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ETIQUETTE AT WORK

Bringing temp job to an end, politely

By Peter Post
Globe Correspondent / August 14, 2011

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Q. I took a temporary job with an employer seven weeks ago. The end of the assignment was contingent on the hiring of a full-time worker for the position. I got the “have no expectations, this is not a temp-to-perm’’ speech my first day, and I was fine with that. But two weeks later, my boss (the president) decided my resume had to be included in the candidate pool. I demurred about conflicts of interest, but she pushed the issue. I interviewed. I am fairly certain I was not their selection, but have no concrete confirmation. In the meantime, time is passing, and I have other prospective opportunities in the works. And my kid needs to go to the dentist before school starts. How do I ask for an end-of-assignment date, politely and professionally?

A. Asking for an end-of-assignment date really has nothing to do with the issue of your job search. It has to do with having concrete information on which to base your next step.

When pursuing your “other prospective opportunities’’ you need to know when your current work ends, so you can honor your commitment and let prospective employers know when you will be available. It’s not that hard to find out what you need to know politely. Simply ask to speak with your boss: “Jane, thanks for talking with me. I asked to see you because I would like to establish a definitive end date for my work with you on the project.’’

You can even follow up by suggesting a specific date. “Would two weeks from today be sufficient time to wrap things up?’’

You can also use the conversation as an opportunity to seek closure on your application for the permanent position. You can either ask whether a decision has been made, or, if you are convinced you really don’t want to work for your boss beyond your current project, you can explain that your situation has changed (no further explanation is needed) and you are no longer a candidate for the position.

The bottom line: Don’t let your boss drive your bus. She is not in charge of your employment decisions, you are. You applied at her request and she hasn’t provided an answer in a timely fashion. In the meantime, you have pursued other possibilities. You need to know when you will be free to move on.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.