You’re fired!

…Well Ok maybe then   “We have terminated your contract” or “We are re-engineering the department”, or “We are cutting back” or “We are downsizing” or “ We are rightsizing”  or “We are providing exit packages  for selected employees”.  You could also be “layed off” as we say in Canada or your “position was deemed redundant”.

In some cases you are aware of this terrible tsunami coming since the organization has publicly stated that there will be some cuts. In this case that gives you a bit of time to plan and dust off your CV.

However sometimes it comes as a complete surprise (read shock).

If you are a mid to high level manager in a private or public organization, your boss may at one point:

a) Think that you were not performing  up to your objectives  or,

b) Not like you anymore, or

c) Want to replace you with one of his former team members .

In this case then the “You’re fired “statement is quite clear. You probably did not see it coming. You probably felt that something was weird or uneasy and that “the writing was on the wall “because of rumors or fellow peers looking at you funny. It’s not easy to objectively assess one’s performance on the job since after all, your employer expected you to be confident, competent and assertive. And besides you thought… “The boss would never fire me”.

Result: You are out of work and it’s devastating.

Then you go through different mental states:




Anger and not necessarily in this order. The Denial state can stay with you for a long, long time.

Then you wonder why and why me?

I have a lot of stuff I wish they taught me at Business school and this is one of them. The fact is that in your career you will face setbacks and yes that includes being fired. But realistically which business school would gladly elect to teach something this obvious and depressing?  After all business schools build leaders, not losers!

This is where I come in as a Coach or the Messenger of reality, the Cold Shower. Now I cannot speak on each and everyone’s behalf but there’s a pretty good chance that you will lose your job at one point in your career. Pick any one of the cute word combinations I started with this post and the result is the same.

Why is this probability so high?

Competition is more and more fierce, companies have difficulty sustaining the business, Chinese and Indian companies are re-writing the rules on manufacturing and outsourcing. Add in economic calamities like the last recession and it’s no wonder that business is “Cut throat”.

I am not a HR person so I will not discuss what you are entitled to in case you get fired. Instead I will give you some uplifting (I know … I have completely depressed you by now) tips on how to avoid being fired in the first place in this post. As part two, I will bring some tips on how to move on in case that you have been visited by the “Grim Reaper”.

How to avoid being fired:

  1. Results: One of my best mentors, Jim Cole used to say “activities are nice but results count “. You can be the hardest working soul in the office but if you are not delivering tangible results why should the company keep you?
  2. Objectives…What objectives? Good question. Are you crystal clear on your objectives? If not that is something that you should have resolved in your first month of being hired with the boss. If the objectives have changed or you do not have a formal review process with your boss, then it’s time to set up a meeting and get re-focused on your objectives.  Hint:  Your boss needs you to meet your objectives in order for him to meet his/her objectives. Therefore you can assume that your objectives and delivery of these will make or break your boss!
  3. Attitude. I spoke about this in my previous post. Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?  Organizations need winners. Are you spending too much time complaining on how things cannot be done or rather how things can be possible? Try to keep an open and optimistic approach when it comes to your objectives despite how tough and stretched they appear. Look rather at how you can overcome and set creative ways to meet your objectives.
  4. Make a choice.  If you are not happy with your current job and you have tried to seek other opportunities internally then it’s time to move on. Don’t delay the inevitable and it’s a lot easier to find a new job when you are working rather when you are unemployed. If you decide on the other hand to stay with your employer, suck it up and accept that at times you may be required to give in 110%. If your dream is to become your own boss and have your own business – great however don’t expect this to be easy; “there is no such thing as a free ride”. We’ll cover this in another post.
  5. Network internally. Even if you are having difficulties working with some peers, accept that you have to work with difficult people when you work for an employer so you might as well try to make this easy. The boss does not have time to babysit and solve conflicts since your ability to lead and deal with difficult situations is probably being tested.
  6. Step up to the plate. Take on new assignments. When the boss is asking who wants to handle a new responsibility offer to tackle it and seize the moment.  You may learn something new or be in touch with another division leader that may appreciate and recognize your talent.
  7. Keep the line open with your boss. You need to develop a relationship of trust with your boss. That may sound like being ‘political’ (translation: Being a brown noser ) but it will be obvious to him and to others if you have gone too far. To completely avoid developing a relationship is another way of alienating yourself – that will get you nowhere.   The boss is the boss. You can either fight him or work with him/her.  Keep him informed and give him what he wants – it’s that simple.

Results, clear objectives, a great attitude, initiative and good communications are always well regarded by employers. In some cases it can make the difference between being   a “Keeper” or   being  “Fired”!

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