Job Tips

When should I stop helping my successor?

This. is a column on workplace issues

The Straits Times - October 22, 2012
By: Anita Gabriel
When should I stop helping my successor?

MS TAN ASKED: I left a firm due to ill health from work stress. To smoothen the transition, I trained and briefed a replacement.

But since the day I left, the replacement has been calling me daily on work-related matters. This is causing me great stress. I feel as if I'm being taken advantage of and I'm not sure what I should do. Please advise.

Sometimes what is easy to do is easy not to do, as motivational speaker Jim Rohn would say.

But sooner or later, cracks appear and one wonders how one even got to this point.

In your case, I presume there were no rules set from the onset of the handover of duties, hence the seething frustration on your part.

It is, of course, convenient as it is comforting for the person who assumed your role to be able to call her predecessor for guidance on how to carry out her tasks.

Remember how nervous you felt as a rookie during your first few weeks at that firm? And how you acquired the knowledge and skills, thanks to years of working there?

Well, there's someone else now in the same boat.

Having said that, getting daily calls from your successor on work-related issues for a prolonged period sounds grating.

"It's okay to get calls and provide clarification to ex-colleagues immediately after one leaves the organisation. But in this case, one should let the replacement know that it's time to run things on her own," says Mr Scott Burnett, Towers Watson's managing director for South-east Asia.

The situation could mean one of two things - your replacement is not a good fit for the job and is unable to do the job effectively or that she is simply insensitive and an opportunist.

But first, you need to examine a few factors, says Mr Josh Goh, The GMP Group's assistant director of corporate services.

"Before pinning the blame on the replacement's incompetence, one needs to question whether there was a proper handover. On many occasions, improper handover results in frustration to both parties," he said.

Did you prepare a list of responsibilities and how to go about them?

Did you underline the outstanding tasks which the replacement needed to look into?

Communicating these verbally is usually inadequate as it can be forgotten or misunderstood, says Mr Goh. A task list is more helpful.

If you did all these and provided guidance but the replacement continues to expect you to be at her beck and call, then it's time to make that call to your former employer.

Tell your former boss that you can no longer be of assistance. You definitely shouldn't feel obligated to put up with this.