Stretched Thin

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Help me out of a pickle. When I worked, which is until I retired a year
ago, I was the contracts manager for a small company. I worked
primarily with two people: the president (who is now a consultant to
the same company) and with a man who was like my twin brother. We
saved each other’s lives emotionally more often than I can count when
working with the president got rough. I just walked into two vmails:
one from former coworker who’s managing a contract with my ex-
boss, and one from the ex-boss. They disagree about how much
money he should get on a project and what he should do. Each is
calling on me for help but nobody’s paying me yet for my insight and
advice. My sympathies are with my co-worker, but there’s a lot of
complicated history, and my ex-boss hinted he would pay me to be his
negotiator. What should I do?

Stretched Thin

Dear Stretched Thin:

You have a variety of choices about how to respond to each. The
simplest is to politely return both phone calls and say, You know I’m
really enjoying being retired. You two are going to have to learn how
to talk to one another without me. Say what needs to be said, and
keep talking until you agree. Option two is to decide whom you
genuinely like better, and if you can afford to let go of the relationship
with the other. That changes what you say on the calls. If you have
any interest in working for your ex-boss again tell him you’re happy to
serve as his contracting agent but here’s your fee. Make it high
enough to compensate for hazard pay. If you prefer to help your friend
and say the hell with the money, then tell your ex-boss No thanks, and
tell your friend your opinion on how to manage the work and the ex-


Even if you help solve this contest, everyone needs to recognize this is
a one-time pass, and that in the future you will politely decline to be in
the middle of any such dramas. Your simplest answer both of them is
really this: You know working together was great but retirement is
even better. I’m sure you can work this out. Your voicemails reminded
me how much I prefer my watercolor class. Good luck!!