Dealing With Being Fired
I was fired and learned a few things that will help you.
I was once let go from my job. This was not something I’d gone through before, and there’s no one to guide you in that moment and tell you what you need to hear. That’s why I wanted to write this article — to help anyone else who might get fired or even experience a massive failure.
It was 3:00 pm and I was getting reading for my final meeting of the day. I’d just had what would be the final 1–1 with one of my team members. Strangely, he asked me about my career previous career. He wanted to know why I left it all behind and was digging for answers on career change. For almost sixty minutes I waffled on about it all and ended with one final line that he seemed to understand. I told him the reason I left my job is that the people I worked with, had all moved on. I was the only one left and I wanted to know what it was like to work again with people who would become my friends outside of work. The significance of this final meeting was lost on me. What was coming was something I wasn’t prepared for. After this meeting, I walked to the room where the next meeting was. I stood outside the room with the other leaders. The atmosphere was oddly quiet. My boss comes from my right side (out of nowhere) and says, “Do you have a minute?” What was I going to say? No? “Of course I do. Do you want all of us?” “No, just you.” I’m escorted to the other side of the office. There’s none of the usual banter or relaxed body language that you would expect for a Friday afternoon. At this time, only a week earlier, I was at a club with my team having a blast. Friday afternoons were always about celebrating the success of the week. We arrived at a meeting room. It was one of those ones that had the fluro lights, freezing cold room temperature and not much space. It sort of resembled an interrogation room at a police station. Parts of what followed are a blur and you might be wondering why. If you have ever experienced something like this, you’ll know that your fight or flight mode takes over. Your body fills with adrenaline, there can be anger and your emotions steer you like a drunk driver after midnight on a Saturday. An unopened white envelope was handed to me (nothing good ever seems to come inside of an unopened white envelope). It was explained to me that I was being let go. The reasons given didn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe my boss had figured out that I really didn’t like his leadership style. Maybe he’d read the leadership posts I’d written about him in secret and my time was up. I don’t think any of these were the reason.
My boss was an older gentleman with dark eyes, a deathly smile, grey hair and those beautiful suit jackets with interesting patterns and bright colors. He was the sort of leader you would hope to never meet in your life. He believed in regular sackings (like the one I was getting), hurling abuse at his team, shaming anyone who missed their quota, being feared by every department and ensuring that anyone that worked for him was loyal to their death. He expected loyalty from everybody but never earned their respect because of who he was as a person. You might be reading this description and thinking that he’s the enemy or the problem with business. While those comments may hold some merit, over the last few years, I’ve learned that being angry at people who act this way achieves nothing. Understanding why they do it will serve much more meaning in your life. I’ve also learned that no matter how horrid someone can be, everyone has the potential to change. Everyone deserves a second chance. “Forgiving those who have wronged you or mistreated you is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life”
If you can bring yourself to forgive a dreadful boss like this, you can do anything. I’m not there yet, but I hope I arrive there at some point. As my boss delivered the news to me, I could hear some emotion in his voice. His body was shaking slightly. He was unsettled. In his career, I found out months earlier, he’d fired literally hundreds of people. He’d made a career out of firing people as strange as that may sound. You could say he was a seasoned professional at firing people — but not this time. This time was different. When I noticed the emotion in him, I wanted more than anything to say something. I wanted to question him and know why this time was different. The temptation was never fulfilled as I was dealing with my own emotions and thoughts. It always seems like it’s easy to be a hero in these moments until you’re stuck inside one yourself and don’t know how to get out. Sometimes, acceptance and calmness are your best friend. If there was one win from this moment, it was that I left on good terms and resisted the temptation to give into revenge, hateful comments or disrespect. Even when your boss fires you, you should still respect them on the way out. It’s the right thing to do. Once the news was delivered, I was given one final threat in case, after the fact, I felt differently and wanted to question him. It was a threat that kept my mind racing. It was a knife in the back that was a lie, and I knew it to be a lie, yet I still somehow questioned myself. The threat questioned my ability to lead which made me believe it might be true. Feedback As much as I wanted to run out of the office as fast as possible and never look back, I couldn’t do so without getting some feedback. There had to be a lesson in all of this madness. Just one lesson I could take away and work on. The one saving grace to this story is that I did get a piece of advice which was very helpful. The advice was when setting direction, I needed to be clearer with my team about what they had to do and what success looks like. This was something I’d thought about and to have it validated was a huge win. You should never be fired from a job without taking away at least one lesson or piece of feedback. No matter how good you think you are, you did mess up at least once and you’re not perfect. Admitting imperfection and taking feedback is how you grow into whatever your next job is. We can all think that it was ‘the boss’ or ‘the company’ but that’s BS and you know it. We all need to carry responsibility during these difficult moments and accept our flaws.
The walk of shame This was the hardest part for me. Once my fate was sealed, I had to figure out how to escape the office. Being fired — no matter how confident you are — can be embarrassing, shameful and upsetting. It’s not really ideal to have other people witness this. Both my boss and I agreed on how we would finish things up. I’d go to my computer, delete any personal files, take my belongings and then he’d do the walk of shame. I walked over to my desk for the last time and unlocked my computer. I began going through the process of deleting any personal files. The girl opposite me didn’t know what was going on. She was telling me some story which I couldn’t focus on even for a second. All I wanted to do was escape and go home. Grabbing your stuff when your mind is racing can be difficult. I decided to accept that I would forget something and that was okay.
Your dignity During these final moments of being fired, for some weird reason, the idea of dignity took over my thoughts. There was an umbrella next to my desk that my workplace had given me a few weeks earlier which I loved. I chose not to take it with me because I realized that it wasn’t important. Taking every last thing with you makes you feel even more worthless and that wasn’t a price I was willing to pay. In a mad rush, I grabbed the rest of my stuff and shoved it into my briefcase. I signaled to my boss it was time to go and he at least didn’t make it obvious. The lift ride down to the ground floor felt like it lasted for an hour. I had to stand there with him in silence as the lift decided to stop at every floor even though there weren’t any passengers — it felt like divine intervention at its best. Finally, the lift touched down at the ground floor. I handed over my security pass, wished him all the best for the next round of sackings, and walked off. As I got out of the building, two of my team were over the road. They signaled for me to come over, but I couldn’t face them. I gave them an awkward wave and kept walking. Each footstep was thought through, so I could try not to signal anything was wrong. The fact I was going home early should have been enough of a warning, looking back.
As soon as I reached the shopping center, I called my girlfriend. Somehow in moments like this, she always seems to know what to say. She told me to quit thinking about the threat that was made and look forward to the future without my horrible boss. Everything seemed to feel much better. During the conversation, I realized that I’d left my cooler bag in the fridge with my uneaten lunch and that I had unpaid work expenses. I contemplated calling my boss and asking if I could get my cooler bag, and work out the expenses. Again, I thought about my dignity and how if nothing else, when you get fired, it’s not worth the pain of having to go back to the office or argue over petty things like expenses. The fact I got to leave my boss was the reward.
A night of no sleep When I got home, I didn’t feel like doing anything. Thoughts of disappointment, fear and anger were all I could think about. It was starting to become apparent that I was now officially unemployed with no job to pay the rent. I looked over at my girlfriend and realized how providing for her was one of the things I cared most about. The shame of being unemployed was unpleasant. Bedtime came early that day. As a self-confessed personal development addict, I thought sleep would help. It didn’t. I was awake all night thinking about my former boss, all the angry customers that the company had upset, and how my team would be feeling. Would they be sad? Would they be okay? Do they even care? These questions raged on in my mind for the entire night.
Nothingness I woke up in the morning groggy. My mind and I had had a fistfight all night and there was still no clear winner. What followed that Saturday morning was nothingness. Everything was strangely quiet. I didn’t feel anything at all. I was numb from pain. The gym seemed like a good idea, so I went. Each exercise I did happened on auto-pilot. I can barely remember going to the gym it was so habitual. Being fired can really feel like nothing the day after. It’s such a huge climax and then what follows is bizarre. This is our survival instinct kicking in, again, trying to help us recover from the saber-tooth tiger attack we’ve just endured.
Someone always cares Being fired can make you feel very alone. When I checked my messages online across the various platforms, a few kind people reached out. They thanked me for inspiring them and what I taught them. Despite all of the emotion of the previous day, this was the best part about being fired. Knowing you’ve made a difference to at least one person is the best feeling in the world. There’s always someone that cares even if it’s in secret. No one genuinely wants to see somebody be fired and have their ability to put food on the table or put a roof over their head taken away. People do care about what you have endured and their silence is a sign of respect. Your former co-workers will often stay in silence because they want you to have some time to yourself. Remember that before you let loneliness consume you.
With every huge failure… There is a massive opportunity that awaits you. Not getting what you want is all part of the plan. It gives you the motivation, the humbleness, the lessons, the determination and ego-crushing strength you need to get back up and have another crack. We’re all going to experience a failure like being fired and the only solace is knowing that it will define you in a good way, in the future. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is walk away from a business I created with my brother. That moment felt very similar to being fired from my job as a leader. It took some time to recover, but if that moment hadn’t of happened, I’d never of discovered personal development, worked in finance, got fired as a leader and discovered my potential to write these words which have touched millions of people. So, in a way, getting fired is preparing me for what’s next and that will be even more special. If you’ve ever been fired, then respect to you. There’s a lesson in everything that happens to you. Don’t let a bad boss define you and believe in yourself. You’re special.