You're fired! 5 strange ways to go from pay check to pink slip
Terrible or inconsistent performance; not working well with others; violent outbursts; sexual harassment; lying; plagiarizing; taking care of personal business on the clock; showing up drunk or on goodness knows what substance; tardiness; absenteeism; or breaking any number of esoteric company hard-line rules -- there are plenty of legitimate reasons to let someone go. Even the phrase "let go" insinuates that the person being fired already has one foot out the door and that s/he has been released into the wilds of unemployment after clearly not wanting to be at work.
Then, as with most situations in life, there are the crazy people. Bosses so wrapped up in themselves, so bent on cultivating egotism, insanity, or a lovely blend of both, that they fire people for terrible reasons. All we can do when confronted with one these situations is try to learn something, even if it's just "stay away from the crazies."
Mary Solorzano, who's been an accountant for the last 23 years, met with one of these bosses early on in her career. " I vividly recall that on the day I was terminated," says Solarzano, "the man was wearing violet-tinted glasses," and so begins her tale of woe. It was on that aubergine-spectacled afternoon that she was accused of having gone to a dinner party in a neighboring city with a friend and fellow employee. Once there, they purportedly shared deeply confidential information about the company; the news of which had reached her boss (presumably via tin-foil-hat transmission). She continues:
"Not only was it a comic misrepresentation of my social life, but in the mere five days I'd worked for the company, not a single scrap of confidential information had come my way. The accusation that I'd been at a dinner party, much less one attended by anyone this man might know, was close to being laughable. The only thing that made it spectacularly un-funny was the fact that I'd given up another job to take the one I was being terminated from."
Crazy reasons for being fired and lessons learned
Thank goodness there are takeaways from these situations. Solorzano's comes from the fact that she'd followed a trusted colleague and mentor to the start-up company run by the violet-lensed crazy person, and it's a great one to kick things off:
1. "Never, ever, substitute anyone else's judgment for your own," says Solorzano, "no matter how much you think you respect the other person. Other people have complex motivations, and even the best can be led astray by their own inner demons." You're a smart, capable human being. As such, it's almost your responsibility to stick up for yourself. If things at your job don't sit right with you ethically, quit that place like the building is burning down.
Speaking of ethical issues, lifeguard Tomas Lopez in was recently let go for saving a man's life in Hallandale Beach, Fla. This seems a touch counter intuitive -- after all, isn't that what lifeguards are supposed to be doing? Well, yes and no. In this particular case, Lopez was not fired for saving the man's life but for leaving his designated area to do so. For insurance reasons, it makes sense that lifeguards would need to maintain coverage of their given areas. Also for insurance reasons, it seems like letting someone drown wouldn't be the best move.
2. Do what's right, even if your boss is telling you otherwise. Nothing good will come from you compromising your own values to work. You'll feel dirty, and the money won't help. In the lifeguarding situation, four others quit in solidarity with Lopez. "I'm not going to put my job over helping someone. I'm going to do what I felt was right, and I did," said Lopez.
Of course, doing what you think is right isn't always going to be a life-saving activity with such clear-cut lines of right and wrong. Take, for example, the case of the yoga instructor who was recently fired from teaching weekly classes at the Facebook offices for asking one of her students not to use a cell phone during class. This seems perfectly reasonable, but she was fired. Perhaps she said it in a particularly judgmental fashion or had some aggressive body language she wasn't aware of -- but it's doubtful. She was, after all, a yoga teacher. Evinced by her statement "Hello -- this is only Facebook. We're not talking about the U.S. government here. We're not talking about Russia is about to bomb us. We're talking about Facebook. Something can't wait half an hour?", this instructor had no idea how important things on the phone really could be.
3. Watch out for holier-than-thou, above-the-rules attitudes. If only this instructor had first consulted with a teenage girl, maybe she would have grasped the narcissistic, borderline sociopathic depths of social-network and smart-phone addiction and been more understanding. Fortunately for her, she was fired before having to deal with more of this elitist, hierarchical nonsense. If someone asks you to do a job and refuses to do their part because they're somehow better than you, run; run for your sanity.
Aside from the rules or expectations you place on others in the workplace, there are also the hefty bunch of rules put on you. One of the most ridiculous of these rules has got to be the company dress code. Sometimes its understandable, but other times it just gets taken too far. Two amusingly contrasted incidents in the news make this point perfectly: the woman who worked in a lingerie warehouse and was fired for dressing too provocatively, and the 61-year-old lifeguard who was fired for refusing to wear a Speedo.
4. Beware the excessively fussy, nitpicky rules, particularly those without any exceptions or rationale. Dress codes are all well and good, but let's face it, a woman working in a lingerie warehouse being told to dress less alluringly and "that her breasts should be taped down to make them look smaller" doesn't make sense -- nor does it make sense that every lifeguard, even the 61-year-old gent, should be forced to wear a banana hammock. Some rules make sense, and breaking them isn't good for your career -- but if you come up against rules that are offensive, offensively enforced or just plain stupid, you may want to spruce up that resume ASAP.
You don't have to be fired from a position to learn these and other important lessons about what to look for in a job. Keep your eyes and ears open, and earn the respect you demand. Getting fired for a ridiculous reason only seems funny until you can't make ends meet at the end of the month.