The callous way I was fired

Tony Adriaans talks about how he was fired and the feelings he went through in the process

Thanks for coming and don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out.

I know those weren’t the words he used, but that sentence describes the very short meeting most effectively. It might have been something like, “We’re making a change,” or “There has been a re-structure,” or “We’re moving in a different direction.” I can’t recall the exact words and frankly, it no longer matters. But, the message was loud and clear. You are no longer wanted or needed by the company you gave three decades of your life to.

I don’t want anyone to start feeling sorry for me. I’m a big boy. I know this sort of thing happens. Heck, I’ve been on the other side of the desk and have used similar words myself. On one occasion, I had to tell 12 people they were no longer required. That may not have been the worst day of my working life, but it ranks among the top ones. And as they say, “What goes around, comes around.” Now I know first-hand how it feels to lose your job.

Here’s my story. At 9 a.m. on that day, I received a cryptic e-mail telling me to meet my boss at 11 a.m. in an office. Not his office, mind you. No, this was an empty office on a floor populated primarily by the executives of the company. You’d think after 29 years, I’d suspect something sinister given the circumstances, but true to my nature (I give everyone the benefit of the doubt the first time) I thought it might be to discuss a new position. I suppose you could say it was a new position, just not one I really wanted.

I met him at the elevator just prior to 11 a.m. He smiled at me as we walked into the office. He looked across the table and pulled out a manila envelope. I knew, before he opened it, exactly what it was. As I said, I’ve been there and done that. I admit to being somewhat shocked. So much so, that I didn’t hear the first sentence or two out of his mouth. He continued by saying, “There’s a package for you with all the details.” He then asked if I wanted him to get the human resource person. I said, “Yes,” and he left. That was it.

He returned moments later with the HR person in tow. She sat beside me and asked how I was doing. In hindsight, that may have been the dumbest question any human being has ever asked. But the piece de resistance was my now-former boss. The man failed to utter a single word of apology or thanks. In fact, he was almost out of the office when he remembered he was supposed to shake my hand. I use the words “supposed to” because it’s all part of the script. It’s the same script I had used in another time and place. Then he was gone. And, apparently, after 29 years with the same company, so was I. There I sat, unemployed for the first time in my life.

The rest of my story is much like many others. We all have to deal with the anger and loss and the turmoil that follows. We deal with the feelings of not being wanted or needed. After a while, with the support of friends and family, we begin to deal with all those feelings. Time heals all wounds. What time cannot heal is the shabby and disgraceful fashion in which this dismissal was handled. I deserved better. Everyone deserves better.

I have always believed it’s incumbent on all leaders to treat their people with the utmost respect and dignity. In fact, most companies send executives to workshops and seminars for this exact thing. They are taught how to communicate with others, be they peers or subordinates. They are taught how to deal with difficult situations. Most of all, they are taught how to deal with people on an individual basis and treat each person fairly. Sadly, it seems that all too often the exact opposite takes place. When the time comes that an employee must be released, leaders often fail to use the very skills they work so hard to develop.

Why is it so difficult for otherwise competent managers to deliver a simple message? Do they see themselves in the same position? Are they afraid? Perhaps they feel an element of vulnerability themselves. Or perhaps it’s simpler than that. No one wants to handle unpleasant tasks. Telling workers they are no longer employed most certainly falls into that category. Understandable then that people want to avoid that little bit of nastiness. With that said, leaders at all levels get paid to do the dirty work from time to time. And it’s time each and every leader looked in the mirror and asked how well they do these dirty jobs. I’m not talking about how effectively they do the job. Rather, how well they handle the situation, taking into account all the elements, especially the person on the other side of the desk.

Tony Adriaans of Toronto was released as a result of a re-organization after 29 years with a national retail chain. He has a new job, but would have preferred a better goodbye.

For more on the difficult task of delivering bad news, click on the related articles link below.

To read the full story, login below.

Not a subscriber?

Start your subscription today!