You’ve Been Fired. Now What?

So you’ve been fired. Two questions if I may. Did you see it coming or was a complete shock? Secondly, does it come as a relief now that you’re no longer employed or would you go back there if you could? These two questions are important because both get at where your mind is my friend, and your thinking is probably not at it’s clearest right now.

Sometimes you see it coming as a distinct possibility or probability. It still stings when it happens of course, but it was looming. Maybe it was a poor performance review or a warning. Could be you hadn’t got past probation or weren’t hitting sales targets. In any event, the writing was on the wall and you even started taking personal possessions home with you in anticipation of this very thing. If this is your situation, you could even feel a sense of relief because the strain of going to work and wondering if this would be the day they let you go has been mentally exhausting.

On the other hand, when things are going well, you’re well-liked and you feel blindsided by your firing, it can stop you cold. In fact, you’ll feel pretty numb with the news, in severe shock and disbelief. When caught off guard, you’re at risk of soon doubting anything and everything around you because you don’t want to be similarly surprised again. This isn’t a healthy attitude but it’s an understandable reaction to the news.

We’re built different you know; some of us would just get back out there the next day, while for others, a lengthy period needs to elapse before starting to look for work again. The length of this period will depend on 4 things: 1) whether you see this parting as an opportunity, 2) if it was anticipated as a possibility, probability or complete blindside 3) the length of employment, 4) your personal resources and supports.

When the news first hits you’ll undoubtedly have felt shock. A few seconds earlier, you were an employee and now you’re not. There’s that, “What to do?” feeling as the news is received. Sometimes you get the news outside of work; a phone call, email, text etc. This might sound unbelievable to some of you, but yes, a text. More often, it’s in person. There’s the dreaded walk out and you’re not only dealing with this terrible news, you live this walk of shame by your now former colleagues without the chance to slip out quietly.

Maybe though, this job was actually getting in the way of you moving forward. It was holding you back because it was comfortable. This parting is somewhat liberating and needed but resigning is something you likely wouldn’t have done on your own. In such a case, your mind can turn to what’s ahead more readily than others perhaps. Now you can get back to the field you were trained in or turn to something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because you had this job you had to go to every day. And if you really disliked the work you did, it was a long commute, the co-workers weren’t anything you’ll miss etc., yes, it can be liberating.

Generally speaking, most people need a mental break. While being unemployed isn’t what you’d choose, rushing out to get a job the same day somewhere else may not be the best action. It’s important to balance your need for income and purpose with your need to clear your mind. Any feelings of bitterness, anger, revenge, failure, sorrow and regret need to come out and be addressed. You my friend, need a period of grieving for your loss. Depending on your financial health and resources, you might need to immediately tighten your belt and think twice about all your purchases. Then again, some people have been known to take a vacation and realign their frame of mind.

So many factors now to consider. Where are you on the age spectrum? Is not working at all as you’re so close to retirement attractive? How’s your health? Is this something you can now concentrate on improving? Are you the only income earner or do you have a secondary source of income that can soften this blow?

Yes you’ll want to update the resume but before you do this, it’s rather important to know whether you’re competing in the same field for a similar role elsewhere or are you heading in a new direction and therefore need to overhaul the focus of your resume?

Something to consider is who to tell. Many don’t want friends, former colleagues and family to know. Keeping silent until you land a job might either protect your dignity or result in missed opportunities. The sooner people know you’re looking and what you’re looking for, the greater the likelihood that your network might come up with opportunities to explore.

Some general advice then? Eat healthy, get some regular exercise – even a morning and afternoon walk to clear your mind. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol as an escape. Do little things that will make you feel good; even doing the dishes can ease your mind when you look at the kitchen.  Make sure you apply immediately for any employment benefits you may be entitled to as they start when you apply, NOT when you stopped working.

Lose bitterness; it’s not attractive. This too shall pass.

Think You May Lose Your Job?

There are several reasons you might find yourself thinking more often about losing your job. Has your company been downsizing and your seniority eroding so quickly your long-held belief that it couldn’t happen to you is eroding right along with it?

Maybe it’s restructuring, poor performance on your part, a change in Supervisor and it’s pretty clear they want to clear house and hire their own people or for some reason, the boss you knew and liked has changed and their new behaviours and actions have given you reason for concern. There are many reasons you see, for being worried about your employment. So what’s a person supposed to do?

For starters, and this is nothing really new, find your resume and start updating it with all the training, additional education and employment you’ve had since you last looked at it. Open up that drawer of certificates you’ve earned at work, or that computer file with the courses you’ve taken. Now is the time to get those things on your resume; and take these certificates home!

Why now? Okay let’s get to the worst case scenario. Suppose some people come to your work area today about 15 minutes before your lunch and tell you that you’re being let go. Suppose too they tell you they are here to walk you out, that your things will be boxed up and ready for you to pick up in a couple of days. You’re to take nothing but your coat, your lunch and they’ve brought backup just in case by the looks of it.

Not very nice I admit, but my point is to make it clear that you may not have the time to get things before the axe falls. Oh and by the way, employer’s walk you out not because they feed off the power of humiliating you, but rather they want to protect their assets, and emotional employees (and you will be) sometimes don’t act fully rationally, nor do employers and employees always agree on who owns what. While your personal photos and knick-knacks are clearly yours, other things that aren’t so clear might be materials you created on behalf of the employer, USB sticks, cell phones, personal computers, keys, access cards, etc. Yes, the escorted walk out off the property might be embarrassing but it could have you later wishing you’d taken the time to gather your things personally.

So it comes down to two things; is your looming departure beyond or within your control? If you feel your performance is the cause for your worry, then you must ask yourself if you’re interested and motivated enough to change your ways and up your performance. If you don’t care whether they fire you or not and you plan on behaving exactly the way you have been, that’s your call.

Now, another thing to consider is whether you’re up for a personal, closed door chat with the boss. Knowing where you stand is important for many people; even when the news is bad, a lot of people actually feel better knowing the situation they are truly in rather than stressing over the situation they think they might be in. You might not be called on to use your imagination much at work, but it will be working overtime creating all kinds of possible scenario’s in your mind until you know the truth of where things are.

Why does imminent loss of employment worry people so? Well it’s more than just the loss of a job. It’s the loss of a reputation, the loss of an identity as an employee and whatever your job title is at the moment. It’s financial worry too, and depending on your age and job prospects, it could have you fearing your days of having an ongoing income are done if you lose this job. When you fear this, you fear the future and however you imagined it is now in jeopardy.  There’s also the stigmatism of telling family and friends or doing what some do; leaving for work as usual but having no job to go to while they job search so they can avoid upsetting others in the hopes they’ll get another job immediately.

When you really feel the axe could fall any day now, best to start taking home whatever personal possessions you’ve got in the workplace. The last thing you want is to suddenly recall 4 weeks after being let go, some item you believe you left at work and having to contact the employer in the hopes of getting it. If they tell you it’s not there, you may be convinced they threw it out or possibly even kept it and this will just result in more anxiety, more bitterness and this isn’t healthy.

Start getting your references together too. You know, the phone numbers, job titles and emails of the people you trust at work will speak well of you if/when you’re gone. It’s so much easier now rather than later.

Whatever you do, don’t start stealing company property. This is one way to get fired for sure. Do check into your financial situation. Cut back on your spending now to buffer the possibility of a loss of income. If you have benefits, think about a dental or optical visit now too.

Start looking for other employment; put out feelers and network. Wouldn’t you rather leave on your own terms?



Not Feeling As Grateful As You Should?

If you count yourself among those in the workforce, think back for a moment to the last time you were unemployed . If it was a brief period where you were out of work you might not have felt any desperation, but if it was a prolonged period, you’ll appreciate the state you emerged from. Appreciate not from any endearment of course, but appreciate from the point of having great respect for what it felt like.

If you go back in your memories, you might remember the anxiety and worry; the fear of not knowing how long it would be until you found a new job. Maybe you can recall the constant mental energy that your unemployment consumed. Any time you took a break from your job search to do something else, you felt like you should be job searching, so things that typically brought you joy failed to do so. Even if you did escape the concerted thought required to job search successfully, it was for the briefest of times, and then you’d be right back consumed with your unemployment.

At some point, I wonder if you thought to yourself, “When I do get my next job, I’m going to be so grateful; I’m going to do my best to work hard at rewarding the trust somebody will show in hiring me.” Did you think something along these lines? Maybe you even went so far as to make a promise down on your knees in a prayer? “Help me find a job and I’ll (fill in the blanks)”.

Okay now back to the present. Here you are and yes your thankful you’re back among the working. So about that prayer where you promised something in return for a job…? So about that gratitude you’d feel and hard work you’d show everyday once you were working…? How are you doing?

Have you slipped back by any chance into the old, comfortable you? Has your status as a working person and the income it provides that offsets your expenses lulled you back into old habits that might have been responsible in part for your previous unemployment? If so, why is that? Did you or didn’t you promise yourself that things would be different if and when you found your next job? So what happened?

One explanation might be that the job you ended up getting is a far cry from the job you’d imagined at the time you made those promises and had those feelings of future gratitude. Had you known you’d end up where you are now, you wouldn’t have been so grateful or desperate. Really? If that’s the case, you wouldn’t mind returning to being out of work? Think on that. You don’t really want to be back there again do you? I mean, thinking all day long about finding a job, watching what you spend, doing without and the only things rising are your worry, anxiety, fear, desperation, debt and depression.

Human nature being what it is, maybe you have slipped back into the old you – behaving the same way, as your actions are products of your thoughts, and your thoughts are similar to pre-unemployed days. There’s a saying that goes, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” Does this saying in this respect apply to you?

Okay so grudgingly you admit you’re not as thankful as you were when you got that call that offered you the job. That’s a day you don’t mind remembering at all. Oh it was good! So were the moments you told someone close to you that you’d been hired and of course the first pay.

Of course this job you have now might not be your dream job. Yes, it could be that you took this job you’ve got now as a transition job – just to curb the financial bleeding of money out. The thing is, it’s taking longer to find the right job than you’d ever have imagined, and there is a part of you that resents this current job,  as it seems to be a reminder some days of the difference between were you thought you’d be and where you are. Is that however, any justification for taking your own feelings of poor self-worth with you into your current workplace and spreading that disappointment and negativity around? Is this how you show gratitude for their faith in hiring you back when you were feeling desperate?

If we’re completely objective here, or if we look at things from the perspective of the employer, no it’s not fair. The baggage you’re carrying with you about your career aspirations and how things have worked out is yours and yours alone. This employer who brought you aboard by hiring you doesn’t deserve anything but your best. If you’re moving on to something better soon (well that’s the plan anyhow), that’s fine, but while you’re in the here and now, you’ve got a job to do.

In other words, as you go through your day, make sure your invested in the work you’re getting paid to do. Don’t let your thoughts wander too far into the future, thinking about what you’d rather be doing. These thoughts can, if not checked, make you miserable in the present and miserable workers aren’t attractive to employers. The last thing you want is to be let go.

Gratitude is best shown in the attitude you bring and the value you add.

Should I Add Short-Term Experiences On My Resume?

When you have a short-term experience, you might be wondering whether to put it on your resume or not. The answer to this question isn’t a straight yes or no but rather depends greatly on a few things.

The basic question you need to ask yourself is will it be a positive or negative for the people deciding whether or not to have you in for an interview in the jobs you apply to. Now, while you can’t know for certain one way or the other, there are some key things that will give you a pretty accurate guess as to which way they’ll view the addition or omission of the experience.

First of all what was the nature of the experience itself? Was it a one-time volunteer experience such as being a helper in a local Terry Fox Walk For A Cure For Cancer fundraiser? The benefit of this experience or one like it is that it demonstrates your community involvement, your willingness to donate your time and the cause itself is one just about everyone can get behind. If you are out of work, it also shows you’ve done something productive with your time. A one day donation of your time doesn’t detract from your real goal which is finding paid employment and could translate into part of a good answer as to how you’ve been using your time since your last job in a future interview.

On the other hand, a one day volunteer experience may seem trivial and really stretching things if you try to make it out to be something bigger than what it is; especially if the experience is unrelated to the job you’re going for now. Volunteering for a few hours at a local charity car wash won’t likely win you much credit if you’re competing to get an interview for a job on a construction site. It depends also on the person deciding on who to have in for interviews doesn’t it? Do they themselves support the causes you do or see the merit in volunteering at all or not?

Be cautious about short-term jobs that end badly. Getting dismissed from a job that only lasted two months because you couldn’t meet the job requirements may be a big risk and do you more harm than good on a resume. The question, “Why did you leave your last job” could have you fumbling and revealing more than you think leading to an overall negative impression on the potential employer. I lean toward dropping the experience from the resume and eliminating the need to reveal anything about the poor ending.

Suppose however you’ve taken a seasonal contract job working in retail at the local mall; or you’re one of Santa’s elves in a photo session for Christmas. The end of the job is a foregone conclusion and has nothing to do with performance. This on a resume is often a positive as it demonstrates your ability to obtain work and the good habits that go with working (punctuality, responsibility and routine). You can make the case that this experience was one you took to pay some bills and tide you over as a short-term activity but you’ve turned to focus on your true passion; and you follow this statement by naming the position you’re applying for now.

The downside of leaving a position off your resume – volunteer or paid – is that it creates a gap. “How do I explain this gap on my resume?” is the concern you may have. Depending on the length of that gap, you could say you took some time to detach yourself from the workforce to figure out what you really want to do with your life. Yes you could have gone out and got just any old job but you decided instead your next job wasn’t going to be a job at all but rather THE job for you. Of course you have to know why this job is such a great fit.

If a job ended positively and you have good references you’re likely less concerned about short-term jobs on the resume. However, drawbacks to even good experiences could include both the salary of the job and the level of responsibility you had. If a job was 6 months or less and you were paid a minimum wage, you might be concerned about the interviewer assuming you’ll work for less. You might also think about them having a simplistic understanding of what the role you did and if you’re overselling the complexity of the job, they might wonder if you’re up to doing a job with considerable more responsibility with them.

Short-term experiences do keep you connected to people, maintain good work habits and in some cases bring in money. They can also be a way to rebuild self-worth, feel good about yourself after a negative experience and get some current experience on a resume complete with references. Therefore they can be good for the mind and the body making you more attractive to other employers.

If you’re still concerned about whether or not to include short-term experiences on your resume, have a personal, no-cost conversation with an Employment Counsellor or Job Coach.  Not only will they help you decide whether it’s in or out, but they should be able to help you with the wording on the resume and draw out the transferable skills you acquired in that experience.



“There’s A Dead Guy In The Cubicle Next To Me!”

“Well okay, he looks dead anyhow; I haven’t seen him move for days.”

You and I had best hope that dead body look-alike someone is frantic about isn’t you. If so, your days might be numbered. Sooner or later, if you’re hiding out behind that baffle board doing precious little, someone is going to figure they can do without you on the payroll.

Now okay you might not be mistaken for a corpse, but if you think you’re fooling those around you when you’re not being productive, it’s only a matter of time until you’re found out and your productivity is called into question. The cobwebs in your cubicle are also a dead giveaway that not much is going on.

Some employees are pretty good at smoke and mirrors aren’t they? I mean they tend to move with purpose when they are observed walking around the office; even if upon further inspection it’s only to the bathroom or the company kitchen to grab yet another coffee. Once back in the relative sanctity of their cubicle however, they drop the façade and move at a glacial snails pace as they go about their day. Such employees do just enough to get by, contribute very little and try to stay beneath the radar of Management scrutiny until they are released into the world after work.

Now let’s stop and think about this behaviour for a moment. When you were setting out in your early years of adulthood; when you had ambition and dreams, wanted to make your mark in the world, surely you didn’t methodically plan to spend your days idly daydreaming and doing the bare minimum. Hopefully you set out to do something you personally found meaningful and rewarding. So the question is, “Where did that person go?”

Something over time has occurred that has you mechanically going through the motions of going to and from work each day and you’ve lost your motivation. You may be more than aware of this change but for some reason you can’t seem to ignite that passion anymore for the work you do and the people you do it for. As much as you’d like to kick start the fire, you’re oblivious as to how to go about it.

Heed the signs sons and daughters. Continuing down the path you’re on isn’t going to be healthy or end on a positive. Either  you find something to stimulate yourself at work in a positive way that ups your productivity and usefulness on the job or someone will do you and the company a favour and start the proceedings to end your employment. Put plain as day, you either start working and producing at your former level or better, or you’re going to get fired.

I know some people who dogged it; coming and going without any passion. They once showed enthusiasm for the job and now they only show enthusiasm for the last 20 minutes of the day and are sitting with their coat on with 5 minutes left each day, ready to squeal away in the parking lot putting as much distance behind them as fast as they can each night. On their own they’d never have quit or worked productively again and eventually they did get fired. Oddly enough, getting fired was the best thing for some of them and they’d readily tell you that – even though at the time they didn’t believe it.

There are among us those who are proactive and those who are reactive. The proactive people think ahead, update their resumes even when they aren’t looking for work and they’ve got plans for advancement or change. The reactive types only update resumes when they are out of work, and only think about career planning when they are forced to by the changes and pressures they experience in their lives.

“Why”, they would say, “should I bother to update my resume when I’ve got a job and I’m not looking for another one?” They figure they can always update that resume when they decide to go for another job inside or outside the organization, but because they have no date in mind, they figure they’ve got all the time they need. When it comes to taking courses, updating expired certificates or skills, once again they smirk and say, “Why bother?”

Another thing to consider is that if you aspire in any way to advance in the organization you work with now, you should be visible and for the right reasons long before you dust off your resume and apply for a new job. You don’t want to be invisible and have your boss say, “Do you still work here?” when you finally get motivated and want to be interviewed for a promotion.

One last thing and it has to do with your co-workers. Co-workers often pick up cues from their peers quickly. If you’re not picking up your share of the load and you should be, you’ll only have yourself to blame if you feel isolated from the rest. Worse case scenario is that they resent your presence because their workloads increase; and ultimately word will get passed to Management. Don’t blame them if they’re doing their job and picking up your slack too. That’s not fair and certainly it’s going to become more difficult for you to regain their trust and respect.


Commitment: You’re In Or You’re Out

As an Employment Counsellor, I counted on to run workshops and lead presentations on a daily basis for those seeking employment. There are all kinds of people who attend these workshops and there are varying levels of commitment, interest and motivation to actually look for work amongst those who attend. Over the years I’ve come to understand that.

I think by the way for anyone new to the field of Social Services or as a reminder to those of us who have been in the field for years, it’s important to remind ourselves that despite our own level of commitment to serving the unemployed, it’s equally important to recognize that each person attending is an adult and responsible for their own choices. This is one of the key principles to adult education; and is a marked departure from teaching young students in schools; kids can’t just get up and walk out when they wish.

So back to my experience interacting with job seekers attending my workshop and their varying levels of commitment. One of the key things I do that is different from my peers is make a personal phone call to those that are considering opting into an intensive two-week job search group. This way, I can go over the expectations with them and I offer them the opportunity to express any doubts or concerns that might impede on their ability to attend. Point blank, I ask each potential attendee the question, “Are you able and willing to commit to this two-week block of time from 9:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on a daily basis?”

Now if the answer is negative to the above question there isn’t any point to continuing with further details of the program, so it’s a pretty upfront and early question; one that is consistently asked of each person.

So you can imagine my surprise when every now and then someone approaches me in the actual workshop to either ask of me or inform me that they need time off from job searching to do something or attend something. Such was the case this past week. Yes I was in the room with all the participants when one gentleman said he wanted to speak to me about Eid.

Now he identifies himself as a Muslim and says that Eid being the equal of Christmas to North Americans, it’s an important day of celebration. I of course know where he’s going with this statement; he’s about to ask permission to miss time and stay home. Sure enough, he asks for Eid off to spend with his family. The fact it is Eid doesn’t really matter to me; the request is for time away from the full-time job search I invited him to attend and to which he committed to attending each and every day for the two weeks. Eid isn’t something that would have come up suddenly and unexpected; it’s an annual event; and I agree an important celebration; even being Muslim has nothing to do with it as I see it.

So how much time off he is asking for? The entire day? Half a day? I was shocked when he asked for ½ an hour; he’d arrive at 9:30 a.m. instead of the 9:00 a.m. start time I hold everyone accountable for. I agreed immediately as a show of compromise; after all, he’s an adult and I believe we are all responsible to make our own decisions. “What I will miss is mine to lose” he stated to me, and he was right.

So what happened the following day? Well, he didn’t show up at 9:30 a.m. nor at any time during the entire day. He didn’t email, phone or send his message in any format whatsoever. I was left to wonder if he was going to return at all on the following day, and I nonetheless hoped he would and prepared myself to talk with him about personal accountability, respect for me and his job searching peers.

He did call the next day and left a message indicating he wouldn’t be coming anymore; thanking me very much for the little bit of information I did impart to him. Then he indicated he had secured a full-time job in his field and wished everyone else the best.

Now I’m happy for him; I absolutely want to make that clear. I’m happy anytime a person out of work secures a job and moves towards financial independence. I can’t be entirely convinced however that this gentleman fully gets and understands what commitment is. Sure I know my employment workshop isn’t a paid job, but I do ask those attending to treat it as such. Show up at 9:00 a.m. sharp, be dressed in business casual interview attire, be focused and work hard.

I can’t help but wonder what he’ll do if and when he has another reason for needing to be away from work. How many employers are going to give an employee their blessing to miss their third day of work even for something as important as Eid? My guess is zero if they specifically asked the employee if they had anything which would prevent their attendance and then once hired they asked for time off on the second day and took the whole day when ½ an hour was agreed upon.

What are your thoughts?


Being Fired Can Be A Positive

Losing your job by being fired is hardly a positive thing at the time of the firing. It almost always stings, brings with it embarrassment and shock, and is rarely the kind of thing that prompts you to call up all your friends and family and say, “I was fired today; let’s go out and celebrate!”

No, in reality, being fired is often a time when people go into shock, with feelings ranging from numbness and fear, to anger and resentment. The sudden loss of employment can come as a huge hit to the self-esteem, and a person can go into social hibernation, hiding their unemployment from others.

Yet finding yourself forced out of a job can be liberating. It could be that the writing was on the wall; your performance wasn’t what it should be, you just weren’t happy there for a long time. Maybe if they hadn’t fired you, you would never have had what it takes to quit and move on to something else; something better. In this sense then, having someone else make that decision for you can later on be a blessing.

This is the very situation several people I know have found themselves in; people I count as former clients, and some I know in my personal life as good friends. Now let me again state that at the time of the firings, there wasn’t much joy. Most of those people told me that they were hurt, shocked, angry and they felt unjustly treated. At those moments, it would hardly be the time for me to have said, “Well, getting fired is a good thing in the long run, you’ll see.”

It’s important to see the person who loses their job much like the person who loses a family member. There is a time when the loss is sudden, unexpected and time has to be set aside for grieving. Someone might even try to bargain with the employer, pleading to reinstate them in a desperate attempt to hold on to the employment and making promises to change.

After the grieving period, when the person turns to looking for the next job, the key things the unemployed usually deal with are both the stress related to the unknown length of time they will remain unemployed, and the stigma of having been fired. Even though we’ve all heard of people being laid off, fired, terminated with cause – it never seems to be entirely relevant until it happens to us; to you. Then, the full impact of being terminated becomes personal. Suddenly you have a first-hand appreciation for what it truly feels like to be dumped and without the security employment brings.

Now even when you saw it coming in retrospect, it isn’t pleasant to experience. The moment you’re hearing those words come out of the person’s mouth can still come as a shock. A number of questions floods through your mind: Can I  get my personal belongings ? When do I get my last pay?  How do I get out without all the other people – now my former colleagues – watch me be walked out? This certainly isn’t the time to be expected to see a larger picture or the good in being terminated. You’re living second to second at this point, and thinking the same way.

I will tell you that in several but not all of the personal situations I am aware of where a person has been terminated in the last two years, the fired people found employment. One even launched his own franchise business. In talking to them today, while they wouldn’t want to be fired again, they do see the positives looking back in getting out from jobs they had grown stale in and a couple of cases had come to loathe. Being released from a job they would never have quit on their own as it turns out was a good thing.

In some ways it’s been compared to a spouse announcing they want a divorce. Just like the job, you may have already known things were far from the best, but that announcement can hit hard. At some point down the road that announcement could be the best thing for both of you, but on your own, you’d never have initiated the break up. Finding yourself with a partner that better matches up with your current needs is like finding a better fit with respect to your employment via a new job.

Another thing that can and often does occur is that once employed again, your sincere appreciation for employment rises. You have empathy you never had for others who lose work. That feeling of entitlement, a guaranteed position is replaced with a strong understanding of how fast things can change.

If you are trapped in a job that you don’t love anymore, you can appreciate how the loss of employment gives a person the luxury of time to explore other opportunities that would bring greater happiness and fulfillment. Your seniority, benefits, age or vacation entitlements might have you feeling you can’t possibly look for other jobs that would bring you greater happiness. It is only when you are free of your current job – sometimes involuntarily – that you can turn to exploring other options with enthusiasm and purpose.

I don’t wish being fired upon any of you, but should you find yourself terminated, understand there can be positives in the experience



Challenging Authority At Work

The longer you report to a person, the greater the likelihood that eventually you will question a decision or opinion that person has, no matter how much you respect them personally. It’s inevitable and undeniably going to happen. So when it comes about, it’s not really so much your difference in opinion that could spell trouble; it’s possibly the way you handle yourself in the process.

Like so many things in life, there is a wrong way and a right way, and an awful lot of ways in between that you could choose to air your feelings. I have found from listening to many of my clients over the years, that going about things the wrong way can lead to immediate dismissal, a stalled career or a whole lot of energy spent trying to repair damage done in what otherwise was a good working relationship.

One of the first things you would be wise to acknowledge is where you find yourself on the organizations hierarchical chart. Are you the supervisor or boss? If so, realize the title on your business card doesn’t necessarily mean every decision you’re going to make will be the right one. Nor does it mean that all the people who report to you have less intelligence or somehow don’t see the big picture the way you do. You are entitled to be treated with respect based on your position in the organization, but you also gain respect from your employees based on the respect you show them.

If you answer to an authority figure at work such as a supervisor or boss, you would be wise to respect the person you report to, and ultimately defer to their authority as the final decision-maker on the big items. You can get yourself into trouble if you overstep the boundaries of your position and start making decisions you have no right to.

I’ve listened to both men and women who got fired or let go from places of work who despite overstepping their job descriptions, failed to learn the lessons. “The guy’s a jerk. I could do his job with my eyes closed. He’s an idiot. I told him what to do and that if he didn’t he was stupid. I wouldn’t go back if they begged me, and I’d do the same thing again if I had the chance. Good riddance!”

The comments made above tell me more about the person making them than they do about the person being talked about. The person talks in issues of right and wrong, my way or the highway, black and white. Further, the message communicated is that if things aren’t done the way the speaker sees things, then the other person is an idiot. Ouch! There isn’t any respect being shown for holding a different opinion, and there’s no credit being given to the supervisor for seeing a bigger picture, knowing more background in a situation or their own work experience.

If you are going to question someone with authority, let me give you some helpful advice. First of all, always respect the other person and their right to hold an opinion different from your own. Ultimately you both want the same thing; to maximize your resources, improve conditions, solve a problem, generate numbers, maximize profits, etc. So keep your thoughts and your comments confined to the issue, not the person.

When you challenge something, don’t challenge authority, challenge yourself first. That’s right; challenge yourself. Your challenge is to respectfully bring up a topic, suggest or recommend an alternative to a process. Understand right from the start that you may be successful and you may not. You may be the one who has to relent and you might not be given a full explanation as to why your idea – so blatantly better – is not the right one at this time. Your title and the title of your supervisor or boss alone might mean you walk away having been heard but your ideas not acted on. That’s the order of things.

Picking your battles, understanding you won’t always win and seeing things differently than ‘You won I must have lost’ or ‘I won you must have lost’ are smart attitudes and behaviours. The boss is no more an idiot in every given situation than you are right in every situation. Far from being about who is right, wrong, smart or an idiot, words you choose should always be about the issue, not the people.

Conceding on issues may just be a sign of your strength by the way. By presenting your ideas for improvement but openly deferring in the end to whomever is in a position of authority, you demonstrate good interpersonal skills and your Supervisor will appreciate that. You can still be passionate about your ideas on a subject, and you might even find the person in authority gives your future ideas more thought because of the respect they feel you’ve earned by respecting them.

Personality clashes sometimes get in the way of respectfully exchanging ideas and respecting those in the workplace. It’s a wise person who pauses to see things from another person’s perspective when they can, and asks for clarification when they can’t. People want to feel listened to, their ideas heard and considered. In the end, the higher a person is in the organization the greater is the ultimate responsibility for major decisions.


The Sting Of Being Released

One of the most painful and demeaning things that a person can experience occurs the day you are told your services are no longer required and you’re walked off the premises of your now previous employer.

Shock. Anger. Pain. Disbelief. Acceptance. Fear. Apprehension. Shame. Embarrassment. Uncertainty. Gut-wrenching. Numbness. Whatever you feel at that moment, it’s right for you and there’s nothing to apologize for. It can feel like you’ve had your head hit with a brick. You’re disoriented and in unfamiliar territory. And that feeling is unsettling.

If you are fortunate, the news isn’t really news at all; you’ve had some pre-warning of this moment, as in the case when a company is going through a long process of shutting down operations and moving. But in that situation, the other fundamental difference is that this is a shared experience with other employees.

What is worse however is a situation where you have no warning whatsoever and you’re the single target of those above you who have made a decision to cut you loose and you’re powerless to do anything about it but accept it. How you act at this moment may be out of character as your defensive mechanisms kick in and you struggle to orient yourself after receiving this life-altering news. You might find yourself saying things you’d never have thought of before; swearing and cursing, raising your voice, yelling, demanding answers, even begging for your job in a desperate attempt to keep it.

Furthermore, if handled poorly by the person delivering the news, it can be a humiliating experience if the surroundings in which the news is being delivered is a public space or an area within earshot of other staff. It’s not hard to imagine your embarrassment as you open the door to a common area after hearing the news and faces of your former colleagues are averted, tearful, smirking or just obviously uncomfortable and likewise in shock.

The setting for getting the news of being fired is much like the setting for getting hired; you don’t have much control over this and it’s chosen by the person chosen by the company to deliver the news or conduct the interview as the case may be.

Here’s some advice for dealing with such news if or when it should land on your doorstep. There are a few things you can do NOW while you are still gainfully employed. First and foremost, whenever you get a good performance appraisal, a note of praise and thanks, or positive written feedback, keep a copy at work but keep the originals at home. After all, if you are escorted off the property empty-handed, the last thing on your mind will be to get these things, and you probably won’t be allowed to touch any files or computer to retrieve these things because of a fear of sabotage even if watched. They want you gone; now.

In addition to the positive evaluations you’ve earned, you should have some way of contacting people within the company who you’ve had good dealings with. If the woman in Purchasing you’ve only ever known as Brenda could help you out significantly by acting as a reference, you might find your ties severed if you can’t call her personally outside of the workplace. In fact, all your networking contacts will be sitting on your desk and of no use to you unless you’ve thought to keep some kind of home directory.

But immediately after you get the news, I’d like to suggest two primary choices you can make – either one of which might be the best advice for you personally. I’d suggest you either dive directly into a job search, especially if you know exactly what it is you want to do next. Some people are good at dealing quickly with this loss and moving on. But the second choice is to take up to a week to do nothing. By restricting your socializing and job searching, you can get angry, yell, write hate letters you’ll never send, mope around and grieve. Avoiding others for a week might keep you from giving people the wrong impression, or alienating yourself from people who can help you later.

There are some good things about losing a job. If you’ve been unchallenged and running on auto-pilot for years, this could be the push you needed but would never have taken on your own. This is an opportunity to change directions, try something you’ve wanted to do, go back to school and re-tool yourself.

Apply for any Employment Insurance or benefits immediately. If you are entitled, they will likely pay you funds from the day you apply; NOT the day you lost your job – so get at it! Think seriously about seeing a Mental Health Counsellor and a family Doctor. Be honest and tell them about the news and get a physical/mental health look-see.

This isn’t a good time in your life. Guard against going into a shell of silence which can bring on dark places and thoughts. Stay connected and let your family and friends know. Ask for help; this is wisdom not weakness. Visit an Employment Resource Centre and tell them your story and be honest. Ask them straight up – “I need help. What can you do for me?”

Regarding finances, tighten things up where you can now. Call for lower interest on your credit cards, cut the magazine subscriptions, get a cheaper phone and data plan.

I feel for you. While getting fired and released doesn’t hold the stigma it used to, it still stings.

Do You Need To Work?

Some people need to work and some don’t. Some want to work and some don’t. Then there are those who both need and want to work. But is it possible that there are some who don’t need to and don’t want to?

I’ve worked with someone in this last category and maybe you have too. Odd though it is, the person in the case I know of, had a husband who brought in the bulk of their income. There was no financial reason for her to have to work therefore; a fact she made sure everyone was aware of, so it’s not just conjecture.

This woman had originally decided the work she performed was something she wanted to do. Her children were grown and out of the house, and the job was fulfilling more of a social function, allowing her to connect with other people and helping her of course feel useful and appreciated.

But then things changed. People change even if job responsibilities don’t, and in this case both she and the job she did changed. The new mix wasn’t a good one, and it was clear to more than a handful of people that she was no longer happy in the work she did. Too old to really seriously look at another job outside the company she worked for, there were only two real options; quit outright or apply for another job within the company – but there wasn’t one she was qualified to apply for. So quitting or hanging on were her two choices.

Sadly, she made a decision to stay instead of quitting. All the positive relationships she had established in the workplace started to turn sour. Voices started grumbling behind her back, wishing she’d leave, and only because she was turning quickly into that energy-sucking, negative person that few people want to be around. So in addition to the job being one she didn’t want to do, the ‘connecting with others’ part of the job she liked was slipping fast.

In the end, she did quit. And when she left, instead of a nice send-off with sincere best wishes for a productive and happy next chapter of life, people couldn’t wait to see the back of her. Like milk turned sour when past its due date, she’d overstayed her usefulness. And that was unfortunate too, because the time she had given was on the whole, apparently quite long and had much more good than bad.

If you don’t need to work and you really don’t want to work, shouldn’t you move on?

There are a number of people who benefit when a worker retires or quits. First of course the people themselves benefit because they find new stimulation in other activities. New stimulation is a good thing, and there are options such as another job, a return to school not only for higher education but to delve into a hobby or personal interest. And you meet like-minded people if you are taking up an interest such as photography, a musical instrument or a craft.

Secondly the co-workers left behind may initially find your departure leaves big shoes to fill, but with the arrival of a new person comes an opportunity to meet and work with someone new; and everyone moves up the seniority list by one! Existing workers may find a position opened up they themselves want to apply to, and that could stimulate some real enthusiasm for a new job in other people, and a ripple causes three or four job changes.

The employer benefits too, because sour workers are cancerous. It could well be that if a worker with a poor attitude doesn’t leave on their own, they might get shown the door. What a sad end to an otherwise long and productive career that would be. Then the employer looks bad to those outside the organization, but dead wood isn’t of much use other than for burning.

And most important of all is that the customer or clients of the company itself who may have dealt with the person will experience hopefully someone new in the job who wants to be at work, wants to provide good customer service and makes their experience a good one. Of course all that knowledge that left with the retiree is dearly missed, but in the case of someone who isn’t happy, it could well be the case that the person stopped using all that knowledge anyhow, not because they were a terrible person or anything, they just became burned out.

Customers want to interact with people who want to do well in their jobs and like what they do. Given a choice of two people who both know their stuff, but where one loves the job and one loathes it, I’d choose to deal with one who loves their job. Wouldn’t you too? Employers and supervisors also want employees who enjoy coming to work, put in extra effort, do their job with enthusiasm and make the workplace a happy place.

In fact, employers should consult with disgruntled workers to find out what’s going on. Has something happened in an employees personal life that’s having a negative impact at work? Is there some support the employer can lend to get through a difficult time outside work?

In the end, it’s up to you and me; up to all of us, to review why we work, where we’d be happiest, and make changes if and as necessary.