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Who’s Driving Your Bus?

Q. I am hoping you can help with a sticky situation related to temping. I took an assignment with an employer seven weeks ago whose end was contingent on the hiring of a full-time staff person 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 at some length 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 of this. 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. Given that we’ve “crossed the streams” here, and that this is a profoundly touchy and emotional workplace, how do I ask for an end-of-assignment date politely and professionally?

TD, Pensacola, FL

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 in employment. When pursing your “other prospective opportunities” you need to know when your current work ends, so you can honor your commitment to your current boss and let prospective employers know when you’ll be available. Touchy and emotional do not matter, and 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 if 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 as your situation has changed (no further explanation is needed) that you are no longer a candidate for the position.

The bottom line here is: Don’t let your boss drive your bus. She’s not in charge of your employment decisions, you are. You’ve applied at her request and she hasn’t provided an answer in a timely fashion. In the meantime you have pursued other possibilities, and those may involve working with someone with whom you’d prefer to work. You need to know when you’ll be free to move on.

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