update: my new employer is funded by my old employer and they’re making me still work for them

Remember the reader whose new employer was funded by her old employer — and the old employer was insisting that she continue to do work for them? Here’s the update.

Unfortunately, the situation I wrote about only escalated after my inquiry. I did (finally!) get a telephone conference to discuss my time with my manager and the ad-hoc HR/CFO/COO who originally made the agreement with my former employer. My management both agreed that the former employer needed to finish the project on their own because my new employer did not want to pay me for the week I would need to finish running former employer’s work – even though they acknowledged they wanted me to use the results. (To clarify some confusion by readers, think of the work in question as scenario analyses: I had to compile various inputs, put each through the same set of calculations, and spit out completed summary files for each different set of inputs. I had been delayed because I was finding serious errors in the input files I was given, which made the summary files nonsense if I didn’t spend the time fixing the inputs).

When I iterated to my former employer that I did not have time to continue working for free and I would be willing to do consulting work on the side, the response I got back simply asked where they could find the completed summary files (I responded to clarify that my not being finished meant the summary files were not yet completed). Even better, I began to receive emails from the person that was hired to take over the project asking how to re-create the entire year-long analysis from scratch. Mind you, although I would not consider it fully training, I did walk this same person through how to run all steps of the process from my files twice and left a manual — only to find out that the reason she was asking to re-create everything was because, 4 months later, she never bothered to learn or download the software (Access) that housed my files and she was still not aware of basic concepts needed to identify errors in the input files. So, I actually found myself in an even stickier situation- my former employer was livid that I could not finish, I had no one competent to hand off the completion of the project, and my current employer wanted me to use the results but not take the time to finish. At this point, I made the decision that trying to keep my former employer happy and keep a positive professional reputation was most important to job hunting to get out of this situation ASAP. Due to the fact that this replacement employee made it impossible to hand over any semi-finished work, I wrapped up and delivered the fraction of the project summary files that I could finish over the next 2 weekends – on my own time- to try to salvage a positive reference.

However, after this conversation (and a positive performance review), I began to hit retaliation from my current manager: berating my work in front of the rest of the team, avoiding/not reading emails with deliverables, being openly critical of my ideas until the CEO expressed her stamp of approval, and missing phone conferences (I was in a different office cross-country so stopping by was not possible). To top it off, he requested late one Friday evening a huge set of analyses designed to support his “hunch” (his word, not mine – not to be based on any research or numbers) to be finished over the weekend on top of other impending deadlines. Because I really didn’t know how he expected me to fabricate the write-ups when everything I researched over the weekend contradicted his “hunch,” I was writing an email update requesting clarification when the manager called. When I mentioned that further work on his request would conflict with everything we had designed to date, and that further work on this request would prevent my ability to meet major deadlines, he began yelling for a good 20 minutes that I was “not doing my job.” After this particularly nasty phone call, I wrote an email very politely explaining that I did not appreciate the disrespectful tone I had received and asked in the future to keep our appointments (which he requests) so that we could address any concerns he might have about my work in a more timely manner. My requests for a follow-up meeting were ignored every day for the next week, until I was brought in and my contract ended because my work was “too advanced and no longer needed.”

Thank goodness unemployment insurance recognized that I was misclassified all along, like you and many readers commented. My situation is, unfortunately, not unique; I have since been contacted by other candidates asking about this company and they too have had similar situations of unprofessional behavior in the offer process (i.e. contract-only offers and errors/”miscommunications”). While I am unfortunately still unemployed, I am much better now (physically and emotionally) and looking forward to the opportunity to have a fresh start.

So, the morals of my story would follow much of the advice posted more eloquently elsewhere on your blog:
1) Pay careful attention to any red flags in the hiring process, regardless of whether they are framed as miscommunications, because it really is indicative of the company,
2) Be vary wary of managers who are hot-tempered in any conversation that doesn’t fluff their feathers,
3) Push companies about independent contractor/employee status at the offer stage, and of course,
4) Do not take a position with any association to your former employer, no matter the reputation of the new company and no matter how dire your situation.

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