09 June 2010

Get Fired With Class

I am always surprised when people tell me that they were surprised when they got fired. “Really?” I want to say. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons they fired you.”

I’m not talking about being laid off, downsized or restructured out of a job here. I’m talking plain, old and boring “it isn’t working out.” Maybe you got a new boss (same as the old boss), maybe you got an attitude somewhere along the way, or maybe you just put it on cruise control and starting texting (illegal in Colorado, FYI). Whatever the reason, good, bad or indifferent you are now terminated, fired, pursuing other interests, or “let go.”

There are a million and one legal briefs telling employers how to handle the firing of employees; especially what not to do. I’m not sure I’ve ever read what the employee should do in such a situation. Here’s my very simple but usually hard to take advice: stay classy.

Class is such an underrated virtue these days. I think its actually been underrated as long as I’ve known what the word means. What does the word mean, you ask? Webster’s defines “classy” as having or reflecting high standards of personal behavior, admirably skillful and graceful.

An easy example of what is not classy: entering the My Bad Boss Contest or engaging in similar sniping, complaining or whining. Here’s the deal, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had terrible bosses. Many of us have been fired or else quit when we saw the writing on the wall (see paragraph 1).

I’m not so concerned about why someone was fired as how they dealt with it.

Here’s what I think you should do if you get fired:

  1. Own it. Right or wrong, don’t blame anyone else. Period.
  2. Stay Classy. Even if they don’t. This is number two because if you don’t “Own It” you can’t possibly “Stay Classy.”
  3. Tell Everyone The Truth. Don’t come up with a “too clever” explanation or an explanation that violates Rule 1.
  4. Send A Thank You Note. Individual, snail mail, thank you notes to all the people with whom you had regular interaction. Tell each person something about them that you liked or something you learned from them. Keep it short. Cynicism, irony or sarcasm is not allowed. Use a nice pen. Buy some nice blank note cards. Crane’s comes to mind.
Why the thank you notes? So that you can learn what you learned and who you learned it from. So that you can come to understand what went wrong – writing twenty or thirty thank you notes can give you a lot of insight. So that you can improve.

So that you can stay classy.

Thanks for reading.

Richard Russeth

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