The Silicon Valley Voice

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Work Daze: From Hired to Fired


There are many articles with advice on how to get ahead in your career. What you need is advice on how to get ahead in your career when your career has hit the wall.

You may be surprised to learn that even people who work really hard to avoid working really hard can find themselves blindsided by termination, however warranted.

You’ve managed to hang on to your job for so long, with bosses who are so clueless, that you never imagined they’d identify you as a malignant and unproductive carbuncle on the rump of the corporate corpus.


This is where Alison Doyle comes in. Doyle is “one of the one of the industry’s most highly-regarded career experts,” according to her author’s bio on One of her specialties is giving expert career advice to people who have just seen their careers blow up. Or so I concluded after reading a recent post, “When an Employer Can Fire You By Phone or Email.”

Frankly, the possibility of getting fired by email is almost worse than learning that your manager can see you when you cover your eyes in a staff meeting, chanting: “I’m not here. I’m not here.”

But if you have any hope that the Geneva Conventions prohibit email firings, you’re out of luck. Employers can fire you over email, over Twitter, even over Facebook. (Facebook is probably the worst kind of digital firing,  because all your co-workers can “like” it.)

Fact is, employers can fire you using skywriting if they want,  and if they can spell, which is not a sure thing. As Doyle points out, an employer “doesn’t have to be nice when firing you.”

Since your employer isn’t trying to be nice while employing you, you have to wonder why all firings aren’t handled quickly and efficiently by email. The flimsy fantasy of “staff morale” is the reason given, but I don’t believe it.

The real problem with an email firing is that you can easily subvert it by not checking your email. Never open your email and you could continue working for years, though you’ll never know if you won the eBay auction for a cornflake in the shape of Illinois. (You didn’t. I did, and for only $1,350!)

If you are too addicted to your email to quit, the morale issue still works in your favor. “Word of harsh firings can reverberate through an organization,” Doyle writes, “and impact productivity and retention of key employees.”

Unfortunately, for a keyless employee like you, the most common prescription for a humane firing is worse than an email—”a meeting with a Human Resources representative.”

Most people would rather jump off a bridge than jump into a meeting with HR. Yet, there you are, going “over benefits and any other conditions for your separation,” while sitting across the desk from your executioner.

Heck, even Henry VIII provided a blindfold.

Your role in this discussion is to make sure “your employer provides all the benefits that are outlined in your employee manual.”

You remember your employee manual, of course. It was given to you on the first day of work and has always stayed close at hand, shoved under the annoyingly short leg of your desk to keep it from rocking. (As they say in HR, “Don’t come a knocking if this desk is rocking.”)

Frankly, it is very unlikely that you will have any benefits. In fact, the company may actually expect you to provide benefits to them. For example, they could force you to return all the staplers, sticky notes and mouse pads you have pilfered over the years. Or they may let you keep your booty, but only in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement.

This is a legal document contractually obligating you to never bad-mouth the company. In your case, they may demand an additional promise—you never admit to working for the company.

You can understand why this would be so important to management. Acknowledging they actually hired you could be devastating to their reputation.

If the experience of being fired leaves you seeking retaliation, Alison Doyle recommends that you stifle.

I disagree.

If you are fired by email, feel free to write a blistering email right back. Copy your co-workers and the entire management team. People will be so surprised at this burst of productivity that the termination will be rescinded. Make the email nasty enough and you may even get transferred to HR.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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