Why You Should Worry Because You’re Going To Get Fired — Eventually
Yesterday, my esteemed colleague wrote an inspired missive about the current culture of the American workforce in relation to the trepidation of management to dismiss staff constantly underperforming on the job. I’m here to explain the article, for the most part, was a complete load of shit.
An interesting, entertaining and cleverly penned load of shit, but a load of shit none the less.
Understand first that I genuinely like David, both as a colleague and as a person. I’d go out and get a beer with him right at this very moment. Unfortunately, he was too drunk to make it to work today. My real issue with his opinion piece were the broad generalizations made about not only the real working world but about the lives and careers of the typical reader.
But before diving into David’s incorrect assumptions and assertions, a quick peek behind the curtain on my own career and how I arrived at BroBible.
My mistakes with my career started early – selecting majors in college based on light workloads and late class times. After failing out as a business major – no shock for someone who genuinely fucking hates everything about business – I switched gears and focused inward and tapped into my personal skill set.
I’m good at reading people. This is what I told my academic advisor. He suggested a communications major with a focus on interpersonal communication. To nutshell the field of interpersonal communications, a person needs to understand but one expression – “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
Besides being able to call people out on bullshit, I harbored a strong urge and an odd dream of becoming a writer. File that information away. It will be important later in this piece.
In my senior year, needing only a credited internship to complete my degree, I worked four hours a day at the most popular radio station in my home town. Two of those hours were spent in promotions, stuffing envelopes and fielding phone calls from “prize pigs” about the Backstreet Boys tickets awaiting their pick-up. Prize pigs are the industry name for people who do nothing but sit by the phone all day and call in radio shows to win stuff.
The second two hours were spent assisting the national sales team. Basically, I stuffed different envelopes and fielded phones calls from sales guys. Sales guys are a totally different type of pig who, ironically, also rely on a phone all day.
At the end of my internship, the national sales manager asked about “career intentions.” By that point I’d decided that working on the promotions, and possibly on-air, sounded like a decent gig. “Sure,” he said “but the sales side is where you make the real money.”
Money? I like money. Who doesn’t like money? Oh, right, the guy who fucking hates business. So then why was I suddenly accepting a job as a full time national sales assistant, stuffing envelopes and talking to pigs on the phone all day? Oh, right, money.
After about a year, a miserable year spent with really nice people but in a really shitty job, I was hired as a copywriter for a marketing firm. During that time, it felt as though every biography or article I read about a favorite author mentioned a short time he spent copywriting or at an ad agency. It’s where creative people work when the other creative stuff they’re doing isn’t putting food in their mouths.
My employ as a copywriter lasted three weeks. I was let go on a Monday morning because it “just wasn’t working out.” I thought it was because of something I’d done, or worse, that I sucked at writing. I found out two days later while checking my former company’s website for the mailing address for my unemployment forms that they’d hired a copywriter with ten years experience as my replacement. His ten years trumped my ten days. As David explained in his piece, it’s much easier to allow terrible workers to stay employed UNLESS a more capable person comes along and then you’re expendable.
So I bounced around from job to job until finally finding an incredibly well paying gig as a Marketing Assistant. The core responsibility in that position was writing feature pieces and company highlights for the website of an environmental assessment company. Remember my dreams of writing? Well, I was getting closer. That job involved writing but writing about topics I had absolutely no business writing about because I didn’t have a background in brownstone development or strategic risk management and I didn’t know jack shit about the environment. An incorrect word changes the entire meaning of a piece, but I barely wrote anything, because I was too busy looking up what the fuck brownstone development meant.
After over a year on the job my boss called me into her office and told me it wasn’t working out. I figured that out in the first week. Seriously, I had a fucking panic attack at my desk the second day at work while muttering “holy shit I’ve got no idea what I’m doing here” and spent the rest of the afternoon in the office kitchen counting coffee stirrers. She was letting me go, but…in a month. She said she found me fun to work with, I made her laugh, I was pleasant and it would take her some time to find a replacement anyway so I had a month to find another job. Plus we would tell everyone I was leaving to pursue another career.
David pointed out in his article that if an employee is liked by his colleagues, smiles often, acts cordially and only occasionally fucks an adopted daughter here and there, he can keep his job for a long time. I can’t argue with that assessment. I received an extra month of salary just because I wasn’t a dick. (Side thought — Staying true to form, to do research for the piece, David put in the minimum effort and reached out to only the HR people at his former employers. You know, the companies totally cool with employing fuck-ups– to ask “why do you keep fuck-ups employed?” The same people who found it hard to can him also found time to answer all his questions. What are the chances?)
The final time I was let go from a position was at the company prior to landing here at BroBible. I was hired to be the editor-in-chief of a men’s lifestyle website not much different from this very website. After two years, management pulled the plug on the project, and called on the phone on a day I was working from home. They said “thanks for all you’ve done but it’s a cost-cutting measure.” The website still exists but instead of paying a person a salary to run it they pay a freelancer $30 a day to submit two articles. Another hole poked in David’s “unfireable” theory. If a company wants to save a buck, they’ll quickly send you packing.
Losing my job last time was much, much more difficult. It felt just as terrible, and got me just as angry, but now I had people to worry about beside myself. I’ve got a wife, two kids, a mortgage and all of the other expenses, ones which every bro, even David, will eventually have at some point in life. If I lose my job today, my whole life situation changes in an instant. If single and childless David loses his job today, he buys a cheaper beef jerky at the store next time.
My three stories, much like David’s tales, are personal and circumstantial. David didn’t lose any of his jobs, jobs at which, he put in minimal effort. I lost three jobs where I genuinely tried to do a good job. Personal and circumstantial. Some readers would be just fine getting canned today. Some would be in a shit ton of trouble. Personal and circumstantial.
David thinks you won’t get fired, which might be true, so long as you’re not caught doing anything wrong, but you can be let go for hundreds of reasons. Let’s make a distinction here. Let’s discuss the difference between being fired and being let go is this – people get fired for breaking company policy but they’re let go for any number of reasons. There are countless reasons you could be let go RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. The company needs to cut staff, the company is going in a different direction, the company is moving, the company is doing any number of things that will effect you, but too bad, you’re going to have to deal with it all because it’s what’s best for the company. (Side thought — Maybe the real reason the company has to restructure, retool and rethink things is because a few employees – one maybe even just one cog in the machine – genuinely don’t give a fuck about the jobs so they show up drunk, buys drugs off coworkers and cause massive spills and cleanups which effect the jobs of other people in the office. Maybe?)
Now I’m not saying you should “worry” about losing your job. I agree with David that worrying about anything never makes a person perform at a higher level. If anything, it causes them to make more mistakes out of the fear of losing a job. But if you’re in a job you hate, and it wouldn’t change your life if you were to lose the job, why are you still even going to the job? Just fucking leave. If you go to a job every day just to half-ass it, you’re a fucking idiot.
I’ve had a ton of awful jobs but they all led to the place I want to be, doing what I want to do, and I can look back on each and go “well, they sucked, but at least I tried.”
If you want to work, go work. If you want to skate by in life, doing the bare minimum, you can do that too. It’s your fucking life. But don’t go to a job, every day, day after day, intent on doing nothing. You’re not only wasting other people’s time, more importantly, you’re wasting your own time.
If you’re doing the absolute least, you’re eventually going to get shown the door. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but some day, the HR person will want to see you in his or her office. She’ll probably just end up leaving you three voicemails because you didn’t show up for work that day.