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If Ye Are Prepared (It Still Sucks to Get Fired)

January 28, 2013

“Paul would like to see you.”


“Right now.”

“Can you tell me what it’s about?”

“I think I should let Paul tell you that.”

Six days earlier, Paul’s boss Brian had announced via a department wide meeting that changes were coming, and they would include layoffs. Still, I held out hope that perhaps they were merely going to reassign me. My current position was very high profile and I knew that Paul was pleased with the improvements I’d implemented. I was hoping that Paul would expand my role to include all of his organization.

The first person I saw when I came into the room was Paul, our Division Director and my boss’s boss’s boss. “This might not be too bad.” As the door swung further I saw Melissa, our HR rep. “Uh oh.”

Most people who’ve been in business for years has been involved with a lay off or a firing from one side of the table or the other. It’s no fun from EITHER side, but considerably less fun from the employee side.

It reminded me of another meeting I’d had five years earlier. That earlier meeting was at a small rafting company in Wisconsin, rather than an IT shop in Utah. In Wisconsin, I’d taken a huge risk to take a job that was based on a handshake and a promise. The handshake was firmer than the promise. After 23 days, I was unceremoniously sacked. No real explanation, no job, hugely in debt and now stuck in a part of the country where an IT Manager, trainer, public speaker, really didn’t have any job prospects. That fateful day was the beginning of a long and agonizing journey. We lost the house. But, to be honest, it’s not lost. It’s right where we left it, there’s just someone else living there.

Anyway, the biggest lesson I learned in Wisconsin was that nothing is for sure, and you really have to depend on yourself, and put yourself into a position where you can easily move on to a new position.

Fast forward 6 years. During that fast forward, we put our plan in action. We paid off all our debts. Paid off both cars. Put some money away. Found another house. (I wonder if someone lost it?)

So, now as Melissa and Paul went over the generous severance package I realized that I wasn’t afraid. Sure, I was disappointed. I loved my job. I’d done some fantastic work. (It was clear that the layoffs were done by function, not by performance. Me, my peer, my manager, his peer and their manager all got let go.) But, there was no fear. I almost heard a voice in my head saying, “It’s going to be okay. You’ve been preparing for this possibility.”

My friends, however were devastated on my behalf.

“That’s terrible! Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I really am. We’re going to be okay. It is an inconvenience, of course.”

So, I set out to find my next exciting opportunity. The contrast in my reaction to the two events couldn’t have been more stark although the circumstances were nearly identical.

I realized it is true, “If you are prepared ye shall not fear.” (But, it still kind of sucks to lose your job.)

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