Consider telling the truth when you are fired


Amanda Congdon, co-founder of Rocketboom, got fired last week. Congdon performed a fake daily newscast, which was downloaded by 300,000 people each day. Her audience was bigger than Connie Chung’s.

Congdon announced the end of her participation in Rocketboom in her last video blog. Her partner, she says, proposed many stories to offer up in place of getting fired. But Congdon declined and said, “The Internet is all about being transparent.”

I don’t think it’s just the Internet, though. It’s the post-boomer generation. Authenticity is important in the new workplace — not just online. And it comes naturally to most young workers except when it comes to getting fired.

But really, getting fired is not that big a deal, and I think we can all take a cue from Congdon and stop being embarrassed about it.

In 1950, when you stayed at a company like you were married to it, getting fired was a big deal; it was like getting kicked out of the house by your spouse and having your clothes strewn across the front lawn.

But things are different now. People are averaging a new job every three or four years (one or two years if you’re under thirty-two) so getting fired is not such a big deal. You were probably going to leave anyway. And now you can take a long vacation.

Most people do not lose their jobs because they are incompetent. They lose their jobs because of some sort of personality clash. I have said a million times that you should try to get a long with everyone. But few people can do it all of the time.

So it seems to me that the new way to get fired is to let everyone know it. Congdon is not alone. Star Jones, for example, was careful to tell people she did not leave her spot at The View but was fired. Like Congdon, Jones says her boss wanted her to lie. And she thought it would be best for her career if she didn’t.

The most reliable way to get the kind of job you want next is to let people know what you want. And how can you be honest with people about what you’re looking for next if you are pretending to have quit a job you like? How can people help you if they don’t know what you want? This is why I like the idea of saying you got fired.

And, while I’m at it, what’s up with saying “taking time to be with my family”? That is absurd. First of all, only men say it. If women said it, which they don’t, people would think, “She’ll be out of the workforce for fifteen years.” When men say it, people think, “He got fired. He’s looking for a job.”

The most recent example of this is Jeff Jordan, who worked for eBay as president of PayPal, until he suddenly felt the urge to spend time with family this month. I am not buying that. And I'm not alone. Others are commenting on the credulity of the claim. And Jack Shafer disparages the phrase in his article: More time with the family – Right, and the check is in the mail.

So consider the bravery and forthrightness of Congdon and Jones. When you get fired, consider the idea that it is not a time to be embarrassed but a time to learn. One of the best indicators of how successful someone will be is how well they bounce back from crisis. So let people know the true you, and they will be more able to help you bounce back with more success the next time around.

7 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Mike. There wasn’t any more. Just a flailing AND, now deleted.

    How to handle typos on a blog is a question in my mind.

    Having had a real, live editor for most of my writing life, I have not developed a great eye for a typo, and I am surprised (horrified) what spellchecker misses.

    I have taken to making changes to a post after I’ve posted. I’m not sure if this is okay to do. I’m not sure if everyone who has subscribed to the RSS feed received ten versions of my Amanda Congdon post because that’s how many times it took me to get her name right each time it appears.

    I hope no one is noticing. But, taking my own advice, I offer this humble moment of proofreading transparency.

  2. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    In saying “I was fired” shouldn’t you also provide some story as to why?

    Presumably being “authentic” might lead to burning bridges in an industry, which could be detrimental to one’s career.

    Saying nothing could invite as many stories and rumors as the age old “time with family” excuse.

  3. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Yeah, that’s a good point. You cannot be whiny. Just matter-of-fact.

    Inside the Jack Shafer article that I refer to there’s a relevant quote:

    “Richard Heseltine, the chairman of the Overseas Investment Trust, resigned earlier this month in opposition to the business plan forced on him by his superiors. Heseltine declined to enumerate his disagreements with his bosses but said: ‘Put it this way, it’s nothing to do with ill health, it’s not to pursue other interests, it’s not to spend more time with my family.'”

  4. Erik
    Erik says:

    The link about how absurd it is to use the excuse that you’re taking time with your family is hilarious – great find!

  5. Mike
    Mike says:

    Well, let me just say I’ve been in a position to hire people for years and would be extremely turned off by someone who told me they just got fired. I understand Gen Y “works different” but perhaps use some judgment when talking to Gen X or a boomer. Congdon and Jones aren’t exactly everyman.

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