Standing On A Chair

Telling it like I see it…

Rants from the Chair: On Being Fired Part 2

In retrospect, I think by the time I reached my mid-fifties, I was probably just a tad fed up.  A teensy bit burned out, if you know what I mean.  When you’ve spent decades working in middle management, or any administrative position, for whatever company, you start to feel all used up in a very big way.

So let me make one thing extremely clear.  This time, my second firing, I flat out asked for it.  I say this in retrospect also.  At the time, of course, I did not see it coming on that Friday morning in the fall of 2003.  But now I see it.  As I remember back, I probably took the meaning of the word “insubordinate” to an all new level.

In my own defense, however, please know that I am an absolutely superlative employee.  I work my ass off.  When I start a new job, I usually put in six days a week just to get things organized, to learn the industry, and to feel comfortable in the position.  On occasion this can backfire.  It becomes expected.  So when you start working a mere forty hours a week, you end up looking like a slacker, of all things.

I’m not going to identify the company for obvious reasons, and will not specify the exact nature of the business, but I will say it was an engineering company, solely owned by one man.  He was my boss.  The others?  Well, it was a group of really smart, educated, focused, detail-oriented guys.  Plus, they were great people.  I liked my boss, we’ll call him “Dr. Lockner,” and I liked the entire staff.

That said… 

I had way too much on my plate.  What I really needed was an assistant, someone to answer phones, file, run errands.  But no.  So I had responsibilities ranging from the highest level to the mundane.  Daily iron-clad deadlines loomed, but by God I had better keep fresh coffee brewing, the bathrooms supplied with soap and toilet paper, and process packages for the boss’s wife who shopped online and returned ninety percent of what she bought.

One scenario had me at the copier, furiously reproducing, assembling and binding four reports which had to get to Fed Ex or UPS that day.  Engineer “Mike” interrupted me with a thousand page document to copy, which couldn’t be done using the collator because only every other couple of pages needed to be copied.  They were marked with a tiny yellow post-it.  So it had to be done page-by-page.

“Are you kidding me, Mike?” I protested.  “I’m ass deep in reports here that have to get out.  It’ll take me forever to do that!  I don’t have time to do that!”

I knew I’d stepped over the line when he glared at me, picked up the volume and stomped out of the room.

Another incident had me balking at yet another new job duty:  entering all client files into a new data system.  With hundreds of clients, each having two separate files, each file being two inches to six inches thick, this was a daunting task to say the least.  Not to mention I still had to perform all my other responsibilities as well.

I cried.  I hate it when that happens, but I just got so frustrated.  “Do you want to install a bed in the ladies room for me, Dr. Lockner?” I wailed.  “Because with this new assignment, I may as well not go home!”

Still, hiring an assistant was out of the question.

I think the final straw happened on a particular Friday afternoon at around 5:45 p.m.  It had been a particularly grueling week, with me logging in probably close to fifty-five frenetic hours.  I walked into the boss’s office with my purse over my shoulder and said, “I’m going to leave now, Dr. Lockner.  Have a good weekend.  See you Monday.”

“Wait,” he said.  “We’re not finished here yet.”

“Excuse me?”

“Here,” he said, tossing a volume across his desk.  “I need you to re-do this report.  The client called with some new data.  Changes the whole thing.”

“I don’t remember that client calling today.  When did he call?”

“Last week.  Guess it got lost on my desk.  Has to go out right away.”

I heard myself say, “No.”

“No?” he said.

“No, Dr. Lockner.  I’m done.  I have to go home now.  I have nothing left to give you this week.  I’ll see you on Monday.”

Two weeks later I was fired, first thing in the morning, with two other employees standing around as witnesses.

“We’re letting you go, Jill,” he said flatly.  “You’re just not a good fit.”

“But Dr. Lockner!  I’ve been “fitting” in here for almost three years!  You gave me a raise four months ago!  I bought a new car, for God’s sake!  This can’t be happening!”

“It’s not about your skills, Jill.  It’s about your attitude.”

He sent me packing with three months of severance, thirty more days on the health insurance plan, and promised he’d provide a good reference for me.

How does one describe what it feels like to be fired?  For me, it was like a physical blow to the stomach, with my blood pumping through my body so fast I could hear it.  I don’t remember the drive home, but I remember sitting on a chair in my living room that afternoon, in silence, unable to do anything.  Anything at all.

Stay tuned for Part 3:  The Aftermath


May 3, 2011 - Posted by | Jobs | , , , ,

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