When my boss took me behind closed doors and reduced me to a sobbing, snotty mess, I knew I had to get out.
In the 90’s, after surviving a scary corporate merger, I got transferred to a new division. The team was familiar with my work and welcomed me on board with gusto. Like, they jumped for joy. (It was weird.) But I was overjoyed too. My new boss assured me he’d found money in the budget for me, for now.
For two years, I ran corporate events and received accolades from lots of people, including my boss. My first year was great. My second – stellar. My boss elevated me from manager to director. I was expecting an exemplary performance review and (hopefully) a big raise. But the anniversary of my second year came and went, and my review was curiously late.
I got nervous. I summoned all my courage and headed for HR. I asked the manager if there was a problem, and if so, was it me? His answer, in a word,
How could that be true? I mean excuse me, but I’d never even been late to work (well, maybe once), let alone shirked my duties.
Then he dropped a bombshell. He and my boss would explain it to me, tomorrow, behind closed doors. Oh. My. God.
I headed home in a daze. WTF? Had I stolen too many pencils? How many bogus sick days had I taken? Who saw me when I swiped that note pad? (OK, three note pads.) Where did I go wrong? Couldn’t figure it out to save my life, but I was a wreck. My legs kept buckling as I tried to make it to the subway. I didn’t sleep all night.
That morning, when I walked into my boss’s office, I was shaking like an old washing machine on the final spin cycle. He sat at his desk, arms crossed, flanked by his right-hand man and the HR manager. Their faces were grim. No coffee and danish. This. Was. Going. To. Hurt.
My boss, who once called me “the best event planner, ever,” ripped me to pieces. He claimed every banquet, show or meeting I’d planned had been a disaster. When I opened my mouth and fought back, he saw red. He leaned across the desk, and got in my face. With the look of an angry, snorting bull, he yelled,
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
I began to cry, and that’s when he and his cronies went in for the kill. It felt like they were taking turns at a huge machine gun, emptying rounds of ammunition into me. The side kick took the final shots.
“You’re a disgrace.”
“You disgust me.”
They had gone too far. I was hemorrhaging dignity, and tears.
They kept going. I was put on probation, and I had ninety days to shape up.
Wounded, but not destroyed, I still showed up at work every day. In rebuttal, I submitted congratulatory memos and letters I’d received over the years from my boss and others. Nobody cared.
When the shock wore off, I got it. This was about money. They wanted to shave their budget by getting rid of me and outsourcing my job.
A toddler could have handled it better with just five words.
“You go bye-bye now.”
So why didn’t they say they were “reorganizing,” give me a severance package, and everybody wins? Because even though they were paid tens of thousands of dollars more than me, they were morons. They were also cheap, greedy, and short-sighted.
As the end of my probationary period drew near, I sensed a softening in my boss’s attitude. And his side kick was suddenly cordial again. It didn’t take an “aha moment” to realize the following:
The wimps didn’t have the guts to throw me out.
After three months, my boss produced a
crock revised performance review. I’d
“improved,” and if I continued to do better, I might get a raise.
It was time for me to shut them down. Time to step out on faith.
The next day, I made an offer.
ME: “If you let me draw unemployment benefits plus severance pay, I’ll vacate the premises, for good.”
MY BOSS: “See ya.”
I had a deal. But I did have to sign a waiver of claim, so I couldn’t sue the bastards.
On that day, I opened the door to living my life as a successful entrepreneur.