How to Get Fired with Grace and Dignity
So if you’ve turned your work life around once making it through Chapter 11, this final chapter will not be a high priority for you right now. However, things change, so read it soon just so you know what to expect.
If you’ve not turned your work life around, either because the concepts you’ve read are just too hard for you to put into action or you think this book is just a load of rubbish, this chapter will prepare you for what is coming next in your life. Termination.
I am going to let you in on a little manager’s trade secret. Don’t tell anyone I told you this. Promise?
Managers hate to fire people. Not only is it difficult from a simply human perspective – we have hearts and dreams and families too – believe it or not; it is just legally, difficult to do. Why do you think employers have instituted probation periods? It’s easier to terminate a hiring-mistake within a standard probationary period than it is to let go a longer term employee. By the time an employee behaves himself out of the initial probation period, his slate is generally clean. To terminate shortly after a probationary period would place the manager in an awkward situation. After a year, it is impossible to fire an employee without a mountain of documentation weighing approximately as much as the employee himself. So, ever wonder why so many companies keep so many bad employees around? It’s because they feel they do not have enough documentation to safely terminate. And to top it all off, remember our passive-aggressive employee from Chapter 5? They are the hardest to collect documentation on because technically, they are following all the rules. The employee who exhibits Munchausen syndrome is equally as difficult because, on the surface, he is an employee of heroic proportions.
Here’s my point and a warning to you. If you have become your manager’s special project, that is, you find yourself explaining his documentation of your performance or attendance, or you find yourself in one on one conversations that eventually turn into one on one conversations with a witness present, you are in the termination pipeline. No need to ask your boss, “Are you trying to fire me?”. Trust me, he is and by this time you should know it.
If you get to the point where you are on a Performance Improvement Plan or a final written warning, you are in danger as well. But it is still not too late, even at this point. If this is where you are, go back to Chapter 11 and try rehabilitating your manager’s opinion of you starting tomorrow morning.
But, if you have been in his office, with the witness, and he has handed you a bundle of documents and this meeting follows an annual evaluation where you were given more opportunities for improvement than accolades for excellent performance, this chapter is for you.
You can be sure, the bundle of papers he gives you in your meeting is just a fraction of what he has stored on his computer or in his filing cabinet. When you get to this point, the company is reasonably sure they have enough to let you go. Now they are just seeing how you are going to react. How serious is this guy about keeping his job? The worst thing you can do in this situation is angrily and verbally fight for your job.
Remember, you are on your way out right? At this point what you need is a HUMBLE setting on your attitude and that does not mean tears or whining. It means a sincere, “Yes sir. I understand. Yes, you have talked to me about that before. I will do better or I will understand completely your need to let me go.” That’s it. And if the termination proceeds, it is better to shake hands with a “Sorry it did not work out. I will learn from it. I hope to have a chance to work with you again some day.”
Don’t laugh - I know that statement sounds corny and remaining humble in this situation is very hard to do. But it may just make the difference in your manager’s perception of you that you need. The real reason you are in this position is you’ve not changed. Over the months in which your boss has reminded you about performance lapses, attendance, or attitudes, you’ve not changed enough to satisfy him. But these final words may make him reconsider. If not, perhaps you’ve left a door open to return some day.
Many times, during a termination, possessions must be exchanged. You turn over ID badges, keys, computers, phones, etc. and your former boss must allow you to collect your personal belongings from your desk or work area. Do everything within your power to make sure this exchange of possessions goes smoothly. And if you have followed my advice, and have not loaded your work area with vast amounts of personal possessions including tools, equipment, and supplies, it makes it a lot cleaner and simpler. Any discomfort you feel as the terminated employee is shared by your manager, who must now escort you from the premises. So the longer you drag this out, the more discomfort there will be. This discomfort will be remembered and your chances of ever being rehired will dwindle. Likewise, any company property that you need to return to the manager must be in good condition and present on site. Do not keep laptops, keys, pagers, etc. at your home, especially if you’ve gotten to this point in your relationship with your boss.
When you get to this point, you have been terminated so stop trying to convince him to give you another chance. The manager is not going to change his mind; he has stopped coaching you; he has decided that the changes he needs to see are not coming so his only choice is to replace you; he is just ready to move on. You should be too. Don’t whip out your cell phone as you are being escorted out of the office make a call and loudly proclaim that you just lost your job. Don’t tell every one you meet along the way that “It’s been nice working with you but you won’t see me tomorrow”. Remember, until you finally get into your car you are trying to lay the ground work to eventually be rehired or to receive a decent reference from your manager when you apply for a position at another company. Your behavior at this point, will go a long way to giving you this opportunity.
If you’ve been let go and you are now off the premises, refrain from contacting your former coworkers or customers while they are at work. Actually, they’ve already moved on and this will further discourage your former manager from considering you for rehire or from his giving you a reference; plus it is just plain creepy. The cost in real dollars and man hours to protect your former coworkers and the security of the business as a whole is astronomical. Should you persist in contacting your former place of business or just driving by to look around, for security reasons, you’ve then completely burned the bridge. If your behavior, after leaving for good, makes your former coworkers, managers, and customers worry about their safety – they are simply going to set watch for you, possibly change the locks on the doors, and change their cell phone numbers. They are going to screen their calls and they will not answer yours. You’ve gone too far at this point. Now people are just scared, regardless of how innocent your intentions may be.
One note before I finish up. Your manager really does not want to fire you. He just wants you to be the person you promised to be during your job interview. He wants you to be a vital, cheerful, competent part of the team he is building. On the other hand, your manager assumes you don’t want to be fired. In order for this to work out, the manager either has to change the business to allow you to be who you are or you have to change who you are at work to conform to the business. Your manager can not afford to change the business; it would fracture the team and reduce profit. However, you can’t afford not to change who you are at work because this is how you get paid. To not be the person your boss needs you to be will reduce your profit from the arrangement; that is, you will stop getting paid. For the life of me, I can’t see why we can’t all get along, as both parties have a vested interest in making it all work.
Last of the Bullet Statements:
• If you are frequently being asked to explain your manager’s documentation of your performance – he is already building a case to terminate you.
• If he starts handing you documents with evidence of poor performance or if you are put on a final written warning or a performance improvement plan, you are nearly out the door.
• Don’t give up – but don’t cry, whine, or argue. Change your attitude to the HUMBLE setting. Accept what is coming and get out as gracefully as you can or if he does give you one more chance, make it count starting immediately.
• If you get terminated, part your manager’s company with dignity- don’t shout it out to the department, or make loud public phone calls.
• Don’t keep more personal items in your work space than you can carry in one arm load or a small push cart. A cleaner exit is the best way out.
• Take care of the items your company gives you to work with. Turn them all in and make sure they are in good condition. Don’t keep these items at home.
• After you are escorted off the premises, do not call your coworkers or your customers, don’t drive by the office just to see what is happening. What’s left of your relationship with your former company will be destroyed because this is just creepy.