Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Holding a reference hostage

With our basement renovation in the rear view mirror, I can get back to my HR business.  Not a moment too soon.  A letter from a reader.

I am leaving a job that requires a significant amount of technical knowledge. I am the only person who knows how to do this work.   I gave decent notice - 3 weeks.   My supervisor came back to me and wants me to be available to advise on the work for six months or until my replacement is trained.  Here is the kicker.  He told me that if I ever wanted a good reference from him that I should make myself available at no cost.  Your comments and thoughts would be appreciated.
We had a little bit of back and forth where I suggested that she ask to train a colleague OR the supervisor.

He isn't interested in learning the job or doing the work. Actually he doesn't do much of anything. This would require him to work and my colleagues are tired of covering for him and picking up after him. They don't have the capacity to pick up this work, even short term. He is a relative of the owners.

Well, that's special.

First of all, congratulations for getting out of there.  He sounds like he is delightful to work for and with.

Employers can't make you work for free.  You know this.  He knows this.  And that's why he is being a bully and blackmailing you.   My inclination is to out this loser but I don't know enough about you, him, or the culture of your company.  Here are my best recommendations.

Get copies of your performance evaluations.  In fact, any time you leave a job, you should ask for a copy of your personnel file.  Period.

Do you have an HR department?  Depending on the culture and how you would want to approach it, you can ask them about reference protocol at the company.  You could also talk to someone about the gap left with your departure and your supervisor's request to be available.

In response to your supervisor's specific request, a neutral email (so you have it in writing) to him should suffice.   You will be very busy in the coming months learning your new job, traveling, etc/whatever and will not be available to consult or train the new employee.  You have put together a working/training document for the new employee that should help get him/her up to speed.  Also if there are any trainings, workshops, or conferences that will help, include them as well.

If appropriate, let your colleagues know what you are doing.  I have seen situations where the departing employee takes hits for ANYTHING that goes wrong for the six months post departure.  Let them know that you are doing everything you can to wrap up outstanding items and not leave them extra work.

Does your company do exit interviews?  How much you want to share about this situation will depend on a number of factors.  You can make that call if you have one.

For your sake, end well.  Do everything you can to wrap up loose ends, organize your work for your successor, and put this job behind you.   Good luck.

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