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Fired in real time: No soup for you.

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Image: Bob RosnerWithin an hour or so of being fired, I somehow ended up at a Whole Foods grocery store. It wasn’t on my way home, so I’m not really sure how, or why, I ended up there.
Still partially in a fog, I was surprised to look down to see my hands pushing a grocery cart that was half full. Nothing special, milk, eggs and my favorite energy bars.
I felt nauseous. I thought to myself, you were just fired. You can’t afford this stuff, especially from Whole Foods. No, Mr. Ex Employee, for the foreseeable future you are sentenced to do all your shopping at Grocery Outlet.
With apologies to the poor supermarket stocker who had to put all the stuff in my cart away, I abandoned it toward the back of the store. But my journey was more complicated than just leaving the store. No there were shelves and shelves of temptation that were between me and the exit.
I decided to turn it into a game. How could I get out of the store without feeling the urge to buy anything? I realized that I was standing fifteen feet from the pet aisle. So I headed for an aisle where I couldn’t even buy something if I had a twenty-five dollar gift certificate in my hand. Whew.
Just as I was leaving the store an employee offered me a slice of pineapple. I took it and it tasted unusually good.
It sounds ridiculous, but exiting that store felt like a victory. I realized that I needed to unlearn a series of behaviors that I’d developed as a gainfully employed individual. I’d entered the shopopocalpse, it was time for some serious belt tightening.
So when I got home I shredded half of the credit cards that were in my wallet. I decided that I would never again carry more than $20 in cash. I decided to embrace frugality and to squeeze that sucker dry.
But I also realized that there was one place where I needed to be extravagant. I put a box near my front door and filled it with energy bars. My goal would be to carry a few with me every time I left my home. Because I realized that there are many people out there who are hurting far more than me. People who’ve lost their jobs, their homes and are living in their car or with relatives.
When that grocery worker offered me that pineapple, I remembered how I’d worked through lunch earlier on the day I was fired and I realized that I was starving. Unwilling to buy anything before I got home, I savored that piece of pineapple. That was the moment that I realized that although I had to be frugal in most parts of my life for the foreseeable future. I needed to look for opportunities to help out other struggling people.
That was one of the biggest surprises so far as a person recently fired.
My a-ha. Changing your lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to give up living.
Next installment: A little bit pregnant
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 [email protected].

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Fired in real time: The perp walk.

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Image: Bob RosnerI’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 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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Sophie’s Choice, Workplace Edition

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Image: Bob RosnerA 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 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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