I’ve had countless people write to me, as a workplace columnist, to describe the security guard standing next to them as they packed up their soon-to-be-former desk and painfully did a final perp walk out of the building.
Mine was not nearly that cinematic. Just me, a bunch of boxes and a coworker with whom I shared the office looking ashen. That might not mean much to you, but considering that she is African American, it was a weird way to see her.
Lucky for me, the company I worked for is not exactly a burn-the-candle-at-both-ends-kind-of-operation. Except for the days when there is an afternoon staff meeting, mostly the building starts to clear out about 3 pm. That’s when people choose to show up for work at all.
So as I scrambled to pack up my stuff, luckily I saw precious few people.
As I walked down the hallway, one guy grabbed me by the shirt and said, “You’re the lucky one here, you get to escape this zoo.”
Another woman didn’t say a word. She just hugged me with a tear in her eye. She started to say something and then just grabbed me again. Then she scurried down the hall.
One image kept coming to mind as I try to sum up the feelings that were circulating around my psyche like really powerful Jacuzzi jets in the hour after being fired. It was an old family picture, let me explain.
My sister lived with her husband for ten years. Then one day we got a call that she was moving out, into her own apartment. Within hours of that call, my mother had strategically removed any photos that contained my sister’s ex from the house.
But there was one photo that my old man really liked, so my mom couldn’t just toss it. The photo was of our extended family that was decoupaged onto a piece of wood. My mother was more than up to the challenge. She scratched out my sisters husband’s face and body, leaving a gaping hole in the photograph. She then glued a tree over where he’d been.
It might have worked, if my ex brother in law had been standing on the end of the assembled group of family members. But seeing my family gathered around that clumsily glued tree makes me laugh to this day.
That’s exactly how I felt. Like I was crudely scratched out of my own picture. In the coming days I probably will find the words to discuss the emotional devastation in greater detail. But suffice it to say that it is a searing pain that someone who is fired won’t soon forget.
My a-ha: If people in Seattle have a million ways to describe rain, people who are fired have as many to describe the numb feeling that comes over your body and soul. Try as you may to orient yourself, it only comes to you with the passage of time. At least I hope so.
Next installment: No soup for you.
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].
A number of years ago I was running a small non-profit that I’d founded. We negotiated a big six-figure payday with a video production company to produce a four part video series. We also tossed in exclusive distribution rights to an award winning video we’d created.
Can you say windfall? We could.
Thinking that this was ongoing revenue for my organization, instead of a one-time bonanza, I went out and hired two new staffers.
Six months later, as the money was running out, I had to lay off the two staffers. Painful stuff that can still keep me awake at night.
At the time, a friend told me something he’d learned in his life guard training. If you were swimming back to shore with someone who couldn’t do it on their own, there is one cardinal rule. If you feel yourself being pulled beneath the waves, you need to let go of them. Because your primary job is to save yourself. Anything else is icing, not the cake.
Even though I’ve been speaking out against layoffs for a long time, I also realize that there are times where an organization needs to make tough calls for the good of everyone.
Given all the layoffs and turmoil in the economy, it never ceases to amaze me at how there are still people out there who believe that they are entitled to have their job. The float through their day partying like it’s 1999.
Organizations need to realize that if these sacred cows restricted their damage to their own lack of production, it would be difficult but not a back breaker for a company. But unfortunately these people often send the message out to everyone else that mediocrity is not only tolerated, it’s embraced.
Tough calls. It sounds tacky but addition by subtraction really does mean something in today’s workplace. Take a longer view and you might be surprised at how you look at your organization entirely differently.
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]