Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting fired - part 1

What do you do when they fire you?

As I mentioned in my first post, I'm currently at my second job. I got fired from the first job I got and I would like to take this opportunity to explain how you should react in such a situation, should it occur to you.
Being fired can have many different reasons. These days, the economic crisis gets used a lot by companies to 'let people go' or to 'restructure'. But there are also other reasons to get fired. It's not always easy to know why.
I will try to give some tips that might help you avoid this scenario as good as possible, at least for the part where it could be prevented by you.
But it's not always possible to avoid it and it's not always the employee's fault. That's why I'll try to give some examples and give you some ideas of me, that might help you through the difficult period that emerges in case of you loosing your job.

Can you see it coming?

In some cases, where you have (some) influence on the situation, you can see it coming. They usually give you warnings in advance, tell you to work harder, etc. They usually do this, by taking you somewhere private to talk about the way you work or about your results. When this happens the first time, take it as a clear sign that something is wrong.
This is the time to investigate what is wrong. They usually tell you this, but if something is not clear or you do not agree with something, ask questions. Use this time to find out what they think is wrong, what they expect and whether you might be doing something wrong.
Always stay calm and NEVER get angry. Do not try to go into the offensive. Don't do this at all during the entire conversation! Not even after. If they think something is wrong, then something is wrong. I'm not saying it's your fault, but something is wrong and now is the time to find out what and to try to fix it.

Fixing the problem: work harder?

Suppose they want you to work harder. This is a classic. Why? They always want you to work harder. Owning a company is strictly bussiness. Employees are not friends, they are what make the boss rich. The harder employees work, the more money the boss makes. That's how simple it is.
So when they want you to work harder, it either means that:
a. They know you can do more then you are doing now.
b. You aren't working hard enough.
c. It doesn't look like you're working hard enough.

I'll explain these in detail.

a. They know you can do more then you are doing now:
Sometimes, you might work extra hard to impress some of the higher-ups. It's not a good idea to do this. The reason is simple: if you show you can work extra hard, they will expect this behaviour forever. They saw you could do it before, so why don't you do it all the time?
This is also a problem with the standards that companies require from employees. They expect too much... because somewhere along the line, many have worked too hard, just too impress higher-ups. Maybe at the expence of their own health, causing them to have a burnout or causing them to quit their jobs to escape the stress they brought on themselves. But the damage is already done, the standards have been raised for other employees. The standards can be raised easily, but they can not go down easily at all. This is probably because of the greed in the corporate world, though that's just my opinion.
In any case, the message is clear: Never force anything. It's not healty. If you allow things to come naturally, everything will go smoother.

b. You aren't working hard enough:
Here's a thought. It's not easy to accept this, but maybe you're just not working hard enough? Look at other employees. How are they working? Remember the previous point: some are working too hard. But they can never keep it up. Keep looking at other employees for a long period and try to see how hard they work on avarage. Try to work just as hard.
Perhaps you're a worker who needs to maintain an avarage through elektronic registration. In this situation, you don't have to look at other employees. Try keeping a score of your avarage and try to beat your own score every time, until you get to the point where they are happy enough.
Don't force anything, but work for your money. Nobody likes freeloaders and all employees are in it together.

c. It doesn't look like you're working hard enough:
Now this is the tricky part. Perhaps you work very hard. You're at max speed. But then they tell you, they are not happy with your performance, because you don't seem to be working as hard as the others. But you know you work hard, you go home tired every day from trying your best. Why do they say you don't work hard enough?
I can only speak from personal experience here, so I'll be giving an explanation based on a desk job (standard 9-5).
If you're sitting behind a computer all day, what do you do an entire day? You might say: "I wrote 2 reports, checked my e-mail, responded to several mails, wrote an application, tested it, etc.". Ask a construction worker what he thinks you did and he might think: "He/she sat behind a computer all day, fumbeling with the keyboard.". They have jobs where you can see them being active, doing something... if you have to solve problems to make a living, you need to think. Thinking is nothing more than sitting and using your brainpower. It doesn't look like you're doing something!
And that's precisely the point. Your boss sees the exact same thing as the construction worker. He might know, in general, what projects are being worked on, but he does not know what you are doing exactly. He only cares about results and those results only show up after projects are completed. So you need to look busy in order to make it look like your working hard, regardless of wether you're working hard or not!
In the next post, I will tell you how you can do that.