How to Get Fired While Maintaining Dignity and Grace
So, you’re a young person trying to make your way in a horrible economy and you managed to do the impossible: you got a job. Until one day at the beginning of your shift, you’re given the news that the job is no longer yours. Getting fired may be humiliating, but there are some things you can do to make the experience a little less soul-crushing:
- First, when the signs are there, try not to panic, but don’t fool yourself, either. Is your boss ignoring you for a week before you go on vacation? When you come back from that vacation, is your desk completely cleared off as though you never even existed? And before you have a chance to sit down, does a kind-faced HR employee ask you to follow her into the conference room? Again–don’t panic! But take a deep breath and know that you’re kind of maybe likely probably going to get fired.
- When whoever is firing you is breaking you the bad news, do not cry. Do not get angry. If you can, remain completely emotionless. Just nod your head and say stuff like, “Okay” and “That’s too bad” and “Am I going to get to keep my health insurance through the end of the month?” Not only will keeping a cool head make the horrible process both quicker and less painful, it will make your employer more likely to do things like give you a little bit of severance pay and a letter of reference that you can use in your search for a new job that will begin approximately a half hour after you get fired. Bonus points if you manage to remain emotionless but the person firing you gets upset because she feels bad. Just look at that sad-eyed person who’s firing you with raised eyebrows that say, Mmhmm, that’s right. You should feel bad. That sort of emotional control will actually be a source of comfort for you when you’re holed up in your apartment watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and eating really depressing combinations of food like scoop tortilla chips filled with chocolate syrup. In those moments, you’re going to need all the comfort you can get.
- Through it all, know that getting fired is okay. That it’s more than okay. That it’s actually kind of badass. Getting fired is now one of those Things You’ve Now Been Through. Much like spending a night in jail or getting a regrettable tattoo, getting fired might’ve been a result of you doing something more than a little thoughtless, but it’s going to make you smarter and tougher. So try your best to look at the experience as having some sort of value, despite its inherent awfulness.
- If you’re lucky enough to get some sort of severance pay and/or unemployment that will monetarily tide you over for a while, take a few days to chill out. Take advantage of the luxury of being able to ease yourself back into the job search, and try to think critically about what that last job didn’t work out. What about it wasn’t working for you? And, yeah, your boss was a jerk and the company was totally mismanaged, but try to be honest and ask what it was about yourself that didn’t fit the job. In this economy, it’s unrealistic to think that we can be super choosy about where we end up working, but blindly sending out your resume to every posting on Indeed isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Think hard about what you want from your next job so you can try to avoid being in this position again.
- Let your friends be nice to you. Let them treat you to cocktails and make dinner for you because you know that if the roles were reversed, you’d do the same for them.
- Don’t feel guilty about using your newfound free time. Remember when you were working all day (or night!) and how envious you were of those non-working people who were galavanting around, spending hours in coffeeshops and taking their dogs to the park and just generally being ladies and gentlemen of leisure? You can be one of those people! You are now someone with nowhere to go–the average person experiences this only a few times in her lifetime, so you might as well reap the benefits of it. Don’t just overdose on TV and the art of making meals out of the random food you find in the back of your cupboards. Learn how to do something you’ve always wondered about, take on a big cleaning project in your home, spend some time volunteering. The more active you keep yourself, the sooner you’ll be working again.
- Hold your head high. If your former place of employment is near to where you live and the chances of running into one of your former co-workers (or, worse, your boss) is pretty high, don’t sweat it. If that happens, all you have to do is give a wave and say hello and continue on your way. If they want to chat and you don’t, just say that you’re late for an appointment or on your lunchbreak. Making yourself appear happy and occupied is the best thing you can do because the last thing you want is your old co-workers to think that getting fired left you a broken woman. Let them see you as better than ever and a-okay.
- And, finally, when you get your next job and start getting into the groove and developing new habits in the workplace, remember what worked and what didn’t in your last job. If getting sucked into office politics was your downfall, think about ways you can avoid it this time around. If your lack of organizational skills was what tripped you up, come up with a new system that helps you stay on the ball. Let the lessons of being fired make you an even better employee and keep on looking forward.
Have you ever gotten fired? How did you get through it? Share with us in the comments below!
Written by Kate Russell
Check out her blog, Red Maple Hair!