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How to get fired gracefully

Chances are, at one point of your working life or another, you’re going to get canned. I feel bad to be breaking the news to you but in the world of higher turnover and rapidly changing demand, the American employee is more expendable than ever (as long as “ever” means before 1940). Expendability aside, we should all be preparing for the worst. A downturn in business, a relocation, outsourcing, a bad personal decision…the list goes on. You should be ready to seek a job tomorrow. But that is a post for another day…

One way to not get fired gracefully is to make a big scene. It is really easy to lose it at that moment. You are thinking about everything that is going to change and hopefully you have an HR guy who prepares you and emphatically explains how to go about picking up your final check, belongings, filing for COBRA and maybe even giving you resources for with the unemployment office. I’ve had people getting fired (either being laid off or being fired for performance or misconduct issues) punch a supervisor in the face, flip off the entire office, throw a chair, scream, cry and not say anything at all.

To say it lightly, we’ve seen it all. And frankly, HR guys are unimpressed with this sort of bullshit. You might be pissed but your HR guy is likely going to be pissed for you. It is true. Even getting fired for all but the worst misconduct can be smoothed over by an understanding and apologetic employee. In those situations, I am much more likely to pass your future employer asking for a professional reference to a co-worker who liked you as opposed to the supervisor who now hates you because of his black eye. An employee who throws a fit is likely to get no sympathy and as soon as I get the reference release from your future employer, don’t think that I am not going to let them know every factual detail.

In short, don’t be stupid when fired. Take it calmly, be apologetic, ask all the questions you need and pack your stuff. Your future employability depends on it.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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