The company was great. Fresh delivery of fruit on Mondays. Bagels, donuts, muffins, and fresh coffee from Tim Hortons (a popular canadian coffee and donut chain) on Wednesdays. Regularly scheduled fun events every month. One time, they even brought in a full casino set-up into our kitchen and served passed hors d’oeuvres. It was pretty fancy and awesome.
The CEO was an awesome guy. He cared, and he got involved in activities with the staff, even digging trenches for Habitat for Humanity for a volunteer house build we did as a company. The Customer Service Manager arranged competitions to see who could earn the most satisfied customers, and we were able to win super cool prizes from gift cards to iPads! She was a sweetheart of a lady who would bring around Vitamin C in cold and flu season and put in a solid effort to keep us motivated.
Despite all of that, I would come in and sit down at my clunky Windows computer every morning, and I just wanted to hide. I didn’t want to take off my jacket, because in my head, that meant I was making a commitment to stick around for the whole day.
I hated it.
The job itself wasn’t me.
I was working as a call centre customer service agent. All day, I helped people via email or on the phone. Sometimes their problems were easily fixed, which gave me a minor sense of satisfaction. Most of the time I couldn’t help them, because ‘company policy’ wouldn’t allow it, so I was the one stuck telling someone that ‘there was nothing I could do’, which I hated saying, but in this job I said it a lot.
I went into work with sunglasses on, and I didn’t want to remove them all day. I didn’t want anyone to hear me speaking to customers on the phone. I didn’t want to respond to the emails. I had 0 work motivation 99% of the time.
Things started slipping. There were 3 statuses for customer service ‘tickets’ in the system. One was ‘Active’ one was ‘On Hold’ and one was ‘Completed.’
There was one day when I had just had it. By the end of the day, I had not gotten through (not even close) to my quota of 85 tickets for the day, so I put about 75 of them ‘on hold’ and went home. This is because I had talked to my friends on MSN (an online messenger we had back then) all day instead of working on the tickets. I took long lunch times and breaks and more bathroom breaks than one person needs, all so I wouldn’t have to actually do my job.
There were days that we were on phones and days that we were on emails. I much preferred emails, the lesser of the two evils. I remember once there was some sort of glitch or problem with the website, and there were an abundance of complaints coming in, and the phone queue was unmanageable. We were all on the phones for days at a time. I couldn’t stand to answer call after call of angry customers for whom there was ‘nothing I could do’, so I just ignored the calls. I just didn’t answer them.
As you may guess, this behaviour doesn’t cut it, and it led to pretty serious warnings (understandably). I had to sign off on the fact that I understood that I had been warned and needed to change my behavior. Eventually, I got fired.
How the firing actually went down:
Despite what it might look like to the outside world, it’s not a surprise (at least it wasn’t in my case) when someone gets fired. It is normally a surprise for everyone else around them. My case was no exception. I was pretty sure that I was on the chopping block and I knew exactly why. I didn’t know when, but I had a pretty good idea it was going to happen. I had that feeling of nerves whenever I got an email from my boss or whenever someone came up to talk to me. I figured I should be extra chatty and nice to people because maybe they would feel sorry for me and, by some miracle of God, not fire me after all.
What actually ended up happening was that I went in one morning, and before I could even walk past reception to get to my desk, I was immediately ushered to the HR Manager’s office and asked to sit down. The HR Manager was waiting for me, and she said very casually, “We’ve had some problems, and we’ve decided to let you go. Here’s your envelope with your pay for the rest of the week. Good luck, and I hope you land on your feet.”
That was it. Just like that. I was done.
At that point I felt a feeling of relief come over my body. I let out a big sigh and I almost thanked the HR manager. In fact, I think I may have actually thanked her and gave her a hug. Even though I didn’t know where I was going to go, or what I was going to do, how I was going to you know, pay for stuff… all I could think was ‘Thank god it’s over. I couldn’t stand another day of this hell on earth. Thank God I NEVER have to come back!’
Before I left, she handed me another envelope which contained a ‘termination letter’. She said: “Just to warn you, it is worded quite harshly, but you don’t have to show it to anyone for collecting Employment Insurance.”
Thanks a lot.
I didn’t have any real warning as to when exactly this was going to happen. It had never happened to me before. I was told after the fact that one of the guys I had worked with was fired before me, and he was able to negotiate more severance. I hadn’t thought of that, so I only got a week’s pay. Something I learned for ‘next time’ but never needed to use, as there hasn’t been a ‘next time’ since.
What else did I learn?
As I reflect back on this life experience I ask myself, “I knew I was going to get fired, yet I just sat there and waited for it to happen. I didn’t quit and find another job. I didn’t even look for another job. I just kept doing a crappy job and waiting. Why did I do that? Was that the right thing to do?”
If I were to go back now and do it again, I know exactly what I would have needed to do to be successful in that job, but I also know that the job was not in line with who I am. I don’t believe in saying, “There’s nothing I can do.” I believe in finding a way to help. A company that won’t allow me to do that because of their policies and procedures is not a place where I belong.
This, like so many other things in life, is a reflective thing that I’ve been able to look back on and see it very clearly. But at the time I was in it, I couldn’t. It’s like the bad relationship you stayed in too long, waiting for the other person to end it, when you really should have left a long time ago. Hindsight is 20/20 – isn’t that the truth?
I got my next job at a large law firm within two weeks after getting fired from this one. I loved the new job itself, but I had a different set of challenges.
I can see it now from the point of view of the people who fired me. With some more experience under my belt, having gone through the process of firing someone myself (that is another story), I know now that I wasted their time. I didn’t take good care of their customers, and overall I was a bad fit for that role. I didn’t take their business, policies, or procedures seriously, and I deserved what happened. I was not right for them, and they were not right for me – classic example of a terrible fit.
Because of this experience I’ve learned a number of techniques, (including asking better questions) to make sure I never get into a situation like this again.
If you ever have had doubts about yourself, if you’ve been fired before or you think you might be getting fired (or know someone who is) check out this video I created here. It’s an oldy but a goody.
In Work & Life