Blog #12. Fired in Real Time: From Fired to CEO

Image: Bob RosnerWhen I was fired I had no idea that within a month I’d be firing people. You just can’t make this stuff up.

The evening that I was fired I got a call from a friend who invited me to help with his start-up. Pretty quickly we realized that the organization was in real trouble. Within weeks he asked me to fire the CEO and to take over leadership of the company.

Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a rags to riches story, until we raise money for the new business I’m still in rags. I’ve just got a better title. Hopefully we’ll raise money soon and I can stop volunteering and start getting paid. At least that’s the plan.

It’s interesting to get fired and fire someone within a month. Instead of being disconnected from their emotional state, you become like a ping pong ball, bouncing across the table from the firer to the firee. Anyone who has to fire someone should have this level of insight about what’s going on inside of everyone’s head.

I’ll give you one example. At one point the subject of turning off the ex employee’s email came up. I said that we wound need to do this, but it could take a few days. Outside of humiliating the employee, it just didn’t make any sense to shut off their email immediately. Especially since there is stuff in their email box that will help the company moving forward.

Unfortunately he wasn’t the only one who needed to be let go. Most of the staff followed him out the door.

But the meeting where people were let go was one of the most surprising of my business career. Not only didn’t anyone complain, the staff just wanted to talk about what could be done to save the business. A few people even volunteer to continue to contribute without being paid.

It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Which leads to my biggest piece of learning from this whole experience. It can all be summed up in one word, pride.

As much as people complain about work and their jobs, most of us derive great satisfaction from punching the clock. Like it or not, work plays a central role in most of our lives.

I’m reminded of the time I was getting a haircut. The barber was yawning a lot. I asked him if he’d been up partying the night before. He said no, that he’d given a bad haircut the night before and whenever that happens he ends up spending most of the night tossing and turning in bed.

Who knew that people could approach their jobs with such a sense of pride?

I’m going to try to carry the emotional pummeling of my firing with me every day for the rest of by working career. Because I think it is essential to never become disconnected from the pain and humiliation.

We can all rise from the ashes of a firing. But it takes a lot of rebuilding of your confidence along the way. The good news? There are a lot of people who are taking a similar journey. Hang in there.

My a-ha: There is life after being fired. Even success.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.