Monday, March 07, 2011

Contacting Ex-Employees

When employees leave your organization, a lot of information tends to leave with them. As much as they document their everyday activities and hand off work to co-workers, there's always something that they forgot to leave behind. Most of the time the employee who leaves says "contact me for anything you need", and although this is just said as a courtesy, there may be times when contacting that employee for a quick question is absolutely necessary. But how much is too much and how long is too long to contact an old employee?

The question comes after I read an article from Ask a Manager about an employee who was being harassed by their old boss 16 months after leaving their old job. This is an extreme circumstance (it seems like the boss is an extra vindictive person) but it should prove a point that while it's okay to contact an old employee a few times, it should be done sparingly and it should be done with a great deal of gratitude.

In one of my old jobs, my predecessor left for another job within the company (at a new location). He was a really nice guy and had a hard time saying no to anyone so he let everyone know that he was available to help when he left for his new job. Well the problem was that everyone wanted to contact him and they wanted to contact him all the time. It not only made him feel that he really had never left his old job, but it also was really frustrating for me because--correct or not--it always made me feel that no one had trust in me to make the right decisions in these situations.

It's always nice to have old employees who are readily available to help, but it's always worth understanding that the person who left is under no obligation to actually help you--and it could be doing a lot of damage to the confidence of the people left behind. It's okay to contact old employees but, as they say in alcohol commercials, if you choose to do so, do so responsibly.

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