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Helping Your Ex-Employer? 878

ali_bubba asks: "A funny thing happened to me today, I have beeb unemployed for over 5 months, and all of a sudden my ex-Boss calls me and demands (well, it sounded like a demand) that I help her out, because her entire corporate LAN was down. Naturally, she knows that I'm kind person, but boy what attitude, so I did help her save the day. She did not even bother calling me back to thank me, (like if you get slapped, turn the other cheek, as Jesus once said) Has anyone else had this happen to them before? What actions did you take?" While I can understand that some people in this situation may harbor some ill will if place in this situation, it may behoove you to see this as an opportunity, and at the very least, an opportunity to make a little money off of your old company. It doesn't pay to burn bridges, especially if they need something that you can provide. For those who have been in this situation, how did you handle it? For others, if you were offered work from your old job, would you do it, and under what conditions would your perform said work?
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Helping Your Ex-Employer?

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  • Did she pay you? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by essell ( 446524 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:24PM (#4686482)
    You only mentioned that she did not call to thank you.. Did she at least pay you for your time?
  • by waldo2020 ( 592242 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:25PM (#4686486)
    You should have told her to F.O.A.D. Alternately 100$/hr is also a more polite way to say it. If you continue to offer your services for free, it will get around :( Rather depends if you need her as a reference... h
  • Be Polite (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BurritoWarrior ( 90481 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:26PM (#4686499)
    A polite, "I'm sorry, but my current schedule precludes me from being able to help" works for me.

    Of course, if you want/need the work, then just go do it at whatever rate you think is fair. Just bite your lip and don't comment one way or the other, it only leads to problems.
  • by coene ( 554338 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:26PM (#4686500)
    Make sure you get paid! Is she your close friend? If so, you could be nice. If not, bill them! I would suggest billing for the time you spent there to fix this incident as well, it will send a clear signal. IT support is NOT free.
  • How much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yamla ( 136560 ) <> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:32PM (#4686535)
    How much did you get paid? You were hired as an independent contractor here. Contractors normally get paid twice what they'd get paid as an employee. After all, they have to pay their own benefits, etc. etc. So let's say you were getting $60K a year, the minimum you should get paid for your work here is $60 an hour. But you might want to look at getting more than that. After all, they clearly think only you had the necessary skills here.

    If somehow you didn't get paid this time but you didn't explicitly say you were doing this work for free, draft up a bill and send it to them. Hey, it can't hurt.
  • by tuoppi ( 415801 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:34PM (#4686554)
    Basic case handling fee: $500,00
    Case study: $280
    Rapid deployment fee: $843,00
    8 workhours: 8 * $184,00 = $1472
    Non-office hours: 4 * $380,00 = $1520
    Travel expenses: 43 miles * $2/mile = $86,00
    TOTAL: $4701

    TO BE PAID: $4701 + taxes

    Your previous boss didn't ask for price. That means, he is prepared to pay anything.
  • by sprzepiora ( 160561 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:35PM (#4686562) Homepage
    i wanted to moderate this one up, however I feel I need to comment on it.
    You see I'm am on the opposite end of this situation.
    We recently layed off quite a number of our staff lately and I am left with one other employee in my department.
    Before the others left, as they were filling me in on where they left off
    I had asked if I could contact them via email to ask questions. Everyone of them said yes, and I wouldn't have been angry if they said no either.
    I will note that I have asked questions from email or AIM and gotten answers and nobody was angry about it either.
  • Nortel Networks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cheese Cracker ( 615402 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:38PM (#4686586)
    I was laid off on a Thursday, and the HR person at Nortel told me that I wasn't required to do any more work. Despite this, my manager called me the next day and told me to help them out with one of their online tools. Just like you, I'm sometimes a little bit too kind and helped her out anyway, because I felt that I needed the reference from them in order to get another job. Looking back, I regret helping her... after all, she was the one to put me on the hit list. Anyway, she got laid off three months after me, and I'm running my own business now.
  • Re:Did they pay you? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by occamboy ( 583175 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:40PM (#4686598)
    Even if they say they'll pay, they may not. I got stiffed for $750 from my ex-employer that needed me to do some intellectual property work. I had a PO for it and everything, but they just refused to pay, saying that I should have done it for free. (At the time, they still had $millions of venture capital in the bank -- they are just stupid and evil).

    In the end, it actually sucked worse for them -- they sent stuff to me which, since I was no longer under nondisclosure, seems to constitute public disclosure and significantly cut down their patent filing rights. Also, they tried to get various other ex-employees to do stuff later on, and they refused, since they knew that they would not be paid. And, finally, it's nice to know that they won't bother me again.

  • Well... no. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:53PM (#4686671)
    Well, seeing as the last place I was able to find work, I was only offered $5/hour... no. The guy actually had to talk to his accountant to discover the minimum wage. I'm an experienced professional C++/assembly programmer on DSPs. I was doing advertising design, web design, new product design, and planning for future PDA programming for this company too.

    His other developer and his family had to live in a trailer - and the boss "gave" him a car and phone, only to hold them over his head. When he was sick for a few days, the boss had that phone disconnected.

    The boss even proclaimed to be an experienced Europian developer, and he did fluently speak several languages... so I'm amazed he could treat people that way... and much worse than that on many occasions too. But his company was the only place that would even allow a computer person with less than 3 years experience find a job. He even made quitting a huge hassle - I had to research and quote many specific laws before he dismissed me with "it's not worth my time" to get paid for my two weeks there, even at minimum wage.

    Now I'm still looking for a job... any job. And I can't. I haven't for months. I've called half the numbers in the yellow pages and looked at all the leads in all towns within three hours drive. I have to say, looking for work as a programmer in central Florida REALLY sucks.

    Ryan Fenton
  • To find your rate... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ClarkEvans ( 102211 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:59PM (#4686709) Homepage
    Take your old annual salary, say 40K and double it, so $80 per hour. This in-effect is 4x your hourly rate as an employee, but needed to take into account vacation, continuing education, slack (non-productive) time, health-care, employer matching, lack of unemployment, etc. This becomes your hourly rate for medium sized contracts (2 week - 3 months span).

    For longer contracts (3+ months) you could reduce the rate by as much as half in exchange for a cancellation severance of a week or two. The cancelation severance is there since you're turning down potentially higher-paying short-term work... and if they cancel on you after you've turned down another deal, you are the loser. If they say it's long term, the cancelation fee is just your insurance that they arn't playing games to get a lower rate.

    If they want short-term "one-off" work, you may want to charge more depending if you think you can get it. Further, if they want you to be "on-call", you want to charge a retainer in addition; this is pre-paid hours that they may not use (for instance, 10h/month). If they don't want to pay the retainer, then you should say something like: "Yes, I can help you, but my next available slot is XXX afternoon (3 days from now)." Slack time costs money... when you are an employee don't let your previous employer think that they can just pay for the hours that you are working for them. Real employees spend time doing lots of stuff which isn't directly work... and time is money.

    One last thing to consider is ownership. You may want to dramatically reduce the rate if the work is open source, something you are interested in and you keep the copyright for further private exploation. Often times this is in their favor... you could build in a "free upgrade" for one year if you continue to work on it. Make it clear that ownership of the code itself is worth something. If you keep ownership, you may just want to charge your annual salary as a hourly rate (thus 2x your rate as an employee).

    Hope this helps. I'm curious if others think that this is a resonable item.
  • by CDS ( 143158 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:01PM (#4686720)
    I had a similar situation -- I was laid off the 1st of the year. In the following months, my previous firm contacted me regularly, mostly asking how I was doing, letting me know they wanted me back & were looking for ways to accomplish that, etc.

    Then one day I got a call from them. They had a customer who wanted some work done, but it was such a small job that just drafting the agreement would be more expensive than the job was worth. They contacted me and told me if I wanted to freelance the job, they'd put me in touch with the customer. I accepted it (of course). it turned out that it was too small for even a freelance charge, but I answered the guys question and it generated positive advertising for my previous firm.

    A month later, I got another call from them -- another freelance job - this one was for the wife of the head of my old firm. I again accepted it and his wife was happy with my results.

    Then my old manager called. He didn't have a freelance offer this time -- he wanted some advice on how to collect unemployment! (yeah, business got so bad the managers were being let go...) So I was very helpful & supportive of him too -- told him where to go to sign up, what the process was, etc.

    Then I got one last call -- now I'm working full-time for my old firm again. They were so happy with my attitude and willingness to help them out even after letting me go that they found a spot for me & I'm gainfully employed again -- with my full benefits just like I never left (3 weeks vacation, I'm vested, etc). Admittedly, it WAS a paycut from my old salary, but in this market, I'm not complaining :)

    Sorry about all the rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say in a nutshell is: Don't burn your bridges. Having a positive attitude and being willing to help them out can never hurt - it can only help. Even if they don't have any openings, they may hear of other firms that need people & could suggest you -- or give you a positive review when a future employer starts checking references. You never know when someone may be talking to them and your name may come up...
  • by aCheshireCat ( 574196 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:02PM (#4686724)
    You had a good business opportunity come your way. Many a successful consultant have started this way. You work for a company, you are laid off by shortsighted management, they realize their mistake a little too late, they call on you. What do you do? You could be chump, and show them that they did right by laying off your immature ass, or you could turn it into a profitable business opportunity. You have the upper hand in the negotiation. Come up with a good rate (twice your old rate is a good place to start), then negotiate the minimum amount of billable time. Depending on the type of work you do it could be anything from eight hours, to forty hours, to the entirety of an ongoing project. Be creative. This is were the money is made, and were you can establish lasting recurring billing cycles. If the work that they are asking you to do is part of an ongoing project and you feel that there is a chance that they'll call on you again, negotiate for the remainder of the contract. Sweeten the deal. Profit off their shortsightedness, but don't kill the goose, and above all realize that you are now your own person, you don't need them, they need you.
  • Two choices: (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:02PM (#4686726)
    When your ex-employer calls, it's not because they are doing you a favor, it's because they don't have any better options. The worst thing you can do is band-aid them back together again for peanuts, every time there is a crisis. That helps no one (not even the ex-employer) in the long run.

    It's really all about money. I don't see any problem at all working for an ex-employer, if the deal is right. I see nothing wrong with asking 2X for going back to the ex-employer as a "real" employee (your old job back, on salary), or 4X as a consultant. If you were laid off, then your employer's "stability issues" justify the premium.

    Consider the following:

    (1) If you view this as an ongoing opportunity, with the potential for more work, then you market yourself to the old employer as a consultant, using the 4X rate, billed by the day, not by the hour. If their LAN is down and they are reduced to calling ex-employees, you can rest assured that routine maintenance has been seriously negelcted. That's how you fill in the rest of the day(s).

    (2) If you view this as a one-shot deal, then your price needs to be something high enough so that you can ignore their attitude as you laugh your way to the bank. $3K per day or fsck-off! Laugh if you like, but this is not a whole lot different than the price they will get local consultants. It may not seem that way at first glance, but they will surely find a way to burn through $3K in billable hours, just trying to figure out how the LAN works, while they pitch an engagement to "redesign" or "optimize" it.
  • Related story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by malus ( 6786 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:04PM (#4686734) Journal
    My story is somewhat similar to the original post, but doesn't relate to a former employer, rather, a former girlfriend (of several years), and her employer.

    She worked at a high-volume, high-tech print shop which I had written software for some two years prior to our breakup. Some 8 months after our break up, she called me up and asked if I could troubleshoot a problem with their LAN, and consequently, problems they were having accessing the local side of the software I had written for them ( web based file/job management & tracking app for their print ready graphics files, some 250+ uploads a day).

    My response was simple, direct, and immediate: $5,000, up front.

    Suffice it to say, I was never bothered again.

    Moral of my story? Sure, your former 'employer' can ask for all the help in the world, and it's totally up to you if you give it to them, or, as any right-minded American would do, SELL it to them.

    I know how much my time is worth, but it sounds like you're a little too naive.
  • by voxelman ( 236068 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:04PM (#4686738)
    In 1999 the company I worked for closed the local office and offered me a job at another location. After considering the offer including the 20% raise in pay I declined. A couple of weeks after the closure I got a call asking if I would help train the new manager. I submitted a proposal outlining my terms including hourly rate, daily rate, retainer rate, mileage charges, etc. After everything was said and done I provided consulting services to the company for over two years and earned nearly as much as I had as a full time employee for far fewer hours.

    The results you get will depend upon the perceived value of your services and your professionalism. I would ignore any assumption that work be performed for free. Simply state when asked to perform a service that you would be glad to provide the services for a fee. Name an amount or an hourly rate that you think is reasonable. Also make sure that any requests for work are approved at the proper level of authority.

    Remember if you don't value the services you provide, no one else is going to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:04PM (#4686742)
    I worked for a place where a new Sr. person came in who had "issues" with gay folks. Within a few months she was drumming everyone non-straight out of the place: Sudden job-performance problems, lousy schedules, not getting relevant information, etc. At the time the US State we were in had no protections against such and so one by one folks got pushed out, me being one of the last.

    To add insult to injury I didn't get paid much of my accumulated vacation time. I'd been foregoing taking my time as we were in such a crunch, got promised it would carry over, etc. Due to poor record-keeping on my part (and being young and stupid) I didn't pursue the issue much but wrote it all off as lesson-learned.

    Anyway a few moths later I got a call from a friendly former coworker asking me, in a very stilted way, about some security systems I had written, what was the password, etc. I picked up pretty fast that this wasn't actually a social call, that my friendly co-worker wasn't alone in the room, that they wanted me aware of such, and they were being pressured to make this call.

    So, I told them no, I didn't recall the exact passwords but I was sure I could break into what I'd secured and would be happy to do so under contract. I then quoted them an outrageous hourly rate, said as I was unhappy with my former employer I' double that, and no assurance of how long it would take me. My friendly former co-worker politely thanked me and said they'd "pass it on".

    Sure enough an hour later I got a call asking me to come in ASAP. So I did. I got them to confirm the rate in writing, refused to give an estimate, and sat down. And played games, very visibly, for two days, until the sum I felt I was owed in vacation time was met. About 10 minutes after that point, just as I was finishing up my report, the finance guy came in with a pre-written check (they knew perfectly well what was going on) and asked me for the password.

    I handed him my report, told him I'd call from the bank with the password as soon as I'd cashed the check. He balked at that but I pointed out that many of my payroll checks had "bounced" but had been covered by the bank, I wanted to be sure there'd by no awkward problems with this one. He threatened to void the check if I didn't give them the passwords, I said fine I'd be no worse off then before, and if he didn't get out of my way I'd call the police for imprisonment. He gave way and I left.

    So, 30 minutes later from the bank I called, told him the password used on everything, and then took some friends out for drinks, including the friendly former co-worker who had slipped out early. By the way the friendly coworker resigned the next day, the nasty Sr, person lasted another few months, the whole place went under a few years later.

    Oh, and a few times later I was in situations where Sr. folks from that place were applying for jobs and I was in the decision process, each time I knifed 'em.

  • by watanabe ( 27967 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:09PM (#4686771)
    This is a classic problem for people who are just starting to contract out. As someone who use to contract out, and someone who now frequently hires young contractors, I can give you a few thoughts from both sides of the fence:

    1. Every employer worth working for will expect to pay you something for your time. A helpful employer working with a young contractor will bring up the topic of compensation for you. Don't expect that to happen.

      Here's how to bring up the topic of compensation if you're not talking to a particularly helpful one:

      • Say "I'd be happy to help, and I think I have a good mix of skills to do that. My going rate is $x an hour, with a minimum of $y."
      • Agree on a price with yourself before you sit down to the negotiation. Until you've done this for a while, you're going to talk yourself down in the meeting. So, you'll intend to say the above, but instead you'll say "My going rate is $x an hour. [1 second pause, in which you think "Oh my God, that's too high. They're going to be angry."] But, for you, $x/3." I have done this, and seen it happen so many times, I can't even count them. Younger types sometimes have their hands shake when they say their price. That's a sure tip-off to an employer that they can lowball an offer.
      • When you're starting out, it's almost IMPOSSIBLE that you are going to ask for a price higher than you're worth. I know it won't feel like it, but believe me, it's true. Use the following calculation to get at a price you SHOULD NOT go lower than in your offer: Take your fair Annual Salary, divide by $2,000. This is what you would get in salary per hour as a full time employee of a company. Now, multiple by 1+ (50% for taxes and expenses + at least 50% to account for sales time, time you're not working, time you spend pitching and doing project spec and evaluation + 50-80% to account for the employers lower costs hiring a contractor, [no social security, medicare, can fire you when they want, etc.] ) = multiply by 2.8 as a BASELINE. It's not worth going below this number, trust me. You are losing money, net. So, if you made 60k as a programmer, that = $30 an hour * 2.8 = $94/hr as a baseline.
      • If you want to get to your baseline number, you can't start there with an offer. Start higher. That way IF you are talked down, you have some room before you have to say "no, sorry."
      • Don't be afraid to say "Sorry, sounds like it won't work. Call me if you change your mind." If you're never turned down at a certain price, you are too cheap!.
      • NEVER work with an employer who asks for free work, etc. You should prove your value to them, but not by doing free work. Just say "Actually, I don't work in situations like that because I've found that usually people who want a situation like that aren't prepared to pay for my real value." If they ask again, just say goodbye. TRUST ME, the money that you finally get out of them WILL NOT BE WORTH IT.
    2. Sadly, I'm late, and have to go before I finish, but for a simple book on how to negotiate, I'd recommend Gary Karrass' book, Negotiate to Close. Good luck!
  • I've had worse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geek ( 5680 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:20PM (#4686828)
    My ex boss was on the phone with the FBI telling them I hacked the network and took down the webserver (nationwide ISP with ONE webserver).

    One of the othe employees called me and told me (good friend) and advised that I call him. So I did, and within 30 seconds the server was up and all was dandy. I didn't get a thankyou, just a "If you do it again I'm going through with the FBI complaint".

    The dumb ass he replaced me with switched out the BSD kernel for the GENERIC one which couldn't handle the apache requests without running out of file handles. Of course it's all my fault.

    So consider yourself lucky she called for help. It could have been much worse.

  • by LuxFX ( 220822 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:23PM (#4686842) Homepage Journal
    Several years ago, I had a small contract to do flash design for the website for a small indie film. The pay structure was divided 25%, 25%, and 50% for the final. The first two were fine, and the project was going smoothly. After finishing the project though, I kept getting the run around about my final payment.

    Eventually they had the premiere of the movie, and I was invited. At this premiere I was told that, sorry, they had no more money, and couldn't pay me. They had overestimated the $$ in their bank, and it turns out the last of their money was spent on the refreshments for their premiere party. Sucks to be me, but I didn't counter them legally, it was less than $1000 and I just wrote it off as a loss and broke all connections.

    About a year later, the same people thought that they were finally getting a bite on their movie, and decided they desperately needed to update their website. They contacted me and asked why they had never received the source code for their movie, as per the contract--they needed it so that so-and-so's cousin, who 'knew flash' could update the website. I told them, because I had never gotten paid, also per the contract. When they didn't pay me, I said, the contract was broken.

    At this point they got really upset and brought in so-and-so's uncle the lawyer and told me that what I had made was a piece of crap and the money they already paid more than covered the value of the project. And that if I continued to resist, they would sue me.

    This was on my birthday. I've never had a bad birthday since. No matter what happens, I will always remember how this one was worse.

    Eventually, after spending half my birthday on the phone, I knew what I had to do. Like I said, the original amount just wasn't enough to call a lawyer about, and I decided this wasn't either. Also, I had no money and even if I won this case it would be on the other side of the country which was just more money out of my pocket. So I told them, ok, I'll give you the source code exactly as it is right now, and you'll leave me alone for good and neither one of us ever talks to the other one. Ok, they said.

    What was my trick? My code (and my flash movies are highly dependant on actionscript) was completely uncommented. It would have been a beast for me to figure out, and more so for somebody else that knew flash as well as I did. And much more so for so-and-so's cousin that 'knew flash'.

    In the end, they got off my back, I wasn't sued on my birthday, and I came out feeling like I had won anyway. Because they were never able to figure out my source, and were never able to update their website. (and incidentally, never sold their movie)

  • by emag ( 4640 ) < minus bsd> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:25PM (#4686855) Homepage
    I actually have a friend who was a contract employee, doing all sorts of security infrastructure for some a company working for some rather large clients. He's not really bothered finding a new job in several months, but recently got a call early one morning from his old boss, who was frantic because everything was down. Unfortunately, he lowballed himself, but got a couple days of work out of the call to fix what the folks left behind had royally screwed up.

    I think he was most pleased with not realizing that, while on a conference call with the people who broke everything, the clients AND a lot of upper management were listening in, and based on what he'd said (ripping these guys a couple new assholes), the buffoons ended up being fired for a) making unannounced upgrades to a production system, b) completely failing to read release notes in the service packs they'd installed which detailed that *exactly* what happened would happen if they were installed on the version of software running.

    The "$200 an hour, minimum 8 hours" was the result of several of us doing a post-mortem on the lowballing. In truth, due to the situation, he could have likely commanded at least twice that (which illustrates just how critical these systems were to the people with Big Bucks).
  • Wrong way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:28PM (#4686868) Journal
    Many people think that IT personell are some kind of running clerks at a cafe. These ones have absolutely no respect for your brains, your experience and your sweet. More, they tend to hide their incompetence, ignorance and stupidity behind a mask of arrogance and superiority. If your ex-boss called you demanding something, the first thing you should have done was to say "Cool but that will cost you US$XXXX...". If he comes up with threats and dubious statements about your past work, you better send him fast to Hell and tell him to forget your name and your phone.

    Beware that you open-hearthed behaviour could have caused more damage rather than help to yourself. There are times when old bosses start to talk too much about their ex-employees as "smarties that left hacks and bombs to spoil our work". And when you come back and do something in half-second, they may try to use it to make a serious accusation that you tried to crook them. While I have never seen such stories getting to courts, there are pretty real examples how ex-bosses tried to extort cheap work out of their ex-employees by playing such scenarios. Personally, many years ago, I was in such situation and things nearly ended in a violent fight inside a "respectable" commercial bank.
  • My story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheTick ( 27208 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:36PM (#4686913) Homepage Journal

    Something like this happened to me a number of years ago. I was working at a student job, managing a small network, destop publishing and other stuff. I was the computer guru for a large bookstore near campus. I had helped a friend of mine get a similar job, and we worked together. My friend was, in his youth, fairly arrogant. Our boss had failed to earn his respect: she took work that was beyond our capability, largely based on the knowledge that my friend and I could achieve results despite the shortcomings of the hardware and software. We never received recognition for our work. The more we did, the more was expected of us. I was a short-timer, but there was friction between my friend and our boss.

    When I graduated and moved on, they lost the buffer that they had between them, and the friction flared up until my friend found himself unemployed.

    Shortly thereafter ex-boss lady called me and asked for some help with some project she couldn't handle. I didn't get anything like the attitude suggested by the poster of the story: she was polite, but definitely looking for a freebie.

    She wasn't a bad person -- maybe too zealous and a little naive. And underfunded. You know how it goes. I found myself in a dilemma. I was disappointed at how my friend had been treated, but I didn't really want to see my ex-boss go down in flames, either.

    My solution was to politely express the strategic error I thought had occurred when my friend had been "let go". I gave her my consulting rates, and an estimate of how much I thought the project was worth.

    She thanked me and hung up. I never heard back from her or the company. Shortly thereafter, I found out she had moved on, or maybe forced to move on.

    Anyway, my advice in this situation is to remember you don't owe your previous employer anything. (Well, maybe you do, but I'm assuming you don't.) You're entitled to compensation for your services. If my ex-boss had been impolite or disrespectful, I would have had no compunction telling her where to go, or maybe jacking up my rates.

  • by howardjp ( 5458 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:40PM (#4686934) Homepage
    Don't file a suit.

    Turn it over to a collection agency, then report them to Standard & Poor's and Moody's. It is next to no work, and it will be a significant black mark against them for a long time.
  • You have got to be kidding. salary/2000 * 2.8??? If base = salary/2000, I've heard recommendations from between base*1.4 to base*2.0, but 2.8 is making an awfully big assumption that someone with your skillset isn't charging less.

    Some of it depends on what you're doing. If you're an internal administrator, then it is more relevant to set a static rate and stick to it, even advertise it. However, if you're a programmer bidding for projects that are about revenue, this whole rate calculation thing is pretty much irrelevant aside from a very general baseline. It's dependent on the budget available for the project, how fast/good you are.

    People forget that the whole reason freelancing works is because it is a more direct correlation to how good your skills are - it's not dependent on spreadsheets showing cost of living and other people's salaries and all that malarkey. It's just negotiation, and that's all it is. The name of the game is to find win-win scenarios where they feel like they're getting their money's worth, and where you feel like you are getting your time's worth. It's about managing expectations, and it's about intangibles.

    My first freelance gig was for my previous (laid off) base * 0.5. Horrible rate, but the client was cool, the technology was cooler, it meant new skills, it was for me to get my feet wet and try out business instincts with an extremely laid back client, and it meant some very good referrals. I don't regret it in the slightest - it was worth my time, no question.

    I recently gave a quote for base * 2.0 for an hourly rate. He reacted, "Well, here's our budget - if you think you can deliver the objective at your rate and not go over the budget, that's fine. Or if you think the budget is insane, tell us." The rate isn't even relevant to the client in these cases.

    If you're just starting out and going off of base * 2.8 just because someone told you to do so on slashdot, good luck. In the Portland market, I'd only be able to justify that if I'd be able to guarantee the objective in about 30% less time than someone else with my skillset using a market-average. And I can't do that yet, although I'm working really hard on developing my own library of pre-rolled code to make this possible. And for the freelancers that prefer fixed-cost bids and deadlines, this whole subject is irrelevant from the client's perspective, anyway.


  • by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:01PM (#4687038)
    When we're all dead, people will remember us for the kind deeds we did while we were walking the streets and talking the talk. The little league team you coached


    volunteering at a Mormon church


    and all those bake sales for the PTA will be what you were best known for.


    You are talking about deeds done for noble causes, for the public good, and for positive karma (no, not THAT karma :) ). I don't think that putting out a fire for a for-profit corporate entity is in the same ballpark.

    The only shitty part is you'll just be tossed into the Hudson River because you and your socialist family members don't have the money for a proper funeral and burial.

    You could always donate your body for academic research. Hopefully that academic research won't be the effect of the Hudson River on cadavers. Mother Theresa lived to help the needy, her funeral wasn't too shabby.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:02PM (#4687045) Journal
    Speaking of documenting what you do, it's my opinion that employees in I.T. would be wise to limit how much of this documentation they write.

    If you're writing lots of documentation for an employer, you should be getting paid as a "technical writer". If you're employed as an I.T. worker and they're demanding lots of documentation - you need to question it.

    After all, they should be paying you for your knowledge and expertise. Would you expect your doctor to write up documentation for you so you can self-diagnose future problems?

    When they start asking for lots of this, there's usually a boss masterminding it, with a flawed idea that he can "brain drain" you so his other people can perform your job. In reality, they should be hiring people who already possess the skills they need, or are capable of learning them on their own. They shouldn't need *your* documentation to achieve that goal.
  • by dszd0g ( 127522 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:16PM (#4687108) Homepage
    I guess I am nicer than most of the posters here. Almost every employer I have left has called me once or twice after I left for some information (generally information I left documented, but not always) or minor help. If I can help them out over the phone and walk them through something in less than an hour, I am going to help them out no charge. If we are talking more than an hour of work, I am going to negotiate for a consulting hourly fee.

    It wasn't clear from the article how much time the person was talking about. If it was less than an hour I just consider it a favor for the company. It never hurts to keep your doors open. If you need a letter of recommendation for your next job, it never hurts to be able to remind your last employer of that time you helped them out. How would you feel if when you called up your previous employers asking for recommendations and they started discussing financial compensation?

    I really don't think most employers really try to take advantage of previous employees here. I am sure there are the exceptions, but every time I have dealt with a previous employer everyone has been quite reasonable as far as expectations go.

    I think it also depends on what terms one leaves the company on. If you left on bad terms and you don't want anything to do with the company, then I would give some sort of excuse for why you can't help them -- you know, like you are too busy posting on Slashdot or something.
  • Re:The old joke (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ACNeal ( 595975 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:25PM (#4687147)
    This story reminds me of another.

    A company I used to work for had a pretty good record of treating women poorly, and long time employees poorly. They were an insurance company.

    A lady who had been there for over 30 years decided it was time to quit. She walked in one day, without any real notice, and tendered her resignation. She gave a month, to be fair, but no one new she was planning this before hand.

    She was a licensed (certified) actuary, and the entire actuarial department at this life insurace company. An insurance company without an actuary is like an accounting firm without an accountant, just bookkeepers.

    She worked her month, took a long (about two month vacation), and came back. The first I knew she had quit was when I over heard one of the gossips back in my department (IS) griping about what she was making. The gossip in question handled the printing of checks.

    The actuary came back billing $350 an hour, because they needed her services.

    They kept her on like that for the rest of the time I was working there (about another year at least). They couldn't find anyone to take her place.
  • by SoftwareJanitor ( 15983 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:40PM (#4687522)
    Almost every employer I have left has called me once or twice after I left for some information

    I personally consider it different if you left than if they laid you off or fired you. I wouldn't mind answering questions for people where I had left, but if I'd been laid off, they'd definitely have to pay for the information...

    How would you feel if when you called up your previous employers asking for recommendations and they started discussing financial compensation?

    Feh, how many companies these days will actually give recommendations or even references these days. Most places will do nothing more than confirm dates of employment and job titles. Why? Because of legal exposure. If they say anything bad (or even just not sufficiently good) they can get sued by former employees, and some employers have lost expensively. If they say too much good, and some other employer doesn't think an employee measures up, they can get sued for that too, and again some employers have lost expensively there too. So given the no-win situation, most large companies (and with-it small ones) say as little as they can get away with.

    All that being said, if former co-workers who had nothing to do with who got laid off or fired asked for help, I'd probably have a softer attitude towards them than I would be to a manager.

    I think it also depends on what terms one leaves the company on. If you left on bad terms and you don't want anything to do with the company, then I would give some sort of excuse for why you can't help them -- you know, like you are too busy posting on Slashdot or something.

    I don't think you should have to offer an excuse unless you really just don't have the time for some reason. I think just expecting them to pay you for your time is enough. And if you just don't want to do it, you should be able to just say no, and not expect any retaliation from them (in terms of bad mouthing you on references or whatever). They had their chance, and let you go, so its their problem at that point.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:48PM (#4687551) Homepage Journal
    A disclaimer: I am not christian in the common American sense, and I get very annoyed at most christians attempt to pick and choose quotes in the bible, especially the words of jesus of Nazareth, to fulfill personal agendas.

    The 'turn the other cheek' quote is a prime example. As interpreted by the modern christian church, this statement is about subverting yourself to authority and not defending yourself against corrupt powers. However, the is another interpretation. As I learned recently, this statement, as is the case in many of Jesus' statement, is an attempt to use local customs and etiquette to equalize unequal relationship. The explanation is fascinating. In the time of Jesus if one was going to slap an inferior, one would use the back of ones hand. After the inferior person was slapped, Jesus said to turn the other cheek. This would force the assailant to use the front of the hand to attack. However, the kind of slap was an implicit acknowledgment that the person was an equal. Therefore, by turning the other cheek the victim is forcing the assailant to acknowledge equivalence if he or she attacks.

    So, far from bending over and taking the attack, the words tell us to not to be subservient, but be proactive in a peaceful way. Sending a reasonable bill for services is appropriate. If you did not agree on terms before the job, theft of services would probably not be appropriate. In the future, to 'turn the other cheek', agree on terms prior to the job, and let it be her choice.

  • by Gojira Shipi-Taro ( 465802 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @09:09PM (#4688135) Homepage
    I left a job I had as an underpaid administrator one Monday after my clueless boss gripped about a missing report the morning after I had pulled a working weekend getting the Netware server upgraded to version 4 (this was several years ago).

    I grabbed my briefcase and immediately left, being careful to go nowhere near my console.

    Two days later, the president of the company demanded that I come back and fix the network (the average education in the company apart from myself and the accounting department was High School/GED, btw). He came very close to accusing me of sabatoging the network. I basically told him to go fuck himself.

    I still talked to the vendor who had sold us most of our hardware (and wound up doing some contracting for him a month or so later), and fortunately for the "president", the vendor explained to him how making accusations like that without evidence would result in my suing the living shit out of him and the company.

    1.5 months later, they were still running blind ads (no mention of the company or the pay scale, just a phone number and the position), and I was employed as a contracter at the company I now work for.

    8 months or so after that, the owner of my former employer sold to a larger company. 3 months after that, the plant was closed, and everyone there laid off (including my ex-boss, who, if she hadn't been boinking the pres would have been working the deep fryer at McDonalds for a career). Seems they never could get another Admin to work for ~$22K/year (did I mention that I had been hourly, and their idea of a raise was a big 23 cents/hour?), and the system that designed their product, together with the sales database, fell apart.
  • Do it all the time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @09:26PM (#4688197) Journal
    I still keep contact with an ex-boss of mine who works in the web industry. I actually have a small part stock in the company based on work I've done, but I really do it because I like him, the company, and what they do. I do the same for other people I know, as long as I'm not super-busy, I'd rather be doing something productive than sitting on the couch with a beer on my stomach.

    I'm sure it's different for a big company, but I do what I do because I enjoy it. I've been offered to do more work again recently, but this time it's for pay because I'm more busy and thus my time is valuable.

    That being said, it's one thing to ask somebody you're on good terms with. It's another to "demand" assistance and then not give help. Geeze, I work expect to at least be offered dinner or a few drinks in such a circumstance.

    Reminds me of back in college, when I accepted food/drinks for fixing people's computers... :-)
  • by leeet ( 543121 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @09:54PM (#4688303) Homepage
    Bill the bitch. She didn't say a word so she expects a bill from you. Of course, she won't call you to send her check. Do you think people do that? She will wait and expect you to either forget or drop the bill. Then she will laugh. Not only they saved money by laying you off, now they can use your services for free... What a deal! She will get promoted and you won't have a single dollar.
  • by Bora Horza Gobuchol ( 585774 ) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @11:01PM (#4688500)
    This happened to be just last week. I have to give a little backstory here, but it won't take long.

    I worked for an internet company as a media designer in the tailspin months of the .com burst. The usual story, endlessly related here - incompetent management who didn't understand the technology they were selling, endless promises to employees about shares and bonuses, not being paid the last month I worked there, etc. I managed to pull out two computers before the offices were locked, and consider myself lucky.

    A few days after the company folds, the CEO - a man I considered a personal friend - calls me on the phone, begging me to finish a presentation I was working on. He needs it to help him round up investors, he says. It will help me get paid back quicker. Again, endless promises.

    I, ever the fool, complete the presentation. It costs me a few hours, a hundred dollars in a studio to do the audio. I deliver it to him on time. And then don't hear from the guy for two years.

    Last week, I hear that said CEO (who is still running the same business, after a merger) is asking around for me. It turns out I might have some content on CD that a client is bugging him about. Sure enough, he leaves several calls on my voicemail. Starts off all buddy, and gets around to asking me to look for this CD.

    I never return his call, which I think is more effective than any "fu-k you" I could scream down the phone. He's asking me to do more work for free, without paying me for work I've done in the past? Screw him, and screw any employer who treats their employees that way.

    It's been said in previous posts, but I'll reiterate it here. It doesn't matter if your employer is your best friend. It doesn't matter if he invites you around to barbeques, trusts you to babysit his kids, or gives you weekends at his cabin. When it comes to business, he is your employer. An honest day's work deserves an honest day's pay. Good employers - and good employees - both recognise that. Anything else is an abuse of any non-business relationship you may have.

  • My Way (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @11:57PM (#4688720)
    I left my last job all on my own. I discussed the issues we were having for a week or so with our 4th IT director in 2 years before I gave up and quit. I sent my resignation to the entire IT department, from top to bottom detailing exactly why the situation was so bad and miserable to work in. The thing is, my friends are still there plugging away. They are miserable for the most part, but they have not found the will to simply walk away. Myself, when I start becoming physically ill due to stress born of absolute insanity with internal policy, I leave. I built the network, I know the network inside and out. To this day, 9 months later I still know more about that network than anyone else there. I transferred all of my remotely important files to a new share for the department, detailing most of what has ever been documented concerning the infrastructure. I did what I could, took all I could take, then I bailed in a very vocal manner. The thing is, the people left are my friends. I know the hell they work in, I know the insanity they contend with, and I honestly feel for them. They have had to work under the threat of a bubious outsourcing deal several times. They have seen an accountant promoted to IT director, they have time and time again recieved a big virtual bitch slap in the face. So I feel for them, and when they ask for help I am very inclined to help them out if I can which is most of the time. The last issue I fixed was a DNS problem. Since I built the DNS system, I knew the solution easily and made it a quick fix. I have been asked to write new policy for them as well, which I am declining. It is not my job to make my friends look good, enough is enough. I have told them this too and they have understood. I have no ill will towards my former employer, but at the same time I have no desire to see them prosper. My hope is honestly that my friends get out one way or the other, no one is happy there. After that, I do not care if the place stays in business or not. I could do great harm to the network if I wished, but I have decided to offer moral support only for my friends left behind. Technical issues will have to be dealt with on their own from now on. They are mostly capable too, so this should not be a huge challenge for them.
  • No Pay, No Play. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HealYourChurchWebSit ( 615198 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:21AM (#4688982) Homepage

    I'm not sure what the terms of your separation from your old employer are, but here are a couple of random thoughts.

    First, if they are like most companies, they are in it for the money. Help them. Yes. But for a consulting fee. If they were willing to pay you while you were there, they should be willing to pay you now.

    Many companies have you sign agreements that you can't work for competitors, etc ... my point is, many companies basically say good bye and forget anything you did for us with various mutant forms of non-disclosures. If they are willing to separate at this level, they should not be suprised if you say "pay me" or "no thank you."

    Finally - in the future, you might also want to creating a formal agreement so they can't come back and sue your butt if something goes wrong.

    Remember, this is a business relationship.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:38AM (#4689035)
    Yeah, I got laid off like 5 months ago too, and we knew it was coming. So, my ex-boss decides not to have me do certain jobs during my last weeks of employment because he would just contract them to me after I was laid off. I didn't fight, because I knew I was being laid off, and also because I knew something he didn't...

    I was going to charge him about 4x what he would have paid me in salary if he kept me employed by him. (this was because I didn't know if I would find work quickly right away)

    When the time came and I sent him a quote and a contract, he sends me an email saying "I'm not much interested in signing a contract. I want to see a quote for exactly what work you will be performing." I sent a more detailed quote and told him "I don't work without a contract." He wrote back and said "Your hourly is too high, lower it and I'll reconsider." I wrote back with "My hourly is too low, but I'll give you a one-time 15% discount if it'll help you to reach a quicker decision."

    He never wrote back.

    I don't work for free (as in beer).

  • Free consulting? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sittius ( 227744 ) <> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @09:03AM (#4690089) Homepage
    Here's my take:

    You probably would have done better to have stated , up front, your hourly rate and expenses. If you don't know how much your time is worth, break down your old salary to an hourly rate and double it.
    This should cover the amount that you need to cover taxes, medical insurance ( assuming you had that at before you were laid off ) etc.

    If the client ( that's right - client - they did lay you off and you no longer work for them as an employee ) accepts this hourly rate , then you go onsite. If you want to charge for travel time, go ahead.

    Make sure that you provide them with a written statement of your hourly rate and the scope of work that you will perform. Something as simple as :

    Hourly rate = 50.00 (USD) (minimum charge 2 hours )
    Travel = 1 hour of billable time
    Scope of work: Troubleshooting networks. Toilets will not be cleaned, nor dry cleaning delivered.

    Don't go for the daily rate thing on a one off assignment like this. You will end up sorely abused!

    Before you leave the client site, have the responsible party sign a time sheet or invoice. Provide them with a copy, but retain one, with their signature, for yourself.

    If you do go with an invoice instead of a time sheet, make sure all charges (travel, cell phone ,etc. ) are included!

    Once you've received payment, take out the necessary amount for taxes, etc, and stick it in a bank account. Or be bold, and just spend all of it. The downside of the latter plan is that you might get busted by the IRS ( I knew someone who did. Long a campfire some night and I'll tell it )

    I'm not going to say you were stupid for doing the work, but chalk it up as a lesson learned and remember next time: Never do free work for a former employer unless they've been paying your bills, trying to find you a new job, taking your kids to soccer practice, etc. Once you're a former employee, you don't have an obligation to do pro bono work for your former employer.

    Even if they call and say "This is something you screwed up while you were our employee. Fix it for free or else", you don't work for free. Once the employer/employee relationship is over, it's over.
    And besides, the above scenario ( which does happen ) is commonly referred to as extortion in the legal world.

    Remember: There is a price for doing business. If they can't pay you that price, then they can't afford to pay anyone else, and probably shouldn't be in business.
  • by blastedtokyo ( 540215 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @10:17AM (#4690230)
    Just go back to work on Monday. Sit at your old desk. Try to log in to the LAN.

    Business as usual

    When she called you no saturday, she hired you back. Be very gracious about getting your job back. Before you see her, tell all the old coworkers that she hired you back when she called you on saturday. Go back in, and THANK her for calling you Saturday and getting your job back.

    again, be very very gracious

    Kill her with kindness. Best case: you get your job back. Worst case: you make her look like the ass she is and you get a day of fun.

  • It's Business (Score:3, Interesting)

    by topham ( 32406 ) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @12:44PM (#4690855) Homepage
    Rule #1. It's Business.
    Rule #2. Pay me.
    Rule #3. It was never personal.

    While I freely admit I don't run my life off these rules I do repeatedly remind myself of them anyway.

    I've helped a previous employer out a couple weeks after I was laid off. The prior-president of the company had moved to another city and in doing so his HD failed. I helped him install windows over the phone. Probably cost me a couple of dollars in longdistance.

    On the other hand, 6-8 months after working for my new company I received a call and was asked if I could do some work for them through the company I was working for now. (The first was a distribution company, the second a consulting company). So, the company I worked for got the work, and I got paid to help a previous employer.

    A couple years later the guy who was running the IT department after I left had lost his job and moved to another company, he gave my name to a consultant looking for a new employee to pickup some extra work he had available. I got the job and have been happier working for this company than previous. (amusingly doing pretty much the same work, but thats another story).

    Did it help being a nice guy? Sure. Did it make up for the couple of dollars I spent on a long distance call, sure.

    Would it have paid to be a really nice guy and do the work for them on the side when I was working for the consulting company... no. could have cost me my job and would not have been worth the pay.

    If a previous employer calls you up and wants you to do some work for them do it, and charge them consulting rates to do it. If they won't pay then they don't actually want you to help them.

    If they are only offering it to you because it would cost them less (and not because you can do it in less time because you know the system) then don't take it. It probably isn't in your interest. (10% less is one thing... 75% less is another...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @11:30AM (#4696977)
    If it takes less than about 5 seconds to respond, and it doesn't happen too often, I usually try to do it for nothing.

    That said, I did have a former employer that did want a saturday of my time to help train my replacement. Since I wasn't doing the contracting, I didn't want to deal with the hassels of getting paid, I knew they had a bunch of laptops that were being replaced. I told them I wanted a laptop for the time spent, and I got it.

Where there's a will, there's an Inheritance Tax.