A reader writes:
I work at a small company for now. 3 and a half people (the half being a part time contractor). There is no HR. The boss is HR.
I have had several therapy sessions trying to figure him out. My therapist thinks he is an attention-deficit narcissist. He won't apologize, take responsibility, or listen. He disregards years and years of software engineering common knowledge, experience, and wisdom. He think it doesn't apply to him or something.
I am an unruly employee. I have been outspoken in an attempt to bring our company out of the stone age and do things better. My boss will not listen. I tried everything and finally exploded.
We mutually agreed verbally that I would become a contractor and change our relationship. I would send a resignation letter, he the contractor paperwork, basically the same rate, la di da.
I sent him a PDF copy of a resignation letter where I wrote the signature using Microsoft Paint (basically) and sent it to him.
He informed me this afternoon the contract stuff may not be a possibility.
I have been looking for a month and a half to get out of this job and now I'm obviously going to have to. However, I feel like I've been totally screwed. His idea of how we were going to proceed changed after I sent him a letter.
Do I have any recourse until I find another position?
First, you may want to rescind your resignation. Of course, you clearly need to get out of there anyway, but I'm assuming you'd rather do that on your own timeline rather than his, and it seems like your resignation was clearly part of an overall plan and not something you would have offered without the contracting agreement.
So let's clean this part up first. You want to do this both in writing and in person (because doing it only in writing comes across as too aggressive -- you want it to be primarily an in-person conversation, followed up by a written document). In both cases, you basically want to say, "My resignation of my staff position was offered as part of our plan to switch me to a contracting role and was contingent upon that plan. As you've indicated that plan is no longer a certainty, I want to make sure we're both clear that my resignation is be triggered only by a contracting arrangement, as we previously discussed."
Say this nicely; don't be adversarial. Go into it with the mindset that of course he understands you need to formally retract this, since his plan changed. If you're adversarial, he'll be adversarial. If you're not, he still may be, but the risk goes way down.
Now, I suppose it's possible that this was all some master plan of his to obtain your resignation under false pretenses, but I doubt it. First of all, most people just aren't that conniving, and secondly, it wouldn't help him that much anyway. You could still collect unemployment, for example, just by explaining the situation. So there's not much benefit to him in doing it this way, unless it's that he knew his alternative was to fire you and he's one of those people who go through all kinds of contortions to avoid firing someone.
But while it's likely that this wasn't a nefarious plot, I would still be braced for the prospect that he still thinks it's time for you to part ways, whether or not you become a contractor. It sounds like the relationship has been a contentious one. And you want to leave as well, but you want to do it on your own timeline, once you find another job.
I recommend that you talk to him about a plan for a smooth transition, one in which you continue to keep your responsibilities covered, perhaps prepare training materials for a replacement and so forth, and give him time to search for the right person, while you conduct your own job search. Many managers will be very open to this solution, and it can end with all parties reasonably content with the outcome.
But if he makes it clear that's not an option, you should try to negotiate severance and come to an understanding about what he'll tell prospective employers who call for a reference.
And in future jobs ... don't explode. That never goes well.