I had to fire someone this week. Let them go, put them out of their misery, lay them off, call it what you want, I had to fire an actual person. And that made me think of when I was fired a few years ago. After 17 years of not ever being in trouble, I was working at home and my boss called me in to the office for a meeting. He had accused me of doing something that I hadn’t done, and I explained how I hadn’t done it and gave him the documentation he needed. I thought he was calling me in to apologize. Imagine my surprise. I had never even been written up, I was blindsided, I was devastated. I thought I would be at that job until my kids all graduated and I was able to finish school and go wherever I wanted. Again, imagine my surprise.
The firing I did this week was different. I hired an employee in June who was going to be my back-up. She’d been a temp since February and was awesome. Came in every day, helped me on my project, kept to herself, did the job, she was amazing. We hired her as a full-time employee in June and I was so excited that I was finally going to have a back-up. I even started dreaming that I might be able to take an actual vacation. Dreams…
She called in 9 times in two months and each excuse was more outlandish than the last. Then she started coming in late. I asked if she wanted to change her hours and told her how important my job is (it really is!). I told her how I needed someone reliable because I run a whole department that’s making a lot of money, which is getting a lot of attention, and I have independent contractors, but I really need more help. And I have deadlines and rushes on Fridays and a report that’s ready at 4:30 every day and has to be sent by 8:30 the following morning. Listen, trust me, I’m kind of a big deal.
So I talked to her a couple of times and nothing I said seemed to matter. There was a lot of “oh, okay”, like I’d never told her how important my job is. It was like it was always the first time she was hearing it. I’d tell her I need someone reliable and she’d say, “oh, okay”, and I’d say, I need someone who’s here every day and on time, and she’d say, “oh, okay”. I promise, she was bright and seemed really excited about the prospect of learning the rest of my job and then I’d do my little vacation dance, but I knew it was too good to be true.
HR came to me towards the end of September and said, What the hell? Why is this chick absent so many times? And I hadn’t been training her on very much because I didn’t want to train her and then have her stop coming in. That’s what I felt was going to happen, she’d just not show up one day. She took her personal items home mid-September, and I started worrying she wasn’t long for this job. HR said I needed to sit down with her and give her a final warning. Now, I’d never gotten or given a final warning. It pretty much said, if you’re late or absent one more day, not counting your three “religious” holidays you took off, then you’ll be fired. Okay, that’s pretty straight forward.
My boss and I met with her the end of September and told her just that. I listed out all her absences and late starts that I knew about and it looked pretty bad. I said, again, I need you to be here every day and on time. I shouldn’t have to text you at 9 to see if you’re coming in and then you show up at 9:45. Her start time was 8:30. Doesn’t anyone need a job?, I often asked myself. She said a lot of “oh, okay” as though it was the first time hearing it and then I told her about my previous job where if you called in three times in a calendar year, A. CALENDAR. YEAR. you’d get written up. She’d literally called in 9 times in two months. She said, Oh, really? She was shocked. Welcome to the real world. I said, yeah, we need you to come in every day and on time. So she said she’d get better, she really wanted the job, all bullshit I now realize.
The next two days she came in on time and announced it. Like, I’m here on time, what do you need me to do? Do I get some kind of award for being here on time? Hello, did you hear I’m on time? Two days. Then she was late, then her religious holidays, then she left early one Friday because her husband had an accident at work. Okay, that’s fine, your husband had an accident, he was taken to the hospital, I’m not a monster, go. She did. Then she called in sick on Monday because her husband couldn’t be left alone. Oh my gosh, must have been a terrible accident, is he okay? Yes, I’ll be in tomorrow. She was late the next day because she had to give him his medication. Did she have to wrap it in cheese? He’s a grown-ass man, right? This accident must have been awful. Was he dipped in kryptonite? Was he on the Titanic? too soon?
So Tuesday she comes in late and I rush right over to make sure he’s okay. He sprained his foot. I’m sorry, what? Yeah, he sprained his foot. But she really wanted to be here for work so his mother flew in from Texas to take care of him. Is he on crutches? Yeah, he is, but he can’t get around. But he’s on crutches? Yeah, but this is the first time he’s ever had any kind of injury so he’s kind of taking it hard. Huh? He’s a grown-man, right? Yeah, but he doesn’t have any family here and he can’t get around on the crutches very well. Is his foot in a cast? Yeah, it is. So is it sprained or broken? I don’t know it might be broken. We have to go back and see if it’s broken. Huh? This was an actual conversation.
She was late the rest of that week because of the medication that apparently the mother in law couldn’t administer and then the following Monday she called in sick again because her husband wanted to go back to the hospital because he wasn’t healing fast enough. I couldn’t make this up. I asked her if she’d be in the following day and she didn’t answer, but not so shockingly, the following day she called in because the nurse had given her husband exercises to heal his foot faster and she had to help him. Where’s the mother in law that came in to help, you ask? Yeah, she didn’t have an answer for that. Apparently she was out the whole day.
So this girl was just begging to be fired, right? Whereas I was completely and utterly blindsided by mine, she had to have seen it coming. And listen, I think her whole story was bullshit, but let’s pretend for a minute that her husband is a big baby and can’t handle crutches, if your wife is going to lose her job the next time she calls in sick, don’t you tell her to go to work and you’ll be fine? I could have even handled the late starts for the medication administration, even though that was ridiculous, but to just call in knowing the next time you do, you’re fired? None of it made sense.
She’s the first actual employee I’ve ever had so I didn’t even know how to do it. HR walked me through what to say and they cut her final check and I just called her in the conference room with the HR rep and told her after all our conversations I didn’t feel like the absences or late starts were getting better so today would be her last day. She said, “oh, okay”. She asked if I wanted her to finish the day, which I actually did, but I told her no, she could go ahead and go. And it was the complete opposite of me in mine where I was holding my breath and didn’t say one word because I knew the dam of tears would burst and I wouldn’t be able to say anything coherent. And I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, that smug asshole.
If I could go back, I’d tell him how he ruined my life, our future, how he was firing me because he messed up and didn’t like that I was friends with a co-worker he had already fired. I would tell him how he was the worst supervisor I’d ever had and that no one liked him but were afraid they’d get fired too. I would state that he wasn’t even my boss anymore (I had just gotten a new boss), so how could he fire me? I would have done all of that incoherently because I would have been hysterical, but I would have done it. I would have caused a scene because what he was doing wasn’t fair but not in a “life’s not fair” way, but in an “I didn’t do anything wrong” way.
My girl said, I’m sorry I couldn’t do good work, and I said, You did amazing work and I’m so disappointed this didn’t work out because you were a great employee….when you showed up. I told her good luck and that I was sorry. She’s really young, her family runs some sort of temp agency, she’ll be fine, but I still felt bad. And even though she was an awful employee, I fought for her and worried about this probably a million times more than my old boss did before he ruined my life. And listen, I don’t want to get too specific and I’m generally a forgiving person, but if I saw that guy in the zombie apocalypse, I’d shoot him in the foot so he couldn’t run.