An individual’s character is not determined by the stumble.
An individual’s character is determined by the ability to stand back up.
We often accept self-characterizations bestowed by others without even realizing it, allowing negatives a room of their own within our very psyche, allowing the shove to prevent the stand.
During times of struggle, conflict, and termination, the tendency to grasp at old habits fuel an immediate journey to attain emotional safety… where comfort is found below the line of social visibility. Think about the time(s) you’ve been emotionally dismantled… how did you cope? Did you hide? Did you run? Did you stay down? Being fired from your job affects layers upon layers of that which defines us. I’m not saying terminations are not a necessary evil; I’m saying the process can lead to abuse.
Employee empowerment is not part of the equation during a termination. Strategic nonverbal communication, subjective semantics, and blatant crushing are an often used tactic patterned by management. As David shared more morning events, time for you to take a step back and remember the last time you were fired (or had done the firing).
David: “Bertha closed the door immediately after I entered. She followed me a few steps, marching all the way like a stiff combatant readying the ambush. A chair was leaned my direction; choices were stolen instantaneously while Mr. Farris sat in a predatory power pose two feet away.”
Danny: “Once the process began, were you given the opportunity to defend yourself or was fate tied by the two in control?”
David: “Like soul-malnourished sharks, the two attacked, suffocating any breath of resolve. I was a loser, they made sure I knew it, they made sure I believed it, they made sure I lived it.”
Danny: “The strategies of showcasing total control are common when it comes to employee terminations. Too often those taking charge push the intimidation role too far. Can you share the types of nonverbal messages being sent?”
David: “Bertha said little, she mostly stared blankly at the attorney. Her ability to look at me was limited either by of her lack of belief in the process or lack of belief in the cause, or so is my opinion. When she did speak, her tone was uncomfortable, matching eyes void of compassion or commitment. She sat without curve, simply robotic. Mr. Farris, on the other hand, performed as if he strived on the scent of blood, eager to seize. With a leaning forebode, he overshadowed any counter resolve. His mind, body, and soul strived on the powerless… the losers of the world. His tone, aggressive and cocky, drove one way, his way… resistance was futile.”
Danny: “Sounds like you being invited was meant to break your will, nothing more. I’m trying to understand, as you mentioned last time and the inviting email from Bertha where you being referred to as ‘silly’ comes into play. Perhaps it was the element of surprise on their part so you would be ill-prepared to counter any form of defense? Another typical offense by the home team. Anyway, what was going through your mind?”
David: “Oddly enough, being terminated was not what was going through my mind. What was going through my mind was the process. Why the drama? Why the rooster-stance? Why the complete destruction of another person’s character? My mind, without intent, ventured back to childhood and how my grandfather told me how I was a loser. My grandfather hounded that once a loser, always a loser. That’s what I thought about… his words ‘once a loser, always a loser’ elevated into the morning’s memory.”
Danny: “How could something like a simple termination loosen those memories?”
David: “Not sure why, they just did. Seems like my life details the life of a loser… when a good thing came my way, those in power always found a way to snub out hope. I’ve lost a great deal in my life, much more than most. For years our apathetic society defined me as a loser, of an individual not worthy of success or belief. Times like this morning confirm what my grandfather believed many years ago: ‘once a loser, always a loser.’”
Danny: “I’m sorry you had to endure this, no doubt the intent was not to terminate, but to intimidate you into total submission. My advice to you is that your willingness to stand up, open yourself to vulnerabilities, and not accept what your grandfather claimed, is what defines you… not the other way around. How did the discussion conclude?”
David: “I was given a direct command that if I ever stepped foot on this campus, the police would be notified and I would be arrested. I was told never to make contact with any staff (was told this several times) or students. Bertha then stated that my final compensation was enclosed in an envelope (she then handed me the envelope). I asked if this included compensation from month’s prior that was never paid out. She said no but would get with Jay.”
Danny: “They gave you a final check missing compensation? And you left simply hoping the money they owed would be paid at a later date? After the termination?”
David: “Yes. Then I was told an escort would show me the way out and to my vehicle. Nice, not only dehumanized within the office, I was showcased as a trophy, pumping the shark’s ego even more. I left, never looking back, was disallowed too.”
David’s grandfather may have believed “once a loser, always a loser,” but I do not subscribe to the motto.
If you are ever terminated, recognize it is NOT what defines who you are. You are the master of your universe, no one else. We’ll travel more with David next time when we ask the question “Should one beg or go (during a termination process)?”
If you have any questions or would like to add to the journey, contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org to see how I can help you. Be sure and have your peers join in on the conversation and adventure… they may thank you one very difficult day.
Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services
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