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Fired in real time: Never meet with your boss at 4 pm on Friday

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Image: Bob Rosner

My boss, and his henchman, arrived promptly for the meeting to discuss my sales update. It was 4 pm on Friday afternoon, approximately 48 hours ago. 

I knew something was up because my boss started speaking totally in sentence fragments. “I’ve made up my mind, things aren’t working out, I need people to get along, it’s time for a new direction, you can’t be having fun.” 

 Later I remembered that many termination specialists, like George Clooney in the movie “Up in the Air,” advise bosses when they fire someone to never pull a Donald Trump and say the “F” word. So it becomes a very weird game of firing euphemisms that fall on you drop-by-drop, like a painful kind of water torture.

 I said something, I honestly can’t remember what it was. This triggered my boss’s loop to start all over again, albeit in a slightly different order.  “Things aren’t working out, I need people to get along, you can’t be having fun, it’s time for a new direction, I’ve made up my mind.”

 I don’t know if he just screwed up the speech the second time, or if the termination gurus suggest that the firing sentence nuggets be shuffled like a deck of cards before being delivered each time. 

 Either way it was totally disorienting. Because he didn’t tell me directly that I was being fired, I  had to say the word inside my own head. So what happened is that I ended up firing myself. How sadistic is that?

 I do remember my next question, I asked why I was never given a chance to change my behavior before I was fired. The reply was quick, and clearly rehearsed, “Come on Bob, we’ve got lots of documentation.”

Documentation? Did anyone think to share it with me before I was fired? After? It would be nice to be consoled that there is a filing cabinet somewhere that answers the riddle of my firing, but clearly being fired by my company is a process that makes the selection of the Pope appear totally transparent. 

 Was the relationship between me and my boss flawed? You betcha. But it could have been humane to at least have one counseling session before the execution. Heck, even a kangaroo court would at least provide the illusion of concern and participation. 

 But alas it was not in the stars for me. My trial, sentencing and execution were neatly wrapped in one ten minute meeting.

 Believe it or not, I’m a best-selling business author. And yes, this greatly increases my embarrassment of being fired, but it also puts me in an interesting place to observe the process. I’m going to try to deal with the salt-in-the-wounds quality of writing about my own firing, partially as personal therapy, but mostly to increase the rate of healing for everyone else who’ll follow in my footsteps. And more of us, than we’d all like to admit, will undoubtedly go this route at some point.

Finally, I’m not going to mention the name of my former company anywhere in this blog. Because ultimately it’s not about them. It’s about my journey to regain my sanity and gainful employment. 

My a-ha: In the absence of embezzlement or a dead body, people should always get a chance to change their behavior before being fired.
 
 
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 workplace911.com. 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 [email protected].

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