It’s not you, it’s us. We are going in a different direction. We tried to make it work. It didn’t work out. It’s time we part ways. We’re going to have to let you go. You’re… fired.
Oof. It’s hard not to take this personally. And truth be told, sometimes it is personal. Sometimes the fit between an employee and employer is not a good match, and if the employee doesn’t end the relationship, then the employer must.
Most of the time, it’s not personal. It’s overhead, costs, shareholders and profit margins. Fact is, businesses make business decisions. While good managers are motivated to keep their best people, sometimes they’ve got to let a good one go. Even the great, enlightened, best practice employers will put the needs of the business first – and it’s up to you to do the same for yourself.
Way back in 2009, there was a film called Up in the Air, about a traveling pair of corporate downsizers. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) said of her job, “We prepare the newly unemployed for the emotional and physical hurdles of job hunting, while minimizing legal blow-back.”
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) had a more cynical take: “We are here to make limbo tolerable, to ferry wounded souls across the river of dread to the point where hope is dimly visible. And then stop the boat, shove them in the water and make them swim.”
So whether you are still on the ferry, or deep in the river, what’s it going to take to get you swimming?
First, make sure you are treated fairly. If you have doubts whether your former employer was in line with labour laws, you are owed wages or expenses, or you were dismissed for reasons that are discriminatory, find an HR expert or a labour lawyer to review your situation.
Next, draw up a short-term budget to get you through the next phase. Often the fear of life without a steady paycheque is worse than reality. Consider alternate sources of income or gigs for extra cash.
Once cooler heads have prevailed, request an exit interview. The day you leave is difficult, confusing, possibly surreal. Wait a week, then request a short meeting to discuss questions you have about your performance, payout, outplacement support, or other resources you might need as you look for a new job.
Networking starts now. If you are on good terms with a former colleague, ask them to provide a letter of reference you can use with your resumé. Ideally, the letter will emphasize the qualities and skills you’d like to leverage further in your career.
Finally, as Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States likes to say, “When they go low, we go high.” Regardless of what chaos you may have been privy to – or subjected to – be diplomatic about your previous employer. Your grace, discretion and cool dignity will reward you.