Okay so you’ve been fired. Let’s call it what it is even though it stings.
If it’s just happened, your feeling shock and now is not the best time to really talk with your ex-employer because you’re probably more emotional than rational. But you do need to talk to the person soon, say after a week or two when the reality of your situation has sunk in.
And the reason for needing to talk to that disgustingly small-minded idiot who doesn’t know anything about how to run a company? WAIT! Okay maybe you need an additional few days before you have a little chat because you just don’t seem quite ready for that yet!
Now that you’re more in control of your words and your behaviour, let’s look at what’s to be gained from talking with your past employer. It’s not to get your old job back, nor is it to defend yourself against their decision or get them to change the reason you are no longer working there on your Record of Employment form so you can collect Employment Insurance or whatever the benefits are called in your country.
One of the things you are looking to do is move on and move ahead with as little damage to your reputation as you can salvage. In the future, you might find yourself in a position to need a reference from the person who directly supervised you in your last job, and it could be this is the person who sacked you. But be warned, companies and employers often want you to just go away and leave them alone. They are cautious about giving you any feedback or even talking to you because you may be launching action against them for wrongful dismissal.
With respect to a reference, of course you aren’t going to get a hearty endorsement. No, if you were fired because of performance issues, what you are really looking for in this respect is confirmation from your employer to a perspective employer of your work history; first day and last day. Yes you really did work there. Some companies actually have this as a policy now whether you left on bad terms or excellent terms. They just protect themselves from action in the future for either referring on a bad apple or a gem who doesn’t work out in their next job but was hired based in part on their recommendation.
The next thing you should find out is how your termination is going to affect you if you plan on continuing to look for work in the same industry and in the same general area. How well-connected is your employer with other companies? If your boss meets bi-weekly with his peers from other companies, you can guess that one of their discussions may get around to you if you are applying to work somewhere else. And while you can’t be there to defend yourself, you can minimize the damage by having a conversation.
So what would you say? Well for starters, you’d want to assure your former boss you aren’t hoping to win back your job, you’re sorry things didn’t work out and you take responsibility for your actions. This may come to them as a pleasant relief, instead of having you rant and rave about how you were entirely blameless. Next you bring up the subject of needing to find employment to support yourself, and then you ask if the person would be willing to confirm your employment dates. You aren’t looking for a glowing reference, but the sooner you find employment the better things will be for both you and the ex-employer, because people will stop calling them for a reference on you.
Note in the last sentence the appeal for the ex-employer. You get a job and people stop calling them about you and you yourself stop calling. They of course just want you in the rear view mirror, and honestly, that will be good advice for your mental health as well.
And here’s the thing. If your employer chuckles and says anything suggesting they’ve got you right where they want you and they’ll do nothing of the sort and bad mouth you to anyone who will listen, you need this information too. Politely indicate you’re sorry they feel that way and end the call. Now armed with that information, you’ll need to carefully compose a good answer to the anticipated interview question, “Why did you leave your last job?” or, “How would your previous boss describe you?”
If you have had good performance reviews in the past and have copies of these documents at home, you have some ammunition to demonstrate your good performance. In an interview, you may have to acknowledge you were terminated in your last job and briefly state why to demonstrate your honesty and integrity. It’s equally important to pass on what you learned from the experience, and not show your anger or bitterness. Turn the answer back to your strengths and skills and don’t dwell overly on your termination. Be in control of your emotions!
Being sacked is tough; talking to your ex-employer may be tougher. But doing it with dignity shows your maturity, wisdom and if you need a boost to your self-esteem, you can demonstrate to yourself and them how you won’t be baited into over-reacting, and can conduct yourself with class in a sensitive and raw time of your life.