Recontracting for her old job, on her terms

Dear Joan:
I have a difficult situation with work which is also impacting my marriage. I worked for 8 years in Information Systems for a large, well known company which is on the East Coast (I live in the Midwest).  My husband works for the same company. The new company really didn’t have a role that matched my skill set but they wanted to keep me so they wrote a position for me. Within a few months I saw a need within the company that I could fill with my skill set, so I did.
Over the years I created repeatable processes which eventually turned into a new formal job description, that was filled with other workers across several departments.  The down side is this job is tedious, meticulous work for half of the time and very high stress and high visibility for the other half.  I grew bored and frustrated and stressed out with it about 3 years into it, which I told my boss.  For the purpose of this letter I’ll call her “Mary.”  To get me to stay in her department in this job, Mary allowed me to train in areas I was interested in, and work on side projects when I had down time.
While this company paid me very well and allowed me to work from home, they also expected me to be available to work 24/7/365 days a year, working with teams literally scattered from the West Coast to the East Coast as well as India. This made working at all hours of the day or night a necessity due to the time zones.  Because of my particular job I worked every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve the entire time I worked there as this is one of the busiest seasons for the company.   A year and a half ago, I finally had enough and my husband and I decided that I should give notice and leave. 
I left on very good terms and I’ve had calls every few months from various managers I’ve worked for (there’s a lot of re-orgs that go on there so I’ve worked for quite a few people) with different offers to return in various roles and capacities.  I’ve always said no, until two weeks ago.
Mary contacted me and asked if I could return to my old job and help out with year-end work.  In this initial conversation with her, I made it very clear I was available only during normal working hours (8-5) during the weekdays, and only for a standard 40 hour week, through the end of the year. I told her the amount of work she wants me to handle is double the amount I had ever done on my own previously and I would need help. She readily agreed these conditions would be fine.   My husband and I talked it over, didn’t see a down side, so after negotiating my fee and confirming with her again on my hours, and that I would need help, I agreed and signed contracts with the consulting agency.  
This week I was supposed to have a PC delivered so I could start work but it was delayed, so my start date has been delayed.  Not wanting to lose time, Mary told me she would set up a conference call with the teams I would be working with (all folks I’ve worked with many times before over the years).  I received the email invitation for the half hour meeting and I noticed Mary was not on the invite list.  I asked Mary if she was overlooked and she indicated the call was scheduled at a time she had another meeting so she could not attend but we would “touch base” after.  The Director who is running this meeting is Mary’s direct report; I’ll call him “Don”.
During this call Don and team members started by asking if I would schedule some of my working hours to be after 5 because their calendars were too full to meet with me during the day. They asked if I could take on yet another project beyond that Mary mentioned to me, and Don talked of extending the contract beyond the date I agreed to. (He may have thought this was incentive for me to work evening hours. It isn’t. I will not extend my contract).  I held firm on the call that due to previous commitments I would not be able to work beyond 8 – 5, which I had agreed upon with Mary.  I said I would work on whatever projects they needed, but I already had more than I could do so I would need the projects prioritized so someone else could pick up the ones that I didn’t get to.  There were a lot of “pregnant pauses” on the call and Don and team members just told me they would “work with it”.  No further discussion as to how they would “work with it” or when they would even reconvene to discuss the issues occurred.
 Joan, I’ve worked with these folks for years, and I know they will expect me to take long meetings when I get home from my evening obligations, regardless of what time it is.  I could give Mary the benefit of the doubt that she hadn’t communicated what I told her about my hours with Don, but I really don’t believe it.  I think she purposely didn’t attend the call and asked them to push me on the hours to see what I would do. Mary, and the company in general, often says one thing to their employees, and deliver something entirely different. This has happened to my husband, as well as others I knew within the company.
After the call, I summarized what was asked of me and my responses, including the hours and extra project, into meeting minutes and sent them to Mary telling her to call whenever she wanted to “touch base.”  That was Thursday morning.  I’m still waiting.  I think it’s going to be a long wait.
Joan, I know I am so fortunate in these times that I don’t need this job or the money.  I mainly accepted it because I thought it would be good to stay current in my field (I haven’t worked since I left the company and I want to stay marketable).  The money is good for a 40 hour week.  It’s not nearly enough for working nights and weekends. 
I am going on vacation this week and I will be starting the job in November.  I am planning to talk to Mary on my first day, to let her know that I was disappointed that what we had agreed upon hadn’t been shared with the team prior to our meeting.  I want to make it clear, in a nice way, that I will not work the hours I have in the past no matter how much pressure is exerted and the team needs to make other arrangements to get additional help and coverage in terms of evening/weekend hours.  I also want to tell her that if the team feels they need more flexibility for hours and the projects are risk due to my schedule, I will certainly understand if she’d prefer to spend her funding on a consultant who can accommodate that. (This is unlikely as it would take over 2 months to train someone to do the job).  However, my husband feels very strongly that I’ve already told her and the team my constraints and I should leave it alone now and let them work it out.  As he works for the company, and occasionally with Mary, who is very close to being an Executive level manager, he has a vested interest in how I handle this.  We are very much at odds at what needs to be done.
I agree with your husband. You’ve stated your terms to Mary, and to the team. There is no need to repeat yourself a third time.
I would caution you against assuming Mary’s absence from the meeting was intentional. I wouldn’t recommend jumping to the conclusion that they were directed to pressure you for more hours. It may have been a simple lack of communication.
Instead, on your first day, express your appreciation for the opportunity, and thank her again for her willingness to let you work 8-5. If, over the first few weeks, it becomes clear that 8-5 isn’t going to work, approach Mary and calmly suggest that as much as you enjoy working with the team, she should find another consultant who can fulfill the demands of the job.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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