I got fired today. This has never happened before. I work behind computer screens in my bedroom and I’ve never had a Vice President appear ill and sheepish on a Zoom call that I joined late because I was carousing the kitchen with my wife, wandering back to a Slack from the VP saying, Hey, you have a minute to join this meeting?
No idea, wtf. What meeting? So I join and its the VP and one other person I don’t recognize at first, a level of exclusivity I’ve never experienced in a professional setting, and the VP looks like he drank milk behind a brothel, unwilling to make eye contact, and those slow first seconds of chair adjustments end with the VP saying, We’re letting you go.
Wait a moment because there’s a punchline where the VP says haha just kidding with you Mick, we wanted to talk about promoting you.
We’re letting you go.
The HR lady interjected with HR policies and I asked the VP why the cuts? were these recessionary worries or financial issues or what? A little bit of both, he said.
Many assurances were given: not performance related, he’d help my job search, etc.
I croaked something. I don’t know what I was trying to say but the VP stopped speaking and the HR lady cleared an awkward apple from her throat so I stuttered just to start the words and all I could say was, “Well, look, it’s just business.”
The VP said I took this very well. And from the red, I-deserve-to-be-disrepected look on his face I assume he expected a freakout, that he’d already received rebukes from the others he’d fired; the VP had sent me a Zoom link and was waiting with HR on the other end when I joined because he’d been shitting there on screen through a firing sprint of people he liked.
I wasn’t mad when I got fired on a typical Tuesday afternoon having spent the entire day doing great work and offering surprising insights to my decision-making superiors. No, I wasn’t mad, because it’s like a rogue wave hitting your pleasant voyage and freaking out isn’t going to change the ocean. It is what it is (drown with a hopeful smile).
So, pragmatic-minded I made sure to get assurances the VP would be my reference for a next job. I got his email and his phone number and made the HR lady explain COBRA because it was a word she said as in, “we’ll cover a month of COBRA,” and I didn’t know what that meant.
I wasn’t mad and I’m still not mad, even though my manager and his manager and my wife and her mother were mad. My manager was mad because he also got fired and the Director was mad but didn’t show it because his team had been eviscerated and he always wanted to be a friend.
But my wife was mad because of the following reasons I had not realized:
- They fired me at the end of the pay period
- My manager (also fired) just had his first kid
- I’d only been hired 8 months (my manager just 6)
- The only reason for the layoffs was a high-paid idiot making awful acquisitions
- We’ve never had $4,000 in our savings account and now we do but now we won’t
- They were going to give me a promotion. I’d asked for a raise and they said yes, we want you to get that, and then that it’s a budget issue, there’s no new budget till January when all promotions and salary negotiations will happen, help us outline the position you want, a few months later, you’re fired now.
And I’m more or less unphased. I don’t care. I don’t like my career but I know I can make money in it. I persist in spite: what else am I to do to feed the kids? Write poetry? By miracle.
I’m back on the job hunt. New projects, new people, new chapter. Change, something different and I’m excited about it. That was the first wave when the VP first said “we’re letting you go,” something momentous and life changing depending on the decisions I was to make, life jumping tracks in an unexpected instant. A real-time swim-or-drown, an excitement.
And this is what the VP and the Director were commenting on when they said things like “thanks again for taking this so well” and “you’ve handled this very professionally,” outside of my own shock an occassional grin and an interest in the moment that had questions and deals to make.
A sudden relief of weight makes you so much quicker on your feet — I didn’t have to wake up to work the next morning.