Post # 1
I consulted for an organization for several years and ended work with them four months ago. I was very happy to end my work with them as I did not care for the people at the organiztion and did not enjoy the project. They tried very hard to get me to stay on but I did not renew the contract. Anyway, now, all these months later, they will not leave me alone! I expected some contact for a few weeks after I ended, and told them they could contact me for 1 month for questions. But here it is four months later and they still regularly email with questions or “just to say hi”. I don’t want to be in contact with these people. At all. They stress and tire me. That is why I ended the work relationship. I don’t ever burn professional bridges so I answer them politely but with brevity. But I’d rather not hear from them at all. And I don’t frankly, want to answer questions or give help when I’m not being paid.
Has anyone else ever dealt with this? I am getting very fed up. Thanks!
Post # 3
I am totally in this same boat. I worked at a bank for a while and the work was just super stressful and the people I worked with weren’t all that great. My boss was terrible. Eventually I found a new job and moved on. I still get calls every once in a while from them asking for help. I am also the type of person that wants to maintain business relationships, but honestly it just gets so annoying. I mean, I am busy doing stuff with my new job. I can’t just stop everything to answer their call. Ugh. I’ll admit, I have ignored the past few phone calls and they don’t really call me anymore, lol. Maybe try weaning them off a bit. Hope that helps!
Post # 4
Thanks for your post, Im sorry you are in the same boat! These people drove me nuts. I was having trouble sleeping and dreaded when I had meetings etc. Even though I liked the extra income, I decided to end the work to save my sanity. Now, seeing emails in my inbox takes me right back to that sense of anxiety and stress. My partner says I should just ignore them or tell them I can no longer be in contact. I have ignored some of the “hi how are you” messages or responded in one to two sentences, I just dont want to deal with any of them, not even the nice folks. What really set me off this week was getting an email from a new volunteer at the organization who got my email from someone else and just wants to “get my perspective on the project”. Argh!
Post # 5
Honestly, I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, but you are ultimately the person responsible for setting your own boundaries and if you continue responding to your old place of employment, you only have yourself to blame for your added stress. They are taking advantage of you, but that’s only because you are letting them! Nobody else will set your boundaries for you. It is absolutely possible for you to be firm and straightforward without burning any bridges. They aren’t paying you, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer any of their questions. I would recommend saying something like “I am sorry, but I have other work obligations and am unable to continue advising you now that our contract is up. I wish you the best of luck with your staff and hope that you are able to resolve these issues.” And then stop responding to their emails! I know it’s difficult, but you are absolutely in the right here and you have to look out for yourself.
Post # 6
I understand that you don’t want to burn professional bridges, but you need to stop responding to them or the “HELP” e-mails will never stop filling your inbox. I’m assuming you have a new job now, so you shouldn’t really need them as a primary reference in the future. Just stay in contact with one or two individuals if you are worried about this aspect of the issue, and you can use them as references in the future.
Post # 7
@mckernae: Thanks for your thoughts. I completley agree with you in theory, but in practice I think it is less straightforward. These are people I will continue to need as a reference formally and informally. This organization is an imporant part of my network and prominent in my field. I have to be careful with navigating this.
Post # 8
@mckernae: I agree 100%
@Fies: in addition to what mckernae said above, you mentioned that you told the company they could contact you for one month. now that the month is up, you should remind them of that agreement.
you are not burning bridges by sticking to what you said you would do. in fact, by allowing them to sneak in extra work w/o paying you, you are setting a precedent that you don’t want. what if some of these people move on to other companies and you have to work with them again? step up and act professional so they will respect you.
Post # 9
@Fies: I have to agree with the others – you need to stick to the boundaries you set! (i.e. answer small questions for one month, which has ended.)
A few possible responses:
-Since I am no longer contracting for your organization, I am not comfortable offering advice or assistance on any projects. To protect both your organization and my professional practice, I think those decisions would be best made by your senior leadership team at this time.
-Since my contract with you ended, I have move on to new professional opportunities, and continuing to advise your company is a conflict of interests for me. I’m sure you understand that my clients need to come first (just as you did when you were my client).
-If your senior leadership team is not comfortable making these decisions, I can recommend another consultant who may be taking on new clients in the future. (and then put your professional network to work!)
Be professional, answer their emails, but I wouldn’t answer any questions. Just respond that you’re doing well, keeping busy with new clients, hope their projects are doing well, you’re not comfortable consulting outside of a contractual relationship, etc. and leave it at that. They will get the hint.
Basically, right now, you’re giving them the milk for free, so to speak. They need to find a new consultant, and they’re not going to do it until you cut them off.
Post # 10
@Fies: I hear you and can understand your reluctance to put your foot down, but this is business. There is NOTHING wrong with setting boundaries as long as you are professional and polite. What you are doing right now (continuing to consult for free, after you said you wouldn’t) is NOT professional and they must on some level understand that. Be direct and honest, and these people will respect you for it. @daydreamwanderer formulated wonderful, professional responses for you to use.
Changing the nature of any relationship and sticking up for yourself is difficult, but unless you are willing to change the terms of the relationship (and I think you’ve received some great suggestions as to how to do so professionally and politely), you will continue getting taken advantage of. They’re not going to change, since they’re benefitting from this relationship. So if you want things to change, you have to adjust how you deal with them. Simple as that.