experience, bosses who gossip about a firing are not gossiping because it was a reasonable firing. It’s usually some sort of ridiculous power trip, and the firing itself is either illegal or extremely questionable.

      At best, what is being gossiped about is a firing that was extremely premature or one that could have been entirely avoiding if the manager in question had anything even remotely resembling management ability. Something like an employee, especially a new employee still in their probation period, needing essential training, 99% of the time in something that would be impossible for them to know ahead of time (such as company-specific procedures, operation of brand new software or specialised equipment, etc).

      I’ve worked across a number of sectors for a long time – including legal, IT and media – and I am yet to come across an actual “serious wrongdoing” firing that has occured below senior management level.

  48. SleeplessKj*

    Speaking as an entrepreneur who uses Google docs and Dropbox frequently, I have to side with the contractor here. Her job was done (promises of “ongoing work” often go nowhere so she MIGHT have archived the files in case OP ever followed up, (I would have) but it was absolutely OPs teapots download and save those files someplace safe. Contractor aside, the cloud and the internet in general is not a safe place for long term storage. ALWAYS save your files in multiple places, one of which is preferably a hard drive of some sort.

  49. June*

    Asking for a raise four months in is tone deaf. Because previous employees are getting an earned raise that is overdue, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it. Don’t do it.

  50. Angelinha*

    I agree in general on OP2, but in public sector/bargaining unit jobs, the new person would generally be included in a retro raise if it included their class! I got major back pay this way when starting a job in December, for a retro raise that started the previous July. I didn’t get paid for July-November but I got the retro new rate for December onward. So it’s not out of touch to ask the question of an advice columnist (but OP2 unless you’re in a union, I wouldn’t ask your boss)

  51. Observer*

    #3- IN GENERAL, *gossiping* about why someone got fired is not a great thing to do. But it’s not clear that your former boss was actually doing that. The fact that he spoke to some of your coworkers to get information is DEFINITELY not “gossiping.” As for telling the collaborator, you simply don’t know. You don’t know who brought it up nor why the boss decided to provide all that detail. The fact that the collaborator was not working with Former Boss at the time of the firing does not mean that they were not the one to bring it up.

    The fact that the collaborator then told your friend about this says that either there has been some talk about your firing or the circumstances around OR the collaborator is very interested and / or talking about it quite a bit.

  52. ZucchiniBikini*

    LW1, I think this is a very unfortunate miscommunication. As a freelance business / policy writer, I do keep copies all my client work indefinitely, although in a storage drive, not in my active share drives. I have had former clients come back to me sometimes years after a project has finished and say “I know it’s an outside chance but do you still have a copy of X or Y?” and the goodwill that is generated by me being able to say “Sure, here’s the last version I have” has served me well (in two cases it led directly to new projects!)

    But I do this because it makes professional sense for me to do it and because I am a completionist who likes to have a full view of work I have completed, not because I am legally or contractually (or even ethically) obliged to do it. Many other freelancers of my acquaintance do clean out old client work after a period of time – 6 monthly or annually is typical – so I don’t think what your writer did is unusual or out of line, despite it being extremely unfortunate. If I was the writer I’d definitely be profusely apologetic (because that is generally how I roll), but I wouldn’t feel obliged to make it up to you in any material way (ie through free replacement work or the like).

  53. Glenn*

    One thing that seems relevant for LW1: Google Drive has changed their sharing model several times, in ways that affects what happens when something gets deleted. I believe it used to be possible for me to share something with someone else, have them accept the share, delete it, and have them retain a copy of it in their own storage automatically. Now, it’s definitely not possible. I have also seen at least one bug where someone was told “Clicking ‘remove’ will ONLY take this file out of your view; other collaborators will still have access”, but clicking the button effectively deleted the file. (This is in Google Sheets for Android; I was able to reproduce the bug myself several times.) So, the other person plausibly might not even realize that you no longer have access to the file, depending on what their habits are, and whether Google has changed behavior they were used to.

  54. Raida*

    “but also frustrated that something I paid for has been deleted with no backup whatsoever.”
    Yeah, you REALLY SHOULD HAVE HAD A COPY OF THE THING YOU PAID FOR. Do NOT leave business files in external contractor’s personal(or work) google drives.
    ALWAYS have a business copy of it.

    I’m sorry – duh. Hope you learn from this. When they handed it over it became yours.

    I think the contractor should… apologise for the misunderstanding – but not for the deletion itself, of their file of a year-old finalised project. You and they are at fault for not having a clear hand over process, which suggests both parties are inexperienced in this. Both should take responsibility for the misunderstanding.

    The contractor should also implement a more explicit contract which states you have xx days to take a copy of the supplied files and that there will be an $xx fee for retrieving archived files after that date. So that businesses do not assume they are going to leave handed over work just… available… forever. And their files can be tidied away.

  55. moneypenny*

    Years ago I was in a very toxic work environment and was planning my escape when I was laid off under mutual understanding it was a bad fit. I found out later that day that my boss gathered the entire staff to tell them she was firing me before she told me. It was humiliating and as I still see it, very disrespectful. There’s a way to handle things around a touchy situation like firing but much like a breakup, the person directly involved should know before everyone else.

  56. Jomola*

    Sorry, OP1 but this one is on you. You had an “implied” agreement – your exact words – and what you think you “implied” you apparently did not imply well enough so that the writer understood you intended for him/her to keep your access to this document indefinitely on their Google Drive. You should have backed it up. If you intended to have the writer assist you with future edits to this document, then that should have been clearly spelled out in your agreement. Yes, the writer could have kept the document however they were under no obligation to do so. They delivered what they promised and OP dragged their feet for over a year. I work in a College of Business for a major university and I pay their bills. If something isn’t explicitly spelled out in the contract with a vendor, then it is not a required deliverable. You can’t just assume that because you told your vendor something a dozen times that they are going to deliver it, if it’s not written out in the contract. And to demand a hour of the writer’s time to explain themselves? You are nuts. Own your mistake, you didn’t back it up and you had over a year to do it. The fault lies with OP.

  57. Jimulacrum*

    As to #1, I’m completely with Allison, but I think she falls short of saying what needs to be said.

    OP: You should have understood what you were getting into before you got into it. When you’re paying a writer for written material, you’re paying solely for the strung-together words. Unless explicitly stated in your agreement, you’re not paying for storage of electronic files or anything of the sort. The files are provided to you in whatever medium, and it’s your responsibility to retrieve them, store them, and preserve any work you perform on them. Your access to the writer’s Google Drive (or DropBox, or any other site) is a temporary measure to transmit the files, not a permanent place to park them while you figure out your next moves.

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