I am pretty sure I will be laid off in the next few weeks as a result of selling myself out a job.  Long story short, I am selling my current project to another company that might not need my services.  My current employer has already told me that once the sale is complete that I will be laid off with a severance package (~6 weeks).  There are enough lingering items with the project that I can forsee my current company needing information/assistance from me from time to time over the next year.  Do I have any obligation moral or otherwise to help them without being compensated for my time? 

The company has a policy that it can't compensate employees for anything within six months of the lay off.  The nice guy in me says I should help them because I don't want to burn any bridges and they were kind enough to give me a severance.  The bitter guy in me says that they did not provide any incentive to me for selling myself out of job, that by laying me off they are telling me they no longer need my services and finally, that the severance pay is more of a payoff to keep from being sued etc by me (not that I would or have any basis to do so).

What do you think?

TomW's picture
Training Badge

Think of it long term. If you help them, it might generate some good will with the individuals that you deal with. some day they might be in a position to recommend or hire you again.. If you refuse to help them, it might leave a bad taste with them and then they will never hire or recommend you again and they might bad mouth you to everyone they know.

We're not talking about the company itself so much as the individuals working on your project. Do you have any reason to refuse to help them?

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Imagine the roles were reversed. JayDub, how would you view a former employee who left (1) professionally (2) assisted with the transition, and (3) extended every courtesy to you as the former boss and company?

If you "go-negative" and burn bridges the end result is that your former co-workers may remember only how you left the company in a bad position even if you had a great track record.

I recommend rehearsing a matter-of-fact statement as to why you are leaving. Your statement could be something like"I decided it was in the best to sell the project even though my position was eliminated by the transaction."  I defer to Wendii's expertise for better phrasing--you will be asked why you left.

jaydub's picture

Thanks for the help.  I actually agree with both of you; however from time to time dark jaydub emerges.  I don't have any real reason not to help them although there is a fine line between helping them and being taken advantage of.  I am not real worried about how to explain why I am no longer with the company.  I think this event is actually a great example of my work ethic and capabilities.

Thanks again for your help.  Any other opinions are appreciated as well.


RickMeasham's picture

I've often provided assistance to previous employers after I've left. When your an SME, there's really no way to transfer every little bit of knowledge before you leave. That said, in these situation I've always left voluntarily if I'd been involuntarily retrenched or sacked, I might feel different.

I'd recomment helping them adjust to you not being there. But understand that that's what it is: assistance in the adjustment, not providing free labour that will be required again and again.

I've normally found that the person contacting me is a manager who knows I could solve everything. It's rarely the replacement, or the rest of the team unless there's a critical time-sensitive issue. The manager will ring because he knows I can fix anything and all his biggest concern is fixing it. The team wont call as they know, given time, they'll sort out just about anything.

"We can't get the billing code to compile"
Wrong: "Is my password still valid? I'm not doing anything else right now"
Right: "Try it on my old machine. If that works, then work out what the difference is between my old machine and the new guy's"
Right: "It compiled before I left, so start by checking every change since then"

These two responses sound rather dumb .. after all they're problem solving 101. But I'm always surprised by the assistance required. These are people who are used to me just making everything work. They're not used to needing to do the problem solving for themselves!

Of course, if the issue is HR rather than task-based, I'm always happy to be available where I can be. (Though if you really need me, that may be 6am or 8pm)

Rick Measham

Geek Herding

jhack's picture

You owe them nothing after you've been laid off.  If there is a transition period, use that time to give them all the information on your job that would be needed by the person who takes on your role.  If they walk you to the door after handing you the pink slip, well, they've chosen their path.  

You don't want to burn bridges.  So don't be rude.  If they're looking for a lost piece of paper, of course you'll help them.  If they need help solving a technical problem...they shouldn't call you expecting free consulting.  And they probably won't, which brings me to...

One last point:  Realistically, you're not that important.  If they laid you off, they don't need you.  You think they'll need your help - maybe not.  Most people overestimate their value.  The company will almost certainly figure out how to finish the project.    

Let us know if this situation goes from hypothetical to real.  

John Hack

mtietel's picture
Training Badge

Became real exactly once for me.  That's in 3 serious tech downturns in 20+ years - for the first two downturns (in 1990 and 2001+) I was in telecom (Hi Mike!).

The first downturn, my company went from 40k to 20k employees and I received a call about 4 weeks later to help with a problem.  I gave them the one free one and added that I would be happy to engage in a consulting arrangement.  We later talked about possible terms: retained vs not, hourly rates with minimums, etc.  We didn't come to terms, no other help was needed, and I'm still on good terms with everyone there -a good thing as that company is now (20 years later) in Chapter 11 and being chopped up, so my network gets wider still...

Boberquell's picture

 One of my past layoffs involved the company being bought by a larger entity; not only was my tech support group let go but I was placed in the interesting situation of being sent to their home office to train their techs to do my group's job.

Shortly after I found a new job I was contacted about the possibility of conducting additional training because they'd seriously miscalculated their sunset plan for certain products - turns out they were going to continue support for a while, but the new techs hadn't been trained on the gear. I was able to negotiate a decent deal which included being paid to deadhead home after the training session. Since they were willing to work with me regarding compensation, I was willing to help them out and maintain goodwill.

rwwh's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Think about it: why does the company have the rule that you can not be compensated for anything in those first 6 months? Most likely, that rule is there to protect the employees! It is there to make the managers think twice before laying of an employee they might still need.

For a very good description of the rest I would have wanted to add, just reread the comment by John Hack.

jhbchina's picture

I like RWWH's thinking. Is the 6 month rule there to prevent people from coming back on as contractors at a higher cost. I see this happening all the time. People take early retirement and then double dip. Collect retirement and come back in as a consultant. What was the point of being laid off?

J Hack's advise is spot on as usual.

JHB "00"

jaydub's picture

I agree completely that everyone is replaceable.  In fact, I tell people all the time that you want to be replaceable so you can progress upward in a company.

My company has had a lot of layoffs in the last year and a half.  You are right regarding the importance of any single person.  Just when you think you can't do with out a specific person, somehow you figure it out without ever having to call them.

My situation is somewhat different than most in that I am literally the last employee in a field office (far from any other offices) where I was for the most part completely autonomous.  All of the project knowledge rests with one person - me.  There are ongoing warranty type obligations with the project that if something does pop up they probably will call me to ask who they should call etc.  Prior history dictates that the company will be able to figure things out without calling me and a couple of things might slip through the cracks but it would not be end of the world. 

Thank you for the insight and advice regarding what to do if they call.  It is really helpful.




Gareth's picture

 Based on what I have read and what I would do personally - If they called and I wasn't busy I wouldn't mind helping them them once for 10 minutes or maybe twice at a stretch. The fact remains however... they don't actually want you anymore, if and when the situation appears they need to take responsibility for the choice they made and accept your no longer around.

What if they call you when your looking for a new job, your out with your family or spending some much needed time relaxing? As I said.. I would personally help them out once or twice but proving it doesn't take more than 10min - anything else then it is up for them to sort out because they work for the company and I do not.