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client dilemma - need some advice

(12 Posts)
cinemalovers Tue 06-Jan-15 16:33:34

I have recently been hired for a new project. I am well qualified and went through formal recruitment processes, etc. However, on getting the commission it has now become apparent that my client gave me the project because he assumed I am networked with one of my old employers, who I listed on my CV.

The problem is, my old employer sexually harassed me then fired me when I was on maternity leave. I was broke, so I settled with the company in exchange for a gagging order saying neither of us could defame the other. I'm not even allowed to refer to the fact that the settlement took place.

How do I tackle this with my client? My old employer is a small company and all of my former colleagues have left (it was a toxic environment). So I can't contact them without contacting my boss who harassed me and refused to speak to me when I went on maternity leave. To be honest, the thought of having anything to do with him again makes my skin crawl.

But I also can't tell my new client why I can't invite this important and influential company to any of his public events.

I realize I should have left the employer off my CV, but I didn't want to have an unexplainable gap in my employment history.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 07-Jan-15 09:11:04

Sorry to hear of your treatment/experience at ex-employer.

What is your role in all of this? Will you be the 'faceless' marketing person sending an invite to ex-employer? Or are you required to contact them directly via phone/email?

cinemalovers Wed 07-Jan-15 09:25:52

thanks for your reply, Margot.

I will be the project manager / event manager, so although I'd be the faceless marketing person sending the email on my client's behalf, I would also be the person meeting and greeting guests and telling them about the whole project. I've thought about jut inviting my old boss, but I think he would be really annoyed if he turned up and I was there.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 07-Jan-15 11:08:19

Ok.

Tricky one....

I think you have a few options:

- Invite him and if he attends just try to ignore the fact you know him or be lead by him as to how you greet him. I have seen other people do this before. How likely is it do you feel that he'd kick off in front of others? ie It is in his interests that you don't say anything about what happened etc...

- Invite him and if he registers contact him via a personal email/letter/phone call explaining that you are now at x and will be a y and reiterate that you have kept to the terms of your agreement but out of courtesy you wanted to let him know you will there.

The second approach does feel a bit like you are acting as the wrong doer, but it might be an easier approach/make you feel better & I guess he might tell your client you did that.

I do wonder, although I can understand how painful/embarrassing/difficult this is for you, if he won't actually care that you are there? I know that sounds harsh, but as the person that went through this it probably feels really raw, wrong etc. But if he is that sort of person, then he has probably forgotten all about you.

Also, if he has any sort of ego (which I am guessing he does) he will probably want to put on a show of being a caring ex-boss.

I'd send the invite and try to not worry until you hear back from him?

whatdoesittake48 Wed 07-Jan-15 12:08:42

Is there no way you can explain this situation to your current boss?

Just because you have these connections, you are not obliged to use them as part of your new commission. Would your new role really be compromised by simply leaving the old employer off the guest list?

I always tend to think people will be understanding, but maybe things are different in the workplace. But surely if you explained that you left your last employer because of difficulties that you faced at work that you are legally not able to go into, you are not disclosing facts and you will be supported by your new boss.

This needs some searching of your conscience. Does your old boss deserve your time or that of your new business colleagues? Is your new role worth giving up your self respect and having to face someone you despise?

Personally I would speak to and be as open as possible with my new boss.

cinemalovers Wed 07-Jan-15 15:39:12

Thanks, both of you.

I am worried about taking to my current client, because I can't think of a way of doing it that isn't going to make me look like the bad guy - unless I break the terms of the contract and reveal what actually happened. I think this whole situation has shaken my belief in people doing the right thing, and at the end of the day the potential relationship with ex boss might be worth more than the relationship to me, in my client's eyes.

I think I will try the suggestion to just invite ex boss and act professionally, and hope that he cares less about the situation than I do. margot, I hope you are right about that - from my perspective it feels like I can never escape my old boss and what he did to me, but to him it's probably nothing.

But before we reached the agreement he was pretty vocal in his disdain for me ... And he is very powerful and very rich, so even if he broke the terms of the agreement I don't think there's anything I could do.

In retrospect, I wish I had chosen another way of dealing with the ex boss situation at the time sad.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Thu 08-Jan-15 09:30:04

cinema I would worry about talking to my client if I were you too. I just think part of the benefit of using a freelancer is that you don't have to deal with any of the people stuff you do with employees. So an freelancer with 'baggage' might not be seen in a good light. And as you say, they might value the potential relationship with your ex-boss over you.

I am guessing that you and the ex-boss are attached to a sector/industry. So this could come up again? If that is the case then, maybe it is best to get it out of the way now?

I would feel exactly as you do I am sure. Not as bad as your situ, but I left a job where there was a horrible bully. I am still in the same industry (now freelancing) so I fear bumping into her too.

Work aside...it sounds like you have been through a really traumatic time and you weren't able to have the opportunity for closure. Have you had any counselling? You cannot change what happened, but you can change your view of it. They fact they settled is an omission of guilt to me, but I appreciate that isn't the vindication/apology etc you deserve.

I think you probably need to try to make peace with your decision. I am sure you made the right decision for you at the time.

Also, if you had taken him to court etc it could still be dragging on now. As it is, it sounds like you have established yourself as a freelancer and you have your family etc. I have read articles about people that pursue through the courts and many don't feel it is worth the stress it causes.

Fingers crossed ex-boss doesn't want to come anyway!

Thumbwitch Thu 08-Jan-15 09:34:29

Well, how about when you send the email to your ex-boss, you make sure he knows it's you sending it. Not with any added threat or anything, but then it gives him the choice to refuse or have to see you face to face.

Of course he might be completely smug about having pretty much got away with it before, so he might not give a shiny shit about seeing you again, which would be a bit tricky to deal with on the day, but he might prefer to stay away.

IrenetheQuaint Thu 08-Jan-15 09:38:44

Tricky! Any chance you could send the invite to one of the new people working with your old company, whoever has the most relevant role?

I agree with not making a big drama of it with your new client but maybe worth dropping in a comment in passing as you review the invite list that ex-boss can be a little difficult/is a strong personality/you didn't always see eye to eye, or similar.

PurpleWithRed Thu 08-Jan-15 09:47:43

So your new client gave you the job because he assumed you would be able to network with your old boss to your new boss's advantage? And failed to mention this at any stage in the process? Awkward, and not a very sensible assumption to make. But presumably you need the work.

It's awkward but what's the worst thing that could happen? is ex-boss going to call new client and tell him you're terrible? Hardly. Does new client expect you to cosy up to ex boss in some way? That was his assumption, his mistake.

So I'm with Margo above - grit your teeth, rise above, and treat him like any other invitee.

Unfortunately as a freelancer you discover that whatever sector you work in it's a small world, and what goes around comes around. Get past this and you're in the clear.

Merguez Thu 08-Jan-15 19:00:59

I have been in a very similar situation to you OP (although thankfully the circumstances of my departure from my old employer were not quite as unpleasant as yours).

I am now freelancing in the same (small and specialised) industry and have contact quite often with my former company.

The key with a compromise agreement is that you cannot say anything bad about each other - that applies as much to them as it does to you. It does not mean you can't have any contact with them at all.

There is no reason why you should not invite this company to events - your ex-boss will pretty quickly realise that you are working there and can choose whether to come along or not. And as long as you are civil to each other in public and behave in a purely professional manner - treating them as you would treat any other guest attending the function - there should not be a problem.

You definitely should not say anything to your new client about the circumstances of your departure, and if they ask, just say you can't discuss it. Compromise agreements are not uncommon these days and they will probably understand.

The key, as you know, is to keep it professional at all times. Good luck.

cinemalovers Thu 08-Jan-15 20:24:04

Thank you - this is really good advice, and has helped me see everything in better perspective. I will probably run into ex boss again, so I should start as I mean to go on - totally professional, not scared of him. Just have to remember to put my brave hat on every morning!

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