Author: Daniel A. Lublin
In February, my client Dave was fired. He never saw it coming.
“When I got to work, my boss and HR (department) asked to meet with me. I was told that the decision had been made to terminate my employment. I was shocked,” he told me. “ I was sent home in a cab and told my personal belongings would be shipped to me. I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to anyone.”
Dave had been employed as a sales agent with a large manufacturing company for five years and had felt his career was finally turning the corner.
In my practice, my clients frequently consult me concerning their terminations and the impact it’s had on their life. The story of Dave, taken aback by his abrupt termination, is all too familiar, as getting fired can be extremely emotional, especially if it’s unexpected or if you felt you were doing a good job.
It’s important for people to understand that incompetence or poor performance generally are not the principle reasons people are fired. Usually, companies experience financial difficulty, downsizing, mergers or changes in philosophy. Sometimes there are personality clashes, political conflicts or it’s just a “poor fit”. Whatever the reason is, one fact remains constant — getting fired can be one of the more difficult experiences people face. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Generally, people who have just been terminated experience denial and anger, which is followed later by acceptance and then finally a commitment to change says Rod Phillips, president and CEO of WarrenShepell, a national employment assistance firm that counsels employees on the emotional impact of a job loss. Phillips also says the most important point to remember immediately after being terminated is to put the termination into perspective. People will move on and survive; it just becomes a question of when.
While being let go can be a considerable setback, it can also be an opportunity. You can use the extra time to self-assess and self-improve. Also, many times I find my clients end up securing a more favourable position than the one they had left: one that is closer to home, has more of a preferred role or even pays more. To this end, one of the biggest misconceptions I find is people don’t think they will ever find the same quality of position as the one they left. That is simply not true. I’ve seen people with varying degrees of experience find either a comparable job or one that is more desirable.
It’s also important to remember to keep your emotions in check if you find yourself in a termination meeting. If you lose your cool, you could prejudice your future interests. Your former company could refuse to provide a reference or they may be less amendable to negotiating your severance or termination package. Even though you may disagree with the way your situation was handled, if your objective is to secure another position quickly, you won’t help yourself by burning bridges during your exit.
While being fired is very traumatic, committing to move forward and viewing the situation as an opportunity rather than a drawback will put you in a better position to overcome it.