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For those who have been fired from a job ...

This topic was brought to mind by the thread on refusing to do something your boss asks you to do.

I'm just curious -- if you have been fired from a job, how did you get back on your feet?  How did you explain to your new employer the circumstances of your departure from your previous job?

Did you lie?

programmer
Friday, June 13, 2003

It might be nice to have a friend "check your references" to know just what your ex-company is saying about you. Is it only "X worked for us from jan 2000 to june 2003" or do they start ranting on and on about how you were fired and so on? Are they forthcoming with the reason why you left and so on? This helps determine how you approach the situation in an interview. The rest is just putting a spin on it. Just make sure you slam them as little as possible and don't name anyone, that's bad taste.

If they're really slamming you hard, then you have to figure out what to do... Sometimes you can name someone that's more sympathetic to you as a reference... I know I've do so in some cases when the parting was not an happy thing.

Alex
Friday, June 13, 2003

Never explain, never complain.

Henry Ford II
Friday, June 13, 2003

a) Camel is the first job I've been actually fired from. All I've been saying is "that contract ended." :-)

b) I don't always give managers as references - when the parting is on bad terms then I'll give coworkers as references. I've got a mix in the bag o' references.

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 13, 2003

I was downsized out. It was in the newspapers. One of my friend was fired for no good reason (her previous performance appraisal is glowing) and she's filing a wrongful termination suite.

Now you see the power of the performance appraisal in action - just give a negative one before you fire someone and they won't sue your ass.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 13, 2003

Uh, how does she figure she can sue? Companies can fire people any time they want for any reason (except discrimination)

If she tried to quit the job, how would she feel about being sued for wrongful resignation? ("What's the problem? You cashed your last pay check")

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 13, 2003

"Companies can fire people any time they want for any reason"

I think there are laws against this kind of thing, but most make you sign some sort of contract stating what you just said. I really don't know.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 13, 2003

1 - Follow Alex's advice.  If you find out rant about your performance, contact the HR person and talk to them about the information they are passing.  Most large companies will only give "Employee for 1/5/95 to 6/13/2003, as a programmer."  The reason is they have been sued too often to give an form of opinion.  Termination without a criminal conviction is always someone's opinion.  Opinions lead to legal hassles in the US.

2 - Network with clergy, doctors, professionals, anyone with a title of authority.  Work with your Chamber of Commerce, or a major charity.  A letter of reference from the local bank president will carry more weight than your team leader at your last job.

3 - In most cases, firms will not contact the most recent employer fearing they may get you fired if you still work there.

4 - Your CV or Resume are sales documents, not legal ones.  Use them to expound on your virtures. Try to be ambiguous "Bob's Programming house: 1/5/95 to present"  You never want to lie, but how many people put "and my last boss was a jerk" on their's even when he was?

BigRoy
Friday, June 13, 2003

And now for the corrected version of my previous post's first paragraph...

- Follow Alex's advice.  If you find they rant about your performance, contact the HR person and talk to them about the information they are passing.  Most large companies will only give "Employee for 1/5/95 to 6/13/2003, as a programmer."  The reason is they have been sued too often to give any opinion.  Termination without a criminal conviction is always someone's opinion.  Opinions lead to legal hassles in the US if given where they may impact you financially.

BigRoy
Friday, June 13, 2003

Mark, every state is different and I'm in Virginia, but as far as I know unless the contract states to the contrary, employment is always completely severable. A company can say "this just isn't working for us" and you're gone. Think about layoffs - people fired simply to improve profitability.

The documents companies get employees to sign are to make absolutely sure everyone is clear on the situation, but they don't create the right.

And seriously, think about it - what kind of equitable construct says the employee can leave at any time but the company can't fire you at any time?

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 13, 2003

> what kind of equitable construct says the employee can leave at any time but the company can't fire you at any time? <

One designed to protect the employees? Did you know that it's illegal for certain city workers to strike because they provide basic services?

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 13, 2003

For MarkTAW:

It's called "at will" employment, and although varied from state to state -- most states here in the US has "at will" employment. With some variation in each state, it basically means that :

(a) You, the employee, are free to leave at any time for any reason.

(b) Conversely, the employer is free to let you go at any time -- without giving a reason. They can let you go for any reason they want, or no reason at all (within the guidelines of not being fired for any of the "protected" statuses -- Age, race, sex, religion (or lack thereof)).


On the other hand, if there's an actual Employment Contract, or some version thereof, then whatever's outlined in the contract will take precedence over the above discussion -- subject, of course, to interpretation by a judge or jury in the US civil courts if you and the employer don't agree on the interpretation of the Contract.

In the absence of a Contract, in most states the "at will" laws take effect.

I tend to agree with "at will" -- it's fair to both parties. I caution those who argue against it to consider it as equitable to both parties. If you get rid of the ability for an employee to fire you "at will", then you, as employee, should *not* be able to simply quit (resign, whatever) whenever you like. It's got to be fair to *both* parties in the transaction.

Sgt. Sausage
Friday, June 13, 2003

Sgt. Thanks for the clarification. I think she's going to talk to a lawyer about it... I'll update here.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, June 13, 2003

I know in my state you can be fired at will, the only issue is if you are entitled to unemployment insurance. If you are fired for violating some policy, the company may not have to pay you unemployment. I was involved once with someone being fired for sleeping on the job, and he didn't get anything.

I've also been layed off from companies that have gone out of bussiness and had to sue them because they didn't pay off vacation time, which is something you have earned and are owed.

Bill
Friday, June 13, 2003

People do actually have certain rights with regards to employment. Those rights persist even though an employment contract might seem to override them, and even though you might have signed it.

Almost all contracts with recruiters contain several clauses that are not enforceable, and which the recruiter knows not to be enforceable.

On the subject of employers providing damning references, they can be sued for this. They can also be sued for wrongful termination if there were not valid reasons for the termination.

As to how to refer to being sacked, the answer is not to worry about it. Lots of people get sacked, for a variety of reasons not necessarily related to their performance. Hiring managers understand this.

It's best to describe your departure as a move and to deliberately put a good spin on it. It's just basic diplomacy. If you're too direct about the reason, it's like you're saying you're no good, and no-one wants to hire someone who's telling them they're no good. People who believe in themselves will put a good spin on it.

BR
Friday, June 13, 2003


While I'm not arguing changing the "at will" stuff, I think that the employment "arrangement" tends to favor the employer not the employee.

Let's take the following example: a long-term (e.g. 20 years) employee (not top management, not a "key" employee) is laid-off from a large employer.

The disruption to the employee is likely huge (finacially, career-progress, ability to find a job, etc). The disruption to the employer is typically very small.

The employer will tend to create processes that make an employee a fungible commodity.

On the other hand, it's much harder for an employee to replace an employer.

njkayaker
Friday, June 13, 2003

California has "at will" employment as well, but the distinction that I've usually heard is "laid off" vs. "fired for cause".  Being fired for cause means that you get denied COBRA, unemployment benefits, and any out-the-door benefits (severance, paid time off) that were promised in your contract.  It is legally sticky to fire someone for cause, so it only generally happens when you get caught photocopying your butt or something comparable.

Colin Evans
Friday, June 13, 2003

Okay, I'm arguing basic principles, not law here-

You're an entrepreneur. It's time to hire your first two employees. One is a superstar, the other just gets by. You realize after a while that you could really run the company between you and Superstar, and that the guy who just gets by in general makes more work.

He doesn't do anything *wrong* - he's there from 9-5, obeys all the company rules, completes every assignment, etc, etc, etc. But his demeanor is annoying (he's a jock and you guys are geeks, or he's a trekkie to the nth degree and you're not, etc), and his coding, while passable, isn't where you need it to be for what you're doing.

Those of you who feel that companies need to have a reason to fire people - do you *really* want a situation where you cannot get rid of JustGetsBy guy? What "cause" do you have to fire him? He's never late (Superstar often is), he keeps his workplace tidy (Superstar doesn't), he generally completes assigned tasks on time (Superstar is occasionally late on his, but then you're assigning different levels of tasking)...

Shouldn't you be able to let JustGetsBy go simply because he doesn't fit in the organization?

Also, don't forget - if you make it harder to fire someone, you're going to make it MUCH harder to hire people, since it's a much bigger commitment. You're going to be talking about coding exams, personality tests, hours of interviews, trial periods with no benefits, etc, etc, etc.

And for the person who said "Hey, when a person gets fired it's the end of their world while the company just goes on" - that can work both ways. The person who is fired can get another job and not care - income is income. But what if the project manager quits two weeks before deployment? That could actually kill a company. So the risks work both ways.

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 13, 2003

If you think the risk an employer faces is the same as what an employee faces, you are indeed working for some very small companies.

I work for a $2M start up where I'm 1/3 of the development staff.  If I left it'd hurt. 

But you know what?  I know I'm still replaceable.  I've seen it too often in my limited 10 years.

A decent sized development shop though?  Fuggetaboutit.  The VP can leave & they'll keep on going.


Friday, June 13, 2003

The trouble is that while an employer provides 100% (or close to 100%) of an employee's income, you the employee provide only 1% or less of the employer's income (for a mid- to large-sized company).  So it much easier for them to tolerate your departure than for you to tolerate a job loss.

"At will employment" is a law bought by large corporations.  They get to eject you when they feel like it, while if you leave without notice they'll find ways to smear your career or reputation.

T. Norman
Friday, June 13, 2003

"while if you leave without notice they'll find ways to smear your career or reputation."

Does anyone know of a situation where this happened?

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 13, 2003

Philo:


Companies generally have to develop a culture that won't repel the kind of people that they need to hire on.


I hear what you're saying about JustGetsBy, but, most of what you're describing are subjective criteria, which REALLY grates on me when we're talking about playing tiddlywinks with someone's ego and livelihood. Yes, in at-will employment you can both in principle and legally fire or release someone just because they have orange hair. However, my observation is that companies that treat their employees capriciously as you're attempting to justify usually aren't desirable places to work. What you're describing almost sounds like JustGetsBy isn't in the same clique as the owner and his star employee, so he ought to be considered for termination.

And, devil's advocate wise - were you not yourself terminated recently w/o cause from the "Camel" contract position because they just didn't like you, regardless of the work you actually performed? How did that feel?

The biggest pricks I've worked for (both FT and contract) readily and eagerly ejected people at various times due to trivial differences of personality and culture.
Besides, when companies take the easy way out and fire people for little cause instead of working on the problems in the relationship, they are weakening their ability to embrace the kind of diversity that real companies need badly. Some companies and many owners (of two bit sh*tholes) become addicted to the "fire!" word like crack cocaine.

I think it's much more constructive for employment to proceed on the basis of objective mutual needs and desires.  It's also a useful exercize in simply learning how to deal with people as individuals. Most of the stuff you've summarized could and should be recouched as objective employer needs or 'demands' in the context of "employee development", and should be gotten out of the context of "he's not cool". (Except for annoying behavior, that should be quantified and and critiqued in the same vein.)

If the guy doesn't "develop" in a set time, OK, fire him. But at least give the person a chance to perform against objective criteria.

Bored Bystander
Friday, June 13, 2003

Actually, I was fired from Camel for cause - not working 40 hour weeks. I was stupid to give them the excuse.

However, I will be the first to say that if management felt I was hurting the project, I should go. Sure, maybe managment's misguided, but that's up to *their* management to fix.

I would say that in the realm of wrongful termination I would probably have a case - almost definitely enough to get a settlement out of them. ("You let him go on travel then fired him for it? Come again?"). Would I sue? Hell no - they can run their project any way they like.

I wouldn't sue if they simply said "Philo, this isn't working out for us. There's the door. Take care"

BTW, anyone taken a stab at defining "for cause"? ;-)

Philo

Philo
Friday, June 13, 2003

Philo,

Regarding the lady with the good review that got fired.  She may be claiming discrimination of some type. She was doing fine and got fired and others did not.  If an employer cannot give a reason for firing her, they leave themself open to a discrimination charge. 

It may not be fair but the burden is on the employer to show that they don't discriminate.  Many companies therefore have policies about documenting problems and warning the employees before they can be fired.

It is also the case the many companies will settle rather than go to trial to avoid the cost of litigation and the bad publicity.

John McQuilling
Saturday, June 14, 2003

Philo, in my experience companies that fire people end up finding it incredibly difficult to hire. People just don't want to risk it, or simply don't want to work there.

I've been fired from so many jobs I've given up counting. I worked for a school in Kuwait that lost 90% of its staff every year, either through not renewing the contracts or having the staff refuse to renew. This went on for five years until the owners realized that maybe the problem was with the headmistress doing the firing and got rid of her.

I once lasted three hours as Director of Studies of a Language School in Madrid. I started work on a Saturday morning (which in itself annoyed me no end) and was fired because the owner saw me reading the newspaper instead of working at eleven in the morning. I told him he hadn't given me anything to do and he told me he hadn't hired me to do what I was told but to fuse my initiative. As the language school had no books, no furniture, no staff and no students I reckoned that was a little difficult but I told him I was using my initiative; I was looking through the classifieds for another job.

Then there was the brick factory that got through all of its staff every four months. I was on college vacation and some Moroccan mates who owed us a favour were working there and got us hired. The first day they put me with them to make stack the bricks to put in the oven; they weren't the best of teachers nor the most concscientious of employees and the stacks just got by. As luck would have it they transferred me to the other end of the oven the next day and my job was to unload the very bricks we'd stacked the day before. We had micro-managers who decided to show us how to do it, and I believe they were still alive when they lifted the pile of bricks of them, but wasn't around to find out.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, June 14, 2003

Some good comments here. As a consultant one of the really neat things is the number of different companies I get to work for. That means I get to see a lot of different management styles.

In reading the above the following stood out:

<quote>
The biggest pricks I've worked for (both FT and contract) readily and eagerly ejected people at various times due to trivial differences of personality and culture.
Besides, when companies take the easy way out and fire people for little cause instead of working on the problems in the relationship, they are weakening their ability to embrace the kind of diversity that real companies need badly
</quote>

Yes, the real end result is the the compnay suffers.

I have seen some of the companies I consult for let go some extremely talented and well liked employees for reasons of “trivial” personality clashes. It is amazing how often people are let go simply because of a small clash over some small event, or issue.

What was sad is that the manger who was obviously looking for a reason to get rid of this good employee had to justify the firing to higher ups. In fact, the manager had to look for reasons to justify the letting go of the employee to anyone around, otherwise it would not look good at all. (you don’t have to justify getting rid of a rotten employee....that is easy!). Of course, one has to ask why did the manger hire the employee in the first place? Why did the manager make such a mistake? Why did the company fail this employee?

What really was sad is this manager simply started taking work away from the employee. Then turned around and started telling everyone that the person was let go due to lack of work performance! Yea, right! It is also interesting that as a consultant, I am probably the only person that realized that work was being taken away from that employee. Often, it is seems that as a outside consultant, I have a much better picture of what is going on. Of course, I also don’t fall for lame excuses from managers trying to look good either. It is hard to pull the wool over my eyes.

The problem here is that two things happened here. First, a good talented person was rubbed out of the company. The result is a very bad experience for that employee who really did nothing wrong. I really did feel bad to see that employee go (very well liked). Further, it does mean that the company will have a harder and harder time keeping really good people. No one I know would work for a company that gets rid of good people like that. At least I will not! No doubt the next employee hired will not know what happened.

The instant a company becomes a place where people really don’t want to be there is the instant the company starts down the road of decline. I guess I have real high standards in this regards. I simply will never work for anyone who is not in the pursuit of excellence. Any organization that does not create an environment to let the best people excel is not worth working for. Any company that is not highly motivated is one I would never become an employee of. The instant a company start to function on issues of pride and pettiness, that is the time to move on.

I willing to bet that from now on that this manger will not hire talented people. When employees are more dumb, you can push them around more! Also, talented people are a threat to the manager. (the manager is a real control freak).

For most people the work environment is the number one thing in their lives.  In looking at my past memories of work enjoyment, the best memories are always when I have worked with VERY talented people. They simply are joy to work with.  Bright people tend to be more fun, and also tend to have a great sense of humor. Motivation is not needed with talented people and once the flight towards excellence grabs hold the work environment becomes pure magic and enjoyment.

In today’s competitive business world, the ONLY companies that will succeed are the ones that have figured out how to get good people, and make them happy.

There is no other formula for success here.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, June 14, 2003

Albert:

Unfortunately, most companies today are run like a "Survivor" series - a sick combination of popularity contest, backstabbing free for all, and ejection of the least politically adept. It happened to me in 1991, and I see it's really caught on. :-(

I think it's what happens when the overall business and cultural environment becomes polluted by too much desperation and short term thinking.

>>  In today’s competitive business world, the ONLY companies that will succeed are the ones that have figured out how to get good people, and make them happy.

True, but short term 'relief' and fingerpointing are the only actions allowed anymore in most places.  Enlightenment like this has gotta come from the top. If the owners think it's "neat" to see people under them backbite and blame each  other, justifying it as local Darwinism intended to increase the overall quality of the staff, there's little for an individual to do but get the hell out of Dodge...

Bored Bystander
Saturday, June 14, 2003

There are civilised countries however, where employees do have rights.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, June 15, 2003

Stephen Jones wrote

>I told him he hadn't given me anything to do and he told me he hadn't hired me to do what I was told but to fuse my initiative.

I fused my initiative years ago.

It interesting to read about all about the poor workers who have been unfairly treated. Well, I was a poor worker and I was well treated. When I say poor worker I mean I wasn't much good at my job. At one of my appraisals I was told that I should have been sacked years ago. I could only agree.  Despite this I managed to get to retirement age before they could sack me. I worked for a big firm in the UK. In the States I wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes.

Taffy
Sunday, June 15, 2003

The fact that you were a "poor worker" and still managed to last till retirement, actually proves the point people are making.

That often, being fired is quite arbitrary. I also suspect you're idolizing the States when you say you wouldn't have lasted ten minutes. This forum regularly hears about "Betsy's" who have not done any useful work in their company for the last fifteen years, and appear untouchable.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, June 15, 2003

Simon - I know some people who work in such a "civilized" country (UK). They cannot STAND that some of the incompetent people they work with can't be fired. They also know the things they can do to take advantage of the company, and some of them abuse them frequently.

These things all cost the company money. Cost the company enough money and the company has to lay off workers, or even goes bankrupt. Then people who are good, hard-working employees are out of business. That's fair? That's preferable?

Philo

Philo
Sunday, June 15, 2003

It's easy enough to lay someone off in the UK. You can do it within the first two years with no cost at all.

After that, if you can't prove dismissal was justified you'll be paying compensation, though not normally a great deal, and you can cut down on what you pay by negotiating a deal before it goes to the tribunals.

However the case in my experience is that the people everybody complains they can't sack are perfectly competent; it's just a question that their face doesn't fit.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, June 15, 2003

"No doubt the next employee hired will not know what happened."

I can't imagine how they would know, unless they're told by the other employees. I've been in an environment where I couldn't imagine how a new employee wouldn't know. You're right that consultants can look at a project (a) more objectively, and (b) with more perspective than an employee. I still regret not taking one of the consultants out for drinks on his last day, I really wanted to get the scoop on his view of the project.

"The instant a company becomes a place where people really don’t want to be there is the instant the company starts down the road of decline."

Unless it's a Fortune 500 company, in which case it'll chug by no matter how many divisions are disagreeable. It's the smaller companies that have to worry about the effect of miserable employees. And in this economy, employees really are completely dispensible.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, June 15, 2003

>>I know some people who work in such a "civilized" country (UK). They cannot STAND that some of the incompetent people they work with can't be fired.

Spot on. It's important for companies to be able to ride cycles by having flexibility on what is often their biggest cost - people.

Just look at what's happened to the Germans with their inflexible labour laws.

Yanwoo
Monday, June 16, 2003

Well, having rights does not stop a company from properly managing people, this includes disciplinary procedures and actually trying to fix whatever the problem is that stops someone doing their job.

Perhaps they are in the wrong job, but it was the company that hired them.

Yes there are occasions when people have to be summarily fired, but that in real terms is rare.

Although full employment rights don't kick in until the end of the second year an employee can still sue for wrongful dismissal if they can show it evidentially.

Having rights does not stop companies operating efficiently.  The difference is this, in the US the company is seen to be separate from all of the people that work for it, they are all under the same cosh.  Companies that succeed however recognise that they are made up of the people that work for them.

Having arbitrary employment policies does not make for stable or useful organisations.

Simon Lucy
Monday, June 16, 2003

What happened to the German's with their inflexible labour laws is that they have the highest productivity in the world and the average factory worker gets six to seven weeks of paid holiday a year and has the money to take it in warmer climes.

The problems Germany has been going through are all linked to the cost of reunification, which resulted in a massive tax increase for the inhabitants of the old Western Germany to pay for the collapse of industry in the East.

Most European labour laws have processes in place for consultation on lay-offs; the unions are normally the first interested in keeping the company afloat. The cost of sacking somebody is fairly small in Europe anyway; in Spain the most a company would have to pay would be 45 days pay for every year of service, and in the case of redundancies much less. It only costs money for those who have been with the company half their life or more; do you really think they should be sacked at the drop of a hat?

Stephen Jones
Monday, June 16, 2003

"What happened to the German's with their inflexible labour laws is that they have the highest productivity in the world and the average factory worker gets six to seven weeks of paid holiday a year and has the money to take it in warmer climes."

How much unemployment do they have?

Jim Rankin
Monday, June 16, 2003

Running 12-13% and mainly to do with Reunification. East Germany was the tech powerhouse of the Communist block, but its products were normally sub-standard for the West. So when the Eastern block economic system collapsed with the fall of the Berlin Wall most of the factories went to the dogs, and it was Western Germany that picked up the tab.

Unemployment has a lot to do with structural rigidity, and labour laws giving protection against arbitrary dismissal are only a small part of that. That doesn't stop bosses from claiming the opposite though because their aim is to save themselves some money, not to increase employment.

Unemployment will be normally lower in the States than in the EU because the internal market is much greater. Just think how much easier it is to relocate from Maine to Florida than it is to do so from Dover to Calais. In the second case you have to learn a new language, sell your house without any guarantee of finance for buying the new one and put your children into the remedial system of an entirely new school system, as well as having to waste a few days dealing with French bureacracy.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

someone mentioned about big companies just confirming employment dates, but you should know that they also give out salary.  Personally I was shocked to learn that.  Moreover coming from my boss who is a great guy but will never give reference apart from "worked from xx/yyyy to aa/bbbb was paid zzzzzz + bonuses".  On the other hand he will personally reccommend you to all his friends that are looking for someone like uoi.

tekumse
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

ok guys..heres a great question. I worked at a hospital, was having personal problems, drank before work, and went to work with the intentions of going straight in to ask to be sent home since it was to late to call out. I was heading to the NM office to ask  to be sent home,and of course was spotted, admitted into the Er until someone picked me up, and fired two days later.
I have been written up once before for a "violation of hospital policy" , and suspended w/out pay for an argument with a patients family, who just happened to be my old landlord, whom we had left on very bad terms. (She still has our security!).
I have applied for everything that I am over qualified for to jobs that pay 7.00 hr an I am not getting hired. I've lied, not putting this place, told the truth, explaining. Any help would be appreciated.  Do I just go with the diner job until I finish nursing school or what?

Drew Dawson
Thursday, May 13, 2004

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