“The time is always right to do the right thing.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
I've grown a lot over the past two years as I've navigated my way from working at a company where I spent practically my entire adult life (spanning a marriage and two children, one of which graduated from high school) through dozens of interviews and short stints in two wildly different organizations.
I am finally learning what's important to me in a workplace and what I need in a manager to be successful, but even more importantly, to be HAPPY at work.
When I apply for positions, I normally lead off with my strengths .... I'm persistent, creative, helpful, inquisitive,. and dedicated.
There are other truths about my personality, ones that until recently I tried to hide or negate. I'm also a workaholic and I have an anxiety disorder.
Admitting the diagnosis of a lifelong medical condition, especially one that involves mental health, is a scary endeavor, but it's something I'm no longer comfortable not disclosing.
The more we talk about mental health in the workplace the healthier the climate.
There are certain boundaries that I've decided to create for myself so I can thrive in life and work. It hasn't been easy. They've led to losing friendships, employment opportunities, and a therapist. It's not all bad. I'm finally learning to not go to an empty well for water, to establish my deal breakers when it comes to employment, and to share my time with friends and family who accept me and make me a priority as I do with them. That's been truly liberating.
I've been reading a lot about how to leave toxic relationships (work or personal), the dangers in breaking the ethical boundaries of psychotherapy, the steps to humanely terminating an employee, and the meaning of at-will employment.
And that's made me think about this MLK quote on the day before his holiday:
“The time is always right to do the right thing.”
I tend to see a lot of things very clearly as either "RIGHT" or "WRONG." And when I perceive injustice or wrongdoing I can get quite indignant ("feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment"). Despite my intense emotions at witnessing or experiencing discrimination or misconduct, I always try to channel my outrage into doing something positive - to act, to show up, to inspire change.
For me, there is no point in getting upset about something without trying to fix it, to shine a light, and to make the world a better place.
I'm still organizing my thoughts regarding the concept of “at will” - both as it relates to employment and how it could be applied to other aspects of life in its alternative definition (“at whatever time or in whatever way one please”).
Stay tuned as I plan to write much more about the “better way” I see forward, embracing new journeys and a different direction as I write My Very Own Story (2022 edition!).
As we all should have a living will and testament (ok, I'm still working on that), a pre-nup (whoops, we were both poor, never thought that was necessary!), and other vital legal documents, we also need to be prepared in case of the "worst case scenario" on the job (even though it might be the *change* you need). When we accept a new position, we are filled with hope and excitement, much like at a wedding, however as many marriages end in divorce, most jobs are temporary.
Know what you want in your departure as much as what you want in your offer.
Most employers share a welcome message to all staff when someone is hired. How they share the news when a colleague leaves is equally important.
It used to bother me a lot when someone quit and they’d be celebrated with a special lunch or an email filled with accolades. The rest of the staff who had to take on extra responsibilities when the team was down a player never seemed to get the same gratitude or celebration for their efforts. At times this made me feel that my dedication and loyalty weren’t valued.
When HR sends an email announcing someone’s last day was today or yesterday, it’s widely known they were terminated, but that’s rarely explained. Fear is a powerful motivator, and most people would rather stay silent than ask questions and put their own position at risk.
If You Decided to Grit When You Should’ve Quit: What to Ask if You’re Asked to Leave (a.k.a. “Today is your last day.”)
Can I have some time to process this before we continue the conversation since this is a complete surprise to me? If not, I know I’ll have questions after I have a chance to digest this news. Can we schedule a short follow-up meeting now for next week?
Would you reconsider? Could we discuss other possible arrangements where I can still contribute to the company in a different role or on a consulting basis?
Would you be able to explain why I am being let go? Why wasn’t I given any warning that you were considering this action and given a chance to address any issues you had with my performance before being terminated?
How will my departure be shared with the rest of the staff? Will I be allowed to share a final goodbye message to everyone? What will the company say is the reason for the termination to the Employment Commission and during reference checks?
Is there anything I can or should do differently in the future to ensure I am more successful in my next role? Can you provide a letter of recommendation, performance evaluation and reason for termination in writing?
When It Might Be Legal, But It Feels Wrong
“At-will employment is a term used to describe the relationship between an employee and an employer in which either party may terminate the employment agreement for any reason and without warning, so long as the reason is not discriminatory in nature. It is illegal for employers to fire workers for discriminatory reasons based on age, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, or disability. In addition, employers are prohibited from discharging employees as retaliation for whistleblowing or reporting illegal or unethical employer activity.”
To all the CEOs, COOs, Managers, and HR Departments: It might be legal to fire someone without cause, but if it’s handled poorly, you could lose so much more than the person you just let go.
Team morale is greatly affected by the immediate absence of someone who may have been a valued mentor and friend to other staff. Fear will keep most from asking questions so don’t assume that everyone is ok with the news.
You can terminate an employee with empathy and give them the tools they need to succeed in their next role or you could make it the worst day of their lives.
You have the power to make a difficult situation more palatable, so please be kind, be supportive, and be accessible.
If the employee was allowed to introduce themselves to the staff when they started, then please let them say goodbye in their own words (if they wish).
If you struggled with the decision because the person had amazing qualities and talents, but somehow wasn’t the right fit for your culture or the role, then have a sincere recommendation letter prepared in advance and give it to them. They may never use it to get another position, but it could be a valuable reminder that you recognize they made a contribution to your company and could be an amazing asset to another team in the future.
“Imposter syndrome is about feelings, not facts. You feel like a fraud, but that doesn’t mean you are. You feel like you’re about to get called out, whether or not anyone is endeavoring to do so. But it’s not based in evidence.” Brass Tack Thinking
"Relationships are like glass - sometimes it's better to leave them broken then to hurt yourself trying to put them back together."
“Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society... So if you want to feel good, do good!” Actionforhappiness.org
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." —Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom, 1958 "There is no magic in the world like hearing the first few notes of a song you really love." @positivepresent
“I really do write to find out what I’m thinking. I have a strong memory but it thrives on storing images and emotions... I would drown without a way to sort through, to make sense of it all. I didn’t have to publish it but I did have to write it.” --Taylor Harris
8 Principles to Navigate Periods of Disorder 1. Stop Resisting What's Happening 2. Focus On What You Can Control 3. Nail Daily Habits 4. Use Routines 5. Stay Connected 6. Be Strong and Adapt 7. Respond Not React 8. Show Up, Get Through, and Make Meaning On Other Side @BStulberg “No Hard Feelingsdispels the myth that there's no place for emotions at work. You can't communicate clearly unless you're aware of your own emotions, and the emotions you're sparking in others. You can't build productive relationships at work if you're showing up like a robot. This book will help you build the emotional discipline you need to succeed.” —Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor
“Loneliness often stems from unwanted solitude. But it is also driven by a discrepancy between how you perceive your relationships versus what you want (or expect) from them.” nytimes.com
“Not finance. Not strategy. And not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” Five Dysfunctions of a Team
“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.” Five Dysfunctions of a Team
“Humans are bedeviled by the “sunk cost fallacy.” Having invested time or money in something, we are loath to leave it, because that would mean we had wasted our time or money, even though it is already gone,”
“The EEOC expects people to check a web portal every day to try to find an open interview slot to discuss a potential case of discrimination. This flawed system is inherently discriminatory.“
"It may be that this wasn’t the right job for you, and a push to find a new one is just what you needed."
"A firing can be demoralizing but remember it is only one employer's decision. There will be other, more suitable options for you. Take the time to regroup & find a job that is a better fit for you & your interests."
How to Write Humane Rejection Letters “Stay away from generic statements like that could apply to anyone and scream “template!” and offer something specific to the candidate. By acknowledging specific strengths, you remind candidates of their worth at exactly the moment they could be doubting themselves most.”