Too many of us have had the experience of being fired from our jobs. Usually for no good reason. And by good reason, I mean for stealing, lying, using physical violence, not doing our job at all, failing to put in any effort at all, cursing out our boss. You know, big unacceptable insubordinate reasons.
In addition to being fired for no good reason, many of us who have been fired receive little or no severance pay. It’s up to the employer to decide if you should get any money to help you survive until you get another job. Sure, there’s unemployment. But I’m not sure that $400 a week (which is a maximum that you may not get and is more than is paid in some states) will equal what you lose in pay.
Being fired in the United States threatens one’s ability to maintain housing, buy food, pay for gas, replace clothing – you know, everyday survival things.
And the way people are fired, well, it’s brutal in many, many cases. You’re escorted out that day, not permitted to return. Maybe you can box up your things. Or maybe they are sent to you. If you have a company phone or computer, your access is shut off. One day you’re part of the group, the next day you’re not. It’s very disturbing to our brain’s need for safety and community.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Almost alone among Western countries, the United States has “employment at will” institutionalized in just about every state. That means an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. Employers will tell you that this means you can quit at any time for any or no reason. But let’s be serious. The employer is generally the party that will use this convenience.
In most Western countries, employment is contractual. Employers cannot fire you without going through a process of proving you deserve to lose your job. And if you do get fired, you will get some kind of severance pay.
My co-author and I decided to write a book about being fired because no one else has.
OK, that’s not quite true. People have written about how being fired was the best thing that happened to them.
We disagree with that. Being fired was traumatic and left scars.
We found nothing when we searched for books to help us cope with and process our emotional response to being fired. So we talked to each other and found healing. We soon found other women who had been fired who also found comfort and healing in talking about their experience. Women were grateful to find other women who would share their experience and listen to another woman’s. [Not so much with men, who were thankful for the “I’m so sorry, it stinks” but preferred to get into action instead of talk.]
That’s why we wrote our book Betrayed by Work: Women’s Stories of Trauma, Healing and Hope After Being Fired. We collected stories from 24 women, and put together suggestions for how to deal with being fired – practical and emotional.
We also talk about the toxic workplace culture that makes the work termination experience so brutal, cruel and just plain mean. Because we want it to change.
The book comes out in May 2021, from Mango Publishing. We hope you’ll take a look at it, and join us in starting a national conversation about a kinder way of job endings.