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Two Years Ago Today: “We’re Going To Let You Go…”

January 9th, 2008

I was actually not fired, just laid offJanuary 9th, 2006, I go into work knowing it was a special day. We had a board meeting early in the day, I think around 11am. The main topic at work had been finances, as the previous CEO (and 40% owner) had been spending more time with me. He had left the company a while back but I knew by his recent involvement, and trips to our parent company’s office about 3 hours away, that something was going on.

That morning he came into my office and shared with me that he was pretty sure I would be let go on the board call.

There was writing on the wall for a long time. Relationships had soured, which was probably the most painful thing of all. The owners wanted immediate changes, changes that I felt were not sustainable. Previous to the call I had been told I didn’t have enough gray hair (meaning, I wasn’t experienced enough), that all I did was think like an MBA (sorry for getting an MBA, at least you didn’t pay for it and I did it after work hours), and that I was not an entrepreneur (if I was, why did I have a job??).

Two of my key employees had recently resigned, which was really weird as I felt things were really turning around. But they knew better, and they both moved on to much better opportunities. I keep in touch with them regularly and am very happy to know where they ended up, and how happy they are.

It’s funny how myopic we can be about our current employer, thinking that we are safe and protected, and not realize how much greener the grass really is in other pastures.

It’s funny how we think we are being loyal to our employer, and that this is building up in some loyalty bank, and our loyalty investment will save our hide when others get the axe.

It’s funny how we can give 100% to our JOB, thinking that they will give 100% back to us, as employees. All the while we are neglecting our CAREER MANAGEMENT.

I realize what happened was a business decision. Sure, it was riddled with politics, stupid decisions, short-sightedness, etc. But I walked away from that job knowing that in the end, the numbers on the left side of the ledger had to match the numbers on the right side of the ledger, and senior management wanted that to have happened a year ago, and all of the problems from before I was general manager seemed to become my fault the day I became general manager.

For over a year I felt I had been given a big cow paddie and I was waiting for that special flower to pop up through the middle.

But my time ran out.

And I got the boot.

And I should be grateful – afterall, look at all the incredible stuff that has happened to me in the last two years! Look at all the amazing people I have met and touched! You can’t even imagine how you have impacted my life, and my family’s life.

But it still hurt, back then. And for some weird reason, as I write this, it still hurts now. Years and years of awesome relationships with coworkers – practically severed the day I was let go.

I didn’t do the infamous “walk of shame,” but I definitely felt like a leper. Eyes followed me as I tried to be in good spirits. Eyes that once were quick to look for me for lunch, or to talk about something important, now watched me in shame. And our relationships changed.

And that is probably what hurt the most.

Ultimately, I should be thankful that I was pushed out of that company, and that job. I had known for over a year it was time to look elsewhere, but I was too loyal to my team, and my company, and my customers, and the vision.

Look where it got me.

A couple of ending thoughts:

– I was not fired, just laid off. Although a 11 year old girl in church said “you were fired!” just a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t even know she knew my situation, obviously her parents did :)

– the level of stress I have now, as a business owner, is probably the same. But I consider it happy, or positive, stress. The stress when I was GM was the kind that put me in urgent care, wondering if I was having a heart attack (nope, it was just a pre-ulcer).

– my wife tells me I really need to get over this, and I know I do. But I don’t want to lose my passion for the message, the one about YOU caring more about your CAREER MANAGEMENT than you did yesterday. So I’ll hold on to a little bitterness, just to help me blog with passion – I hope you understand 😉 The truth is, I may “get over this” but I’ll never, ever forget what I went through.

Happy two year anniversary!

15 Comments »

15 responses to “Two Years Ago Today: “We’re Going To Let You Go…””

  1. It’s funny. As I was reading, I too was thinking that you shouldn’t try to get over it because that would cause you to lose your passion for your message. And then you said that! Your story is unique and special, Jason, and it inspires hope and motivates others to make the most of their setbacks. Keeping telling it.

    Alexandra Levit
    Author, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College
    Blogger, Water Cooler Wisdom
    http://alexandralevit.typepad.com

  2. Jason,

    I am touched. I am moved.

    My fingers rested on the home keys. Not sure what to write.

    Sharing your “story” is a reminder to all of us.

    Thank you for creating conversations to change people’s lives.

    You’ve changed mine :-)

    Keep on sharing…

  3. Chris says:

    I echo what Thomas said above and I’ve lived through almost the same situation in my own life. I really good at letting it go but I’m also really good at hiding the residual pain.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Rick says:

    No one likes to lose his or her job, especially one in which you were happy, thriving, and saw an upward progression. I had that once – for about six years – until economics eliminated my position, as well as a few others. It hurt for a few years, and still does, if just a little. I would compare my happiness in subsequent positions to the one I lost, but they didn’t even come close.

    Now, six years and four job changes later, I’m close to feeling that my ex-employer did me a favor. I’m at a small but growing company and I now look forward on Sunday afternoons to sitting at my desk the following morning. The last several years have been a learning experience as I tried different things to enhance my career, and even became a teacher, which I do part time, and enjoy full time.

    The lessons here: Crises can give birth to opportunities, and, as Jason says, manage your career rather than allow complacency to take over your brain.

    Happy anniversary Jason!

  5. Susan Joyce says:

    Wow, Jason! Thank you for sharing that painful memory! I’m sure it will resonate with many others who’ve been through the same thing! And writing about it will help you deal with the pain, too. You will “get over it,” but the experience will be with you forever. And, that’s probably a good thing!

    That kind of pain often signals a personal growth spurt. A layoff, or even a firing, pushes us out of the proverbial “nest,” and we often need that push because the status quo, miserable as it can be, can also be too comfortable.

    It’s interesting – when I was reading your LinkedIn book (SO helpful!) before the holidays, I was thinking about you and how being laid off was probably one of the best things to happen to you (aside from your family, etc.). I don’t think that’s uncommon. It was for me, too.

    You seem to be enjoying yourself, and you are helping people – EVERY DAY – with your blog, with your books, and with JibberJobber. So, the world is actually a better place because you were laid off! And you are happier, too!

    Strange as it may sound, your layoff was definitely a win/win for you and for those of us outside that (unfortunate) company! They liberated you to become the successful entrepreneur you are today.

    Congratulations on creating so much “goodness” in just 2 short years!

  6. I would not want a life with no obstacles and no pain along the way. That’s what makes our future success taste even sweeter and, arguably, possible at all.

    Thanks for sharing, and happy two-year anniversary :)

  7. Laura Moncur says:

    God, I remember the day I was laid off at the engineering firm. I had known for well over a year that they didn’t need me, but it was still a kick in the gut when they did it.

    I was fine until the point where my coworker pretended not to know what was going on and made me explain it. She HAD to know that I was being canned because she was in charge of preparing that paperwork. It was a minor bit of sadism that I just couldn’t handle.

    I left within the hour and I’m still angry and sad and hurt.

    The funny thing is, I don’t feel better now that I’m in a MUCH better situation. You would think that my current success would ease the pain of it, but it still HURTS.

    If I could stick a pin in my sadistic coworker, I would do it and watch her jump at the pain, over and over again…

  8. @Jason, I know this is selfish, but I am glad this happened or else we likely never would have met.

    @Laura, I am sorry, deeply…

  9. billiesucher says:

    Jason, I love your openness and honesty…in my book Between Jobs: Recover, Rethink, Rebuild, I dedicated it to the president of the company who “relieved me of my duties” (aka fired me)…even though that happened a gazillion years ago, the day is permanently etched in my mind. Maybe you won’t “get over it” (whatever that means) — maybe getting on with it is what matters. And you are a role model at doing that, for sure! Congratulations on your two-year anniversary! : – )
    Best, Billie

  10. Bengt Wendel says:

    Thanks for a great and personal post!
    And may the coming year be your best so far.

  11. Think about how much you have learned and grown since you were laid off! It enabled you to go on to own your personal brand and express it convincingly and with compassion to the world. On a selfish side note, I’m grateful for this turn of events in your life because otherwise I might not have ever gotten to know you and value you as a professional and personal friend. Congratulations on your business and life success!
    Susan Guarneri
    Career Assessment Goddess
    Blog: http://blog.careergoddess.com

  12. Scot Herrick says:

    Jason, et. al.,

    One of the characteristics of great employees (and people) is their personal engagement and commitment to the work at hand. This personal engagement and commitment means that being laid off is a personal — not a business — decision. Sure, it’s a business decision to the people laying you off, but because of the engagement and commitment, to you it is personal. That is where the pain comes from. That is why it stays.

    All layoffs, in my opinion, can be traced back to management’s mismanagement. And, with some 40% of the workforce not engaged in their jobs, many won’t think the layoff as personal because of the lack of connection between management and the work at hand.

    But good employees are engaged — and I’d take an engaged employee on my team any day.

  13. Ricky Dyson says:

    I have just joined JibberJobber and am beginning to navigate. Jason’s heartfelt blog was very close to me.
    I had joined the company seven years ago when they were close to bankruptcy, very poorly managed and had an ant heap of employees, most of whom were filling their days with unconnected activities. I helped save the company, reduced the staffing levels by better than half (mostly by attrition) and, with steady growth in revenue and steady reduction in overhead, turned the company into an excellent profit level.
    I thought a year ago that I would become redundant. (Now the owners are making good money — why do they need me?) But somehow, I thought that my loyalty and hard work would be reciprocated. Like all of us, I did not believe that the day would come. But here it is — end of January — end of job. There is an interesting evolutionary dilemma here — the selfish desire to get more in your rice bowl than the other fellow versus the drive to fairness or equal rice levels. “Business decisions” are completely logical in the minds of the owners. Fairness and loyalty are technically illogical in the short term.

  14. […] Two years ago today I was still reeling from the news of being laid off. I’ve said many times that I saw the writing on the wall. Interesting concept, as the writing didn’t just say, “you are going to be kicked out of here eventually.” It said other things. […]