Question: I work as an exec. assistant in a medium-sized business. Given my computer knowledge, I was assigned the responsibility of helping to maintain our company's ever-expanding Web site, which details our company's history, current events, newsletter, etc. We began this project 3 years into my employment with the company and at that time, hired an outside consultant who runs her own Web site-development company here in town to help me.
She and I grew close, and I considered her a co-worker in all aspects of the word, even though she worked in a consultant role for my bosses and wasn't technically an onsite employee. We e-mailed back and forth every so often every week for several years, and the site grew to be the best it had been in a long time. Her areas of expertise lay in the artistic-design area of Web site design, and any technical issues were passed on to her Web site admin host, who was usually very quick to resolve any issues at all. I usually don't cross ANY line between work and personal life, but in many ways, I felt like we knew one another as co-workers more than my OWN co-workers. I invited her to my wedding; she came and gave me a lovely gift and we were able to chat that day and say hello.
With the sudden onslaught of spam on the Net about a year to two years ago, her Web site admin had technical issues of his own and we suddenly started experiencing an onslaught of spam e-mails. Things got really, really bad for a period of time during which we experienced lost e-mail and problems with being able to retrieve and send e-mail. Each time, I worked with this woman and she told me the same thing: It's a technical issue; it's out of their hands. This is an overall problem affecting everyone online these days. There's nothing they can do about this right now. Keep deleting it.
My bosses finally got fed up and, because of this very issue, "fired" her by literally telling her that we would not be renewing her contract. I can't say I blame them from a business standpoint: It was really wreaking a lot of havoc, AND there are such things as spam blocker programs out now that work!!. My bosses didn't tell her specifically WHY they were doing this, just THAT they were doing it, and kept me out of the loop.
The problem is this: I have been too embarrassed to keep in touch. I don't want to bring up what happened and I know it is probably a sore point because we were, at that point, her most long-term client. It isn't anything personal against her that we had to end this business relationship, but I feel the loss of our contact.
Unbeknownst to my co-workers, my boss and this woman, I am currently considering a lateral job move to another company for personal and health reasons. I need all the local references I can get, and I would love to use her as a reference but don't want to open up a nasty can of worms.
Do I just keep quiet and not contact this person and chalk this up to "This is why you don't develop friendships with co-workers outside of business hours"? Or do I shoot myself in the foot by not using this valuable contact?
Any suggestions? What would you do?
Thanks. -- Confused N.Y. State Admin