That time I got genuinely fired

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 11:55 PM | comments: 0

Oh 2011, you were a strange year, especially the part when I landed back in the Cleveland. I had a Facebook memory that reminded me of such, when I vaguebooked, "The Cleveland adventure just keeps getting more weird." I knew exactly what it was, too. It was the day I got canned from my "job." Now that I think about it, maybe this was the root of the "what have we done" feeling of moving back there from Seattle.

If you back up two months, when we decided to move back to Cleveland, the math made sense. The annual bonuses were hitting at Microsoft, and I vested some of a stock award, so the risk was extremely low. I still wanted to get a job, and after two phone calls totaling maybe an hour with a company whose primary function was an ad agency, I landed one that seemed good enough. When I put feelers out there, I had a lot of choices. In retrospect, I was slipping into the less-deliberate mode that I promised myself I wouldn't do anymore when it came to career. But whatever, pile of cash, one place to pay for to live in, it was all good.

I know I've written about it before, but when I got to this job, there was nothing to do. It was cosmically weird. I remember thinking, "I was at Microsoft, surrounded by Amazon, Google, Facebook, Expedia, Zillow and countless other tech companies... what have I done?" But me being me, I spent about two weeks getting to know the business and meeting its principals, and sensed some opportunities. They had no real digital service strategy, or a plan to develop one, so I outlined some options.

At the start of my third week, I was getting pretty bored, but being downtown, lined up some interviews at other companies. That Tuesday, my boss called me in to talk about my "hours." Basically she said that I had to be there from 9 to 5:30, and that doing 8 to 4:30 as I was doing wasn't OK. Like any sensible person, I explained that putting myself in the middle of rush hour was a pretty terrible idea, and as adults I'm sure we could compromise on that. I figured it was a settled issue.

On Thursday of that week, I had some "real" work where I had to upload some files for some client, with the passwords sent via email in clear text, of course. It was the first real work I had, and it came in the middle of some morale event they were doing with beer and casino tables. The next day, I interviewed at another place a few blocks away (which was equally bad). When I got back, I was called into the owner's office, with my boss and the head of HR. I certainly recognized that ambush.

To that point, I had a few conversations with the owner, and I found him to be an arrogant alpha male right out of Mad Men (which I had not seen yet). Talking about my move, he suggested I never should have left Cleveland in 2009 because it was so great and up and coming, which was of little consequence to people in my line of work who were largely unemployed and fleeing to the coasts. That afternoon, he just wanted to tell me that it was unacceptable that I would not comply with the official hours, so good luck with my life. I bit my tongue, but I did tell the boss that I was disappointed about the way she misrepresented the company. I remember specifically asking her about whether or not there was a grownup enabling culture. This sort of thing was not that.

I was a terrible fit for the place. Having worked remotely on and off, particularly with a lot of consulting hours, butts-in-seats culture was, to say the least, foreign to me. I mean, I worked for a west coast technology giant. Any place that didn't respect its people as adults is not a place you want to work. I didn't have any work to do in the first place!

The timing of this was all actually really great. I had about four weeks where I was able to attack all of the relatively minor updates I wanted to make to the old/new house, and spend time with my tiny human. I had a ton of interviews, local and remote, and we went to Ikea in Pittsburgh. I spent about eight weeks working for a company in an interesting market that meant well, but there was just no chance of me being happy there, and Humana came calling with a pile of money to work remotely, which I happily accepted for a year.

I've been laid-off a total of six times in my career, all but one for monetary reasons (and the one that wasn't might have been about money, but maybe about personalities, but I'll never really know), but this was the one time that I was genuinely pointed to the door. I didn't feel the least bit bad about it.


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