Waiting for the axe to fall…

When you get the first indications that your employment is ending, a fearsome shadow falls over your life, but there is more to life afterwards than you would ever expect.

Getting fired , like getting divorced, is not something you plan for. Sometimes, it just happens, in spite of your best efforts to avoid it. In either case, there is little to be gained by finding fault, because there is more than enough to go around.

Termination of employment or marriage is a wake-up call that should tell you it’s time to change directions. If you make the necessary changes, you can go on to new and better employment and relationships. If you don’t, you won’t.

I’ll confine the scope of this post to your speedy recovery from being fired, being “let go”, or being forced to resign.

Can a dismissal be averted?

A number of readers have told me they are expecting the axe to fall at any moment. I wish I could advise them how to turn their situations around, but from personal experience, I think it is too late for that. It’s time to look at their situation in a different way.

Why do I feel it is too late? I’ve found that people who know their jobs are at risk are the kind of people who have already tried to produce what is wanted. If the axe is being raised over them, it’s not about punctuality or production. They are probably viewed as troublemakers who are asking questions that make others uncomfortable.

People who get fired for incompetence or misbehavior on the job usually don’t have a clue that they are doing anything wrong or that they are about to be fired.

On the other hand, quite competent employees may become excess staff because their function is no longer needed. In this case, they are usually laid off, not fired.

Can you make them pay for this?

Don’t hold your breath. Most US employees have no contracts. They sign an agreement at the time of hiring that says they can be dismissed at any time for any reason or for no reason. If you feel there is a blatant case of age or other discrimination, see a lawyer. They will let you know whether you have a case and will charge you well for that advice. In most cases, your time and money will be better spent preparing for your future employment.

What can you do?

Get prepared emotionally and financially for the oncoming separation. I deliberately put them in this order, because if you are not emotionally prepared for what is going to happen, you will find a million excuses to avoid doing anything effective.

Talk with your spouse or significant other and prepare them for what may happen. Discuss all of the alternative solutions you can think of. Be prepared to deal with your own upsets as well as the upset feelings of others.

The most important thing to remember is that you should not accept your manager’s attitude as truth. You may be the only person who knows how skillfully you performed the duties of your job. Most managers see only what they want to see, especially when you haven’t set their expectations correctly.

If you have done your job to the best of your abilities, the only thing getting fired means is that there has been a breakdown in communications. It may have started the first day you began work.

You would not be the first person who did not find out enough about how things were done, before introducing improvements. After all, you were brought in to straighten out things, weren’t you?

Nobody bothered to tell you that they were quite happy with things as they were. They probably wanted you to fix things without changing anything they considered sacred.

Take time to write down what you should have known or asked about this company, before signing on. Write down what this company does that makes it difficult to do your job, everything you or others did that made you feel degraded.

Now, write a description of what it will be like working in a place that uses your skills and validates your contribution. Describe how the place feels when you walk through the halls, how people deal with each other, how you feel about yourself when doing your job.

That is the company you are looking for. If you cannot find one like that, you may have to start your own. You will find that interviewing takes on an entirely different aspect when you know what you are looking for. You will be asking as many questions as those interviewing. You may even find yourself politely terminating an interview because the compant does not fit your requirements. I know that for a certainty, because I have been there.

If you have done these emotional preparation steps successfully, you will have little problem with the financial steps. Slash your expenditures. Put yourself on a basic budget and stick to it. Put every possible dollar in an emergency reserve account and don’t touch it. Cut back on your entertainment expenses. Make every dollar count by asking yourself, “Will this expenditure help me to get another job?”

Looking forward

I have written several related posts on finding and keeping a job. Read them and apply them if it seems appropriate. Use this experience to make yourself more effective in your next position. Keep on networking even after you find work. Help others in similar situations.

If you find yourself in this situation again, figure out what else needs to be done and get on with your life. You are a survivor – keep that thought firmly in mind.

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