About 20 years ago, when I was in a previous place of employment in another town, I had for a colleague someone who was, at least from the interactions I recall having with her, someone with quite an outgoing personality. I don’t remember her name, but I’ll just call her Roz for the sake of reference. Roz was friendly, but she could be brash. Roz was admittedly not perfect, but she radiated overconfidence. And Roz knew what she wanted to say, even if it meant saying it at the wrong time or setting.
Looking back on it, I admit I had a tendency to overlook all of Roz’s personality shortcomings and appreciate the fact that she did the work that needed to be done. Then again, so did our teammates, at least a couple of whom voiced their disgust of Roz to me in confidence. She’s lackadaisical, they’d tell me. She’s always on her cell phone at work. She’s not keeping up on her tasks. She makes quite a lot of errors. She’s a drag on our team. And I knew they were right, for at that time I routinely cared for our supervisor’s production reports and noticed that Roz was frequently on the low end of production and accuracy.
It all came to a head one day when our supervisor pulled Roz into a side office. In that company, or at least our department, managers normally didn’t send one of those e-mails to the team saying that so-and-so was no longer employed “effective immediately.” We would see their empty cubicle, put two and two together, and just move forward. It was slightly different with Roz, however, and it was by her own doing: She stormed out of that side office, shouted more than a few unkind and unprintable words at our boss (who was generally empathetic and supportive and really didn’t deserve Roz’s diatribes), gathered her belongings, and left in a huff, never to be seen again.
Two things were made plain that day for sure: One, everybody in the office heard of Roz’s departure that day. Our cubicle walls were very low, all the better for one-on-one interaction, and that allowed for Roz’s booming invective to be broadcast far and wide. The other is that a majority of those on our team were glad that Roz was given the boot. She was only wanting to get a paycheck and was disinterested in her work, they reasoned; and if losing one brazenly rude underachiever meant falling behind on a backlog of work… well, at least our team still had people who knew how to do the job.
After moving on from that company, I would be reminded of Roz’s departure whenever I would see one of those “organizational announcements” that so-and-so was no longer with the company “effective immediately,” and that we would be advised to bring up any questions or concerns regarding what they left behind to the supervisor. More often than not, even without knowing the facts, we (or at least I) would surmise that they were let go because their production didn’t meet goals, or that our supervisor was ordered to cut back on staff due to future work concerns. For the sake of everyone’s dignity, and to emphasize the supervisor’s empathy and command of their troops, their exits weren’t as dramatic as Roz’s was several years ago. They were likely led to the Human Resources department, given the bad news, and had their personal belongings brought to them before they exited the side door.
Just this past week, I was reminded again of the gravity of one of those “organizational announcements.” A couple of items as a preface: At my current work assignment, it is very rare for someone to be pushed out by management for whatever reason. If someone has to leave, it’s on their own accord with the gratitude and appreciation of the managers and the entire organization. (“Oh, they won’t be able to help us out this year? I’m sorry to hear that.”) Also, while ours is a small organization, we may not know every name of every person who works at… uh, let’s just call it our satellite office in another town, but we do know what they’re supposed to do and the importance of their tasks.
So it was with someone who I, in my 7+ months assigned to this organization, had never heard of, let alone met or knew of their role… or of why they were no longer part of the organization. The announcement of their departure, from their manager, was all too familiar: The “effective immediately…” subject line. The “[So-and-So] is no longer employed here” notice. The “please let us know if you have any questions” advisory.
But that message hat other lines that I had never seen in a similar e-mail. For one there was this advisory: “If you receive any outside inquiries about [So-and-So], simply let them know that they no longer work here, or better yet forward them to me.” Which was natural, I guess, what with our organization being rather small.
There was also this advisory: “Please make sure [So-and-So] no longer follows any and all of our social media accounts and vice versa.” There was also this: “We recommend that you also refrain from personal contact with [So-and-So] either through direct channels, e-mails, or social media.” Which got me to pondering, though nothing further than that: What did So-and-So do that was rash enough to deserve such a blackballing?
Again, I had never knew that this “So-and-So” was employed by this organization, let alone have any interactions with them. But I wonder how those who worked or directly interacted with them will remember them now? Will they appreciate what they had done for the organization? Or will they have enough of an awareness of what led to this person’s dissmissal to affect their judgement of So-and-So?
I can’t help but wonder myself how those I’ve worked with in the past remember me? For sure, there are a few who fondly remember me and have wished me nothing but the best. But what about the others, either those who were on the same team as me or sat in the same cubicle row as me? Do they remember me? Heck, do they even remember what I looked like? (Don’t answer that.) Do they ponder the reason I had to go? (It was beyond my control.) And if they did remember me, and appreciated my work, would they recommend me if they were asked to do so?
At least I can take solace knowing that, again, there are those who do remember me and would… nay, have provided endorsements of my good character and work ethic. And I know that I’m trying my best to make a positive enough impression on those I work with and for at the present time… so that when the time comes for me to step off on that next employment adventure, they will without equivocation tell the world, “If he joins your organization, you will have someone who make a positive contribution to your success…
“…and he’ll do so immediately.”