In the January 8, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wants to quit or get fired.

Question

If a person has a choice, what’s better — to quit a job or get fired?

Nick’s Reply

fired

Some suggest that the answer is obvious — quitting is better because then you won’t have a record of being fired. Who wants to say they got fired or terminated? And who wants to explain why they got fired?

I think what’s better is not so clear. Here are a few things to consider. (Please note that we’re assuming that if you got fired, it was not for truly egregious or illegal behavior.)

The sucker punch

Some companies that want to fire you will “give you the opportunity to resign instead,” implying they’re doing you a favor. It’s a common pitch offered by an HR manager. But it can be a sucker punch, especially if you’re losing the job through no fault of your own; for example, the company is experiencing a downturn.

In all of the 50 United States, if you quit your job you likely forego unemployment benefits because you chose to leave. When you quit, the employer saves money. According to NOLO, whether you can collect unemployment may depend on the reason you quit. (Unemployment Benefits: What If You Quit?) That can be a hefty price for quitting.

I might prefer to get fired if I have a choice, and that’s not just because I might lose unemployment benefits.

What’s on your record?

Many people shudder at the thought of having “fired” on their record. But that record is not public or easily accessed. An employer that fired you is usually loathe to disclose it during a reference check for fear of getting sued. So I’m not sure your record will be a problem.

However, if you got fired because you did something really bad, or because you did a truly lousy job, you have a very different problem — a bad reputation. A bad rep will grow and grow and follow you around. Employees with bad reps may not be exposed via formal reference checks, but back-channel chatter about them will likely circulate.

A badge of honor

Some employers are known to be terrible places to work. Getting fired can be a badge of honor. Emotionally, it might even be empowering. And it might even signal to a competitor that you’re a nice catch!

If you’re going to explain being fired, keep it brief and focus on what you can do to help the new employer — and why you are worth hiring. But don’t worry so much about getting fired. It’s not the end of the world. See Fired for my ethics!

Notice the time

If you get fired, your job is usually instantly over. If you quit, you likely are stuck with giving two weeks’ notice. Notice the difference. That’s time you could spend looking for a job you really want, or time on vacation to regroup. I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to get fired — but if you don’t really want to quit your job, don’t let getting fired scare you.

Legal recourse

If you quit a job, it’s your choice. If you are unwillingly terminated, you may have legal recourse. For example, the action may in fact have been discriminatory or it may have been done in violation of some law or written company policy.

If you’re going to get fired, consult an attorney. Know your rights. You might not have that option if you quit.

Why did you get fired?

People who get fired usually fear being asked why they left their last job. What if you have to admit you were fired? (See How much should I say about getting fired?)

First, you don’t have to admit anything. (Of course, you should not lie. Declining to answer a question is not lying.) Why you left a job is private — and I think that’s a legitimate answer.

But, “Whoa, there!” an uninitiated and naive career coach will shout. “If you don’t answer the question, an employer will find it suspicious and reject you!”

It’s a matter of how good you are at declining to answer and shifting the discussion to what really matters. For example, your abilities and your references:

“I’d prefer to leave it at the fact that my employer and I parted company. You will find that my references are excellent. I’m here because I believe I can show you how I’d do this job more profitably for you than anyone else. Would you like me to show you how?”

Yes, they can reject you. But if you fear you’ll get rejected anyway because you were fired, why disclose it at all? Take your chances on a different approach! What really matters is whether you can prove that this employer needs you.

If you are a highly desirable hire, all kinds of factors can be put aside, including why you left your last job. So please hear me: What matters is demonstrating that the employer needs you. That’s the negotiating position you want to cultivate. See Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.

We’re all in the same boat

Now comes the fun part that frantic job seekers are too nervous to realize. The odds that the manager interviewing you has also been fired at some time are greater than zero. Most managers understand that getting fired doesn’t necessarily mean you did something wrong or that you failed at the job.

It might have been a poor match; the company might have experienced a downturn; there may have been a personality mismatch with the boss; or, the company that fired you might be — yes — inept.

So, politely ask the hiring manager, “Have you ever been fired?” If you’re afraid to ask that question, then you probably aren’t ready to have a job interview. This is a serious business exchange where you must ask questions as tough as the manager is asking you. Such a candid discussion can be a great way to break the ice and find common ground.

Whether you quit or get fired, check these tips about how to handle parting company with your employer: Quit, Fired, Downsized: Leave on your own terms.

Would you rather quit or get fired? Why? What are the upsides and downsides people should consider?

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44 Comments
  1. Interesting topic. I have to say that I’ve had many jobs throughout my career as a contractor, almost all were awful due to very poor management. I’ve quit two jobs with nothing else lined up, and I’ve also been lured away to another gig twice because the money and opportunity were too good to pass up. No regrets ….I’ve also experienced being laid off when the contract was cancelled due to all manner of factors, but essentially, lack of work. Because of the “temporary” nature of contracting, my experience has shown me managers who use that status as a threat, and I’ve been shown the door completely unfairly once or twice.

    I’ve never explained a reason for being let go, the contracting status usually helps in that regard, “the contract ended”…. I personally think no one needs to know the specifics because they’re almost always related to a toxic environment and in my honest assessment, management that was hostile, dishonest, didn’t train well, and completely unsupportive of its employees. The person on the other side of the desk in an interview could be just as devious as your former boss so who’s zooming who? Interviews are not confessionals and we need to get away from the idea that we need to be completely upfront during the interview process ….who decided some HR person of hiring manager is our judge and jury?

    I don’t believe in reputations as it all boils down to considering the source. At nearly 60 years of age, I can only vouch for myself and work ethic, and am proud of my contributions regardless of what any past employer could say. The other side of the coin is what would other employees say of that boss or employer in general? Thank goodness for sites like Glassdoor for such information.

    People can say anything about anyone, so in the end, all anyone can do is stay true their moral code and seek out lhealthy environments that foster their talents.

    I don’t take any of this too seriously as my faith determines who I am, and whose I am … I am protected in that regard. From this vantage point, I think most of workplace culture is smoke and mirrors, high school judgments and cronyism, affecting either to the detriment or the success of a person’s “identity” and performance perception.

    To answer today’s question, To quit or be fired, it really depends on your finances and how much you can bear. I’ve had bosses that literally yelled at people, who became hysterical, or were quiet while giving dirty looks and talking behind people’s backs. I’ll say it is the best feeling when you can put your notice in and walk away from hateful people, having planned and budgeted for your day of freedom.

    • A Face in the Crowd: wonderful attitude and extremely perceptive. (Not to mention a terrific writer!)

    • @Face: “Interviews are not confessionals and we need to get away from the idea that we need to be completely upfront during the interview process ….who decided some HR person of hiring manager is our judge and jury?”

      This needs to be stapled to all our foreheads.

      I compliment you for standing on your own faith and knowledge about yourself.

  2. A minor point, but with today’s “at will” employment, giving notice may mean being immediately escorted out the door. It happens that at my previous job – whatever other issues there were – they sent me packing the following day but paid me for my notice period. However, people can’t count on that.

    If losing two weeks pay would hurt, it’s something to keep in mind and have a plan for. In my case, I was intending on taking a year off, so getting the “at will” deal would have more an insult than an injury.

    • @Timothy Byrd: Your point is spot on, and we have a recent example of that with how President Trump handled (very badly, I’ll add) General Mattis’ resignation. It was mean and petty. Mattis had resigned, but indicated that he’d stay on as Sec’y of Defense until the end of February 2019. President Trump didn’t honor that, but then “fired” him after Mattis gave his notice. Or rather, Pompeo let Mattis know that Trump didn’t want him any longer.

      So this happens at very high levels, and very publicly.

      I was recently fired, supposedly for cause, but I never had a job performance review, and when I asked what specifically I hadn’t done right, I was told that I no longer fit in and they didn’t want me. I later learned from someone else that I had been routinely made fun of because I didn’t have tats, didn’t hang out with the others (I worked nights and Saturdays, the others worked days). I also learned from her that 6 others had been fired, all supposedly for cause, and like me, none of them had ever had job performance evaluations, were not corrected when they supposedly did something wrong, and weren’t informed of policy changes. We were all part time. I felt awful for a while, but now I’m glad to be out. If adults decide to let someone go because she’s not covered in tats, or because she upheld the old policy (having never been informed of the new policy), then good riddance.

      I’m in the same boat. I’ve been thinking about how I will answer the question “why did you leave your last job?”. Honesty, but not too many details, and absolutely no slamming of high schooler mentality. No one wants to hear a candidate criticize a former employer or old boss. I have a good reference from a former dean, so it isn’t as if everyone with whom I used to work hated me. I’ve another former colleague who quit a few years ago when the old dean retired. He and I worked very well together and were a good team.

      The only thing I am worried about is whether a former colleague would be vindictive. She had demonstrated a mean, nasty streak a couple of times towards others (none of them are working there any longer), and I’d always thought that we got along, but after hearing from the one who told me about how I was mocked and laughed at for not having tats, for not joining in with them after hours (which were never my after hours), I’m not so sure. I’m not going to risk it. If it gets to the stage of providing references, I won’t list her.

  3. I’ve been fired, more than once, and so have that experience and perspective. As with so many things in this topsy-turvey world of career development and employment searching, the bottom line is … it depends, as reflected in Nick’s comments. One of my more major firings, after filling out a state questionnaire (I did not protest my firing) was that I received unemployment insurance for the period I was not working, so apparently my employer had stepped over the “legal” line in letting me go (and in a period of some four months four people from the same department were fired, so perhaps there was something going on besides job performance).

    • @Chris: I’ve been surprised by how many employers will not contest an employee who quits and files for unemployment benefits. I ascribe this largely to HR folks who actually care about people — they often have the power to let the benefits flow.

      • In this case I was informed a month or so later that the employer tried to fight the state’s decision, and tried to have my unemployment payments stopped, but that the state overruled them. Be that as it may, as others have stated here, one thing we absolutely don’t want to do is badmouth our former employer or try to make excuses.

  4. I’ve been fired, downsized out of a job, resigned, and just recently was told my position was eliminated. When asked by interviewers and recruiters about these jobs, I briefly explain the circumstances. The answers seem to be accepted with no judgement. I don’t feel the need to not be truthful about it. Genuine honesty goes a long way and is most often appreciated and respected.
    I live in Florida and was approved for unemployment benefits for the jobs from which I resigned (and for the ones in which I was fired). Also, Florida, like most all of the states, is an At Will state. The way I see it-if the employer can fire me “at will”, I can resign “at will”.

    As to the question would it be better to quit or get fired-it depends on the circumstances.

  5. I’ve always resigned, having never been in the position of being fired. I was raised with the notion that “being fired” was universally “bad,” but the discussion here helps me to see it’s not quite so clear-cut. Thanks for the other perspective!

  6. I was fired from my previous company after an acquisition. A colleague was retained briefly for the transition, and then let go. The company threatened to go to the state to stop his unemployment checks, unless he hired on with their 3rd-party consultants. The consultants let him go. He appealed and won reinstatement due to duress and harassment from our former employer, who did not show up for the hearing.

    My wife was terminated. The company fought to stop her filing for unemployment. The agency found in her favor and called the company’s action egregious.

    • @Jim: I love it when people fight back and win!

    • Just curious; why would a company try to fight a former employee getting unemployment benefits? After all, I suppose these benefits are paid for by tax $$, not the company?

      (Being Norwegian, not American, I may miss something obvious to Americans).

      • Good question Karsten. Employer and employee make contributions into the state unemployment fund. In some US states, the employer contribution increases based on how many employees are fired. This approach is meant to discourage wholesale firings, and dumping ex-employees on benefits provided by the state.

      • I am not a lawyer / expert on this, but as I understand it:

        Unemployment payments in the US are supported by employers through an assessment (i.e., a tax) based on an employer’s total payroll. The assessment generally ranges from 1 to 8 % and the more employees who are fired or laid off the higher the assessment, and the fewer who are fired or laid off the lower. Employers have the option of disagreeing with (fighting) a state’s determination that a particular employee should receive unemployment payments. Thus it is in an employer’s best interests to not fire / lay off employees, and / or to challenge unemployment payments. See this site for more information:

        https://smallbusiness.chron.com/companies-pay-percentage-unemployment-18711.html

        Employees do not pay into an “unemployment fund,” only employers. See this site:

        https://bizfluent.com/info-7757223-employee-pay-unemployment.html

        PS – We all know that “taxes” don’t just magically appear out of thin air (except, apparently, in the US where we are now some $20 trillion in debt) but they originate in levies by the government against employers and employees. So while your statement about taxes is correct as far as it goes, ultimately you and I (if we are working) are paying for government services / support that we and our fellow citizens receive.

  7. A prior employer fired me for not agreeing to work during my long-scheduled vacation. “Your vacation was Monday through Friday; we wanted you to work Saturday,” they explained. The story has triggered belly laughs in the people who interviewed (and hired!) me for each ensuing job.

    • @Untasered: That’s a new one to me! Great story — leverage it for all the laffs you can!

  8. This is a very provocative topic with educational comments. As usual, Nick has provided a much-needed different perspective.

    I have always found it ironic that professional sports coaches/managers can get fired and it rarely affects their future prospects. Or when players are “cut” (terminated), they usually find another team willing to sign them. The kicker who missed the game-winning field goal for the Chicago Bears a few nights ago may not be with them next season; however, missing that kick likely will not end his NFL career. Perhaps even at an elite level, pro athletes are deemed fungible and/or the available replacement pool is deemed rather narrow.

    In Italian professional soccer, when the head coach/manager gets fired, he stays on the team’s payroll until finding another position. In some cases at smaller clubs, he is hired back during the same year if his replacement fails to deliver.

    Obviously, outside of the sporting milieu, we are all conditioned to interpret getting fired negatively and as a career blemish. I once worked for a man who viewed anyone quitting his firm very personally. He would not communicate any further once a person gave two weeks’ notice. In fact in one case, he fired a young woman the day she gave notice.

    To quote Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.” :-)

    • @Steve: Then we have public officials and high-profile executives who get literally busted and found guilty of bad behavior — and some other big corp hires them for big bucks!

  9. In the end it’s about attitude. Anyone who remains an employee knows the potential of either getting fired or leaving a job for whatever reason. In today’s business environment the probability factor is that you will be terminated at some point. So be it, that’s life. Your attitude will play a major part in the next job interview. It’s a matter of sales; you are selling yourself to a potential new employer. As such, successful sales closures occur when the salesman retains control of the presentation. Gain control of the interview at the very beginning. In doing so, you can eliminate the question of being previously fired by conducting the interview and asking pertinent questions. This comes from researching the company prior to the interview. Take control, exhibit power and eliminate this nonsense. Make yourself desirable and the question becomes moot.

  10. In the United States, concerning unemployment insurance.

    If the employer does not contest your claim, you get the insurance. It’s something to ask about at the end of the job.

    Resigning under duress sometimes qualifies as getting involuntarily terminated, and you can get UI payments.

    Getting let go for not doing a “good enough” job isn’t grounds for denying UI either.

    Always apply and let your state agency decide. Just don’t lie on the initial application, and during any hearings or phone calls.

  11. I’ve been waiting for this question in the Headhunter Community for almost ten years. (If I missed that issue before–my bad!) As usual, the comments here are insightful and encouraging.

    When I was tossed out of my thirty-year gig after an acquisition, it took only a few weeks for me to fall into clinical depression. While digging myself out of that hole, one of Nick’s posts were “Getting Fired Is a Badge of Honor”. I’ve kept a hard copy of that post nearby ever since. While it wasn’t the only thing that kept me from sinking completely into the abyss of depression, it helped immensely. My apologies for taking ten years to thank Nick for that, and my thanks to the rest of the community for all the support and encouragement over the years.

    Half way through my psychotherapy, my shrink said, “I’m sure that you know this, but I have to ask you again to make SURE that you know this: You do know that it wasn’t your fault?”

    The complications of the whole story would fill half a book, so let’s just say for now that at the time, I only half-heartedly agreed with him. It took several more years after the loss, and my wife echoing the shrink’s sentiment before I fully accepted that there really was nothing that I could have done.

    Before I had fully recovered from the first bout of depression, I got fired again, but this time I did not fall into deeper depression.

    Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me describe the timeline.

    At the time of the acquisition, the PR spew from both the buyer and the seller left most of us on the “being bought” end relatively unconcerned. We were absorbed into the payroll, training was initiated, and we were made to feel like part of the family we were about to join.

    We were treated as equals, and with great respect.

    But before the ink even dried on the deal, the Borg (as the assimilators came to be lovingly referred to) began shutting down all the operations. Suddenly, “the respected competitors/future colleagues” were the scum of the industry. If we were to write about this in The Holy Book referred to by Firesign Theatre in 1972 (Chapter One, Verse One, from the Book of Holes), we were not knowledgeable and competent people in our field, but instead, we “knew not our holes from the ass on the ground.”

    My thirty-five years of dedication, study, and development in both the industry and the field were of no use to the Borg.

    And resistance really was futile.

    I had heard that people sometimes pressured people into quitting, but never in eons did I ever think that such a thing would ever happen to me.

    Silly me.

    That is EXACTLY what happened, but I was too stupid and frightened to do anything about it except to NOT QUIT.

    It paid off. I was offered “the industry standard” severance package, and collared my full run of unemployment insurance that held out until about a week before I got my new job some twenty-plus weeks later.

    When that job didn’t work out, I got another full run of unemployment because I did not do anything inappropriate. This second run, again, held out another twenty-plus weeks until about a week before I found my survival job, which I managed to hold onto for six years until I reached full retirement age.

    I got my mojo back about seven years into the ordeal, which started circa 2010, and as I enter my tenth year after the incident can pretty much confirm that my depression is in remission. At the moment, I’m “theoretically retired”, which helps, but now I struggle with survivor’s guilt because I know that a good number of the twenty million Americans that got hit about the same time I was hit weren’t so lucky.

    Unless you are in environmental danger (physical or chemical conditions that are unsafe), or someone is actually trying to kill you, I recommend that you carefully allow yourself to be fired. I was horribly disrespected, but not threatened with death.

    Of course, if they are forcing you to do something illegal, you might want to snitch some pertinent documents and high-tail it otta there.

    • @X: You’re welcome :-). Hearing this story is recompense enough!

  12. I’m surprised that being fired is even a relevant issue any longer as unprovoked and random firings have become common since the 90’s. It’s more about poor management skills.

    • What’s surprising is that the angst about getting fired remains nowadays — I suppose it’s a natural fear, or maybe something employer promote in interviews to put candidates off balance. As someone pointed out here, what matters is your faith in yourself.

      • It used to mean something to be fired – now it’s just an exercise in non-thinking behavior. And yes, it is used to induce fear (control). Mighty toxic IMHO.

  13. I got fired once – other times I have been laid off with notice. In every one of these cases I was not surprised by the end result. Other times I went looking for another job, found one, took the job, then resigned from my old job. It was always the right move.

    Keep taking the pulse at work. You will know when it’s time to leave. I prefer leaving under my own power. PS: There was one time I left without a job offer. I found out later that they were going to fire me. I may have lost some benefits, but I kept my dignity. That was priceless.

    • I agree wholeheartedly on the dignity point.

      A few days ago, while going through some boxes of old possessions, I stumbled upon an old business card of mine that reminded me of a difficult situation where I was quite proud of being able to preserve my dignity.

      Many moons ago, I worked for Company A, which decided to merge with Company B, forming Company C. I had my doubts that the combined entity would be harmonious, but went along with the plan to demonstrate that I was the quintessential “team player.” Sure enough, within six months, the fur started flying between the principals, and Company C’s business began to fall apart at the seams. As part of a messy dissolution process, the prior owners of Company B then terminated me without cause, enraging the prior owners of Company A, who subsequently announced their intention to restore Company A to its pre-merger status and wanted me to remain with them. I politely declined, having been led down a primrose path by them, and extricated myself completely from the situation. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my career, but on that day, I declared that I would no longer be someone else’s pawn. I guess that I’ve kept my business card from Company C all these years as a reminder of my triumph over adversity.

      To this day, I don’t know if I was fired because I’m not sure if Company B’s principals had the legal right to terminate me without the consent of Company A’s principals, and I wasn’t privy to the merger contract. However, I did apply for unemployment benefits, which were approved by someone. I pounded the pavement relentlessly and landed another job within three months. So these days, when I read advice to the effect of “Do NOT quit your job under any circumstances unless you have another job lined up,” I have to chuckle and simply presume the adviser has never walked a mile in my shoes.

      • @garp: When I did leave a job without having another one lined up, staying would have been worse than quitting. I was planning to enter graduate school anyway. I even got a job offer along the way. I turned down the job offer, went back to graduate school, and launched a new career for awhile (I eventually returned to my more lucrative original career).

        All that said, ask yourself if it would be easier to be unemployed than to work at a particular job. In my case it was. On that day I took control of my life. Since I would have been fired anyway, I did the right thing (they did give me some severance, but I did not get unemployment).

        If you quit one job without having another lined up, yes, there will be consequences. There will also be consequences if you stay. Your health is one thing that you have to consider.

  14. I blame unemployment “insurance” for the behavior of HR and companies when it comes to letting somebody go–either officially or via “constructive termination” by making the life of the target miserable–as well as the stigma that is attached.

    Because of unemployment insurance and how much an employer is charged, they will do anything to avoid firing somebody without what is considered legal cause, except in the unavoidable cases of wholesale layoffs. So they’ll take actions to ensure the target quits. Or they’ll fabricate a case. The end result is that becauase firing somebody without cause is something HR doesn’t want on their books, being let go from any job is viewed as proof of the employee’s guilt or incompetance. And even when you quit a job–firing the company and/or boss–prospective employers are likely to think you’re bullshitting and were actually fired, unless you’re in a profession or locale that puts employees in the driver’s seat.

    This is just a hypothesis of mine, but I suspect that before UI came into being, changing jobs for whatever reason was much less of an issue for all involved.

  15. Even if you are fired, HR usually won’t contest unemployment insurance. And if you have your future employer ask for HR of the previous job, they usually tell the employment dates and that is it.

    So make sure this will occur before you leave, but usually this is the answer.

    If they do contest UI, then appeal. In my experience and my friends, you usually win.

  16. @Nick: I realize that no matter how well I do my job that any day can be my last with at will employment. Getting fired is not so bad in and of itself. The economic ramifications are. Even so, I have always found a new job when I need it.

  17. Sometimes it is better to jump than be pushed. In 2014, I worked at a small oil company, which was deep in the red due to incompetent management and bad governance, and I had already started thinking about the next step.

    Then, a new major shareholder, with background from investment banking, demanded a seat at the board, and immediately realized the situation. The company started a long road of restructuring and strategy change. The official story was to become a better oil company with better exploration strategy, but it soon became clear that the real plan was to butch it and sell the assets.

    The company originally had offices in four towns. Two were closed. Some junior people were let go with severance packages, but we seniors were allowed to relocate to one of the two remaining offices.

    Instead, I turned around, applied and got my current job. the whole process from first email straight to the CEO to hiring took only a week. (In fact, this no-BS, no-bureaucracy is one reason I still work here. The CEO has promised us we will never have a HR department! :) )

    The CEO of the company I left said he was disappointed when I handed in my resignation, although the understood that relocation was difficult. Well…five months later the company reversed the whole relocation, basically a way to weed out the employees without having to pay more severance. Exactly as I had predicted they would.

    This happened in the spring of 2015, when the big oil downturn had started. I was lucky to stay in business. Had I waited until I would have been shredded in the next round, it would have been much more difficult. Some of my former colleagues from that time have left the oil business entirely.

  18. I found this article via LinkedIn. Although it’s primarily about age discrimination, there are some comments and personal stories related in it that pertain to this discussion as well. For example: “Quitting a job carries far greater risk for older workers than for younger ones, both because it’s harder to get rehired and because there’s less time to make up for what’s lost in being out of work.”

    https://www.propublica.org/article/older-workers-united-states-pushed-out-of-work-forced-retirement

  19. I’m 53. For now my job is secure. Today I got a job offer from another company. I agree that age discrimination is alive and well, but lately, what employers tell me is they want experienced people. Are employers getting wiser?

  20. @Karsten:

    Here in Ill-annoy the employer pays UI. A few years back I had a small business (S corp) where I and my spouse were the ONLY employees. Guess what – I STILL had to pay UI, even though the chances of me firing myself or my spouse were zero. Now in what world does that even make any sense?

    So stupid. But then again for the time being I find myself in a state that’s stuck on stupid, and constantly looking for new and creative ways to pick our pockets more often and ever deeper.

  21. It doesn’t matter. Here’s why in narrative form.

    (Female Dog) #1: “You’re a job hopper. None of my clients will want you, so I won’t be presenting you — ever.”

    ME: “But it wasn’t my fault. Each one of those facilities closed.”

    (Female Dog) #1: “It doesn’t matter.”

    (Female Dog) #2: “There’s an employment gap on your résumé, so we won’t be talking with you.”

    ME: “But that ended three years ago. I’ve been working continuously since then.”

    (Female Dog) #2: “It doesn’t matter.”

    So, you see, it doesn’t matter. But, if you can arrange your affairs to collect your unemployment insurance, by all means do so. You paid for it; it’s your right.

  22. The “jump instead of be pushed” sentiment rings true to me. I’ve had a manager once tell me point-blank “why would I want someone else’s garbage?” after I recommended someone for a job we had open who had been laid off from their old job.

    There is an undeniable stigma that someone who saw the writing on the wall and bailed on their own volition is more valuable/savvy than the dope who didn’t see the signs and got whacked by the hatchet man.

    This is not my opinion to be perfectly clear; you can have a great worker who got genuinely blindsided and you could have a schlub who’s just been lucky enough to stay one step ahead of the spider. How do you overcome this perception of being fired as a dent in your worth in the eyes of a hiring manager?

  23. In my case, I ‘chose’ to be let go (by not leaving on my own) … which is not exactly the same as being fired. My organization was suffering financially and eliminating jobs as a result, including mine. This is something everyone is familiar with and everyone understands. Losing a job for this reason lost its stigma long ago. Meanwhile, I was able to get severance benefits and unemployment benefits.

  24. You mention “back-channel chatter” about employees who have been fired. Is there a way to combat this, especially if you suspect the chatter is inaccurately portraying your behavior and/or your ability to do a job? My husband was fired in a scapegoating clean-out at a former job (his entire department was dissolved after an unsubstantiated harassment claim against another person he worked with). He hasn’t had a job offer in 5 years. We think he’s on some sort of blacklist.

    He regularly won awards and was promoted several times in his previous job. He’s got good references from people at that job, but the few interviews he’s had resulted in “we’re going in another direction,” with no further comments. Alternatively, he may be experiencing age discrimination–hard to tell. It’s demoralizing, to say the least, and we have no way to find out whether he’s being badmouthed–and don’t know what to do if he is. Any insights or suggestions?

  25. @Cookie: It could also be anti-male sexism, which is rampant in western societies. Meeting Diversity & Inclusion “targets” (i.e., quotas) is a key motive for many companies, at least those where HR (mostly a women’s field) is effectively in control of hiring, promotions, and raises. So, yeah, he’s on a blacklist–or shall we say that he wears an armband with the letter “M” on it. When companies say “we need to hire and promote more women” and openly boast about their efforts, take them at their word–they really do mean it.

  26. …and to what benefit is this so called black listing? In fact, I have heard of glowing recommendations being given to get rid of a person. I also once heard of a manager who had one of his headhunter friends contact an employee he wanted to get rid of. Sneaky but nice and that employee could leave with dignity.

    Even if one is being blacklisted, remember you can not control what other people do. You can control what you do. Yes, we have age discrimination, and yes, I even had a potential employer once sort of admit they wanted somebody younger. I didn’t want the job SO BADLY that I would go to work where people didn’t want me.

    I had a friend who did get blacklisted by her boss when she applied for a position requiring a security clearance. A former boss badmouthed her (sexual harassment where she didn’t give in). He gave a bad reference and after the FBI questioned her, they said, “Now we know he lies – he better never need a security clearance.”

    If you blacklist somebody, it can come back to bite you!

  27. @ Everyone discussing UI (unemployment insurance)

    Our branch of a mid-west distributor had a reputation I didn’t know about until the corporate operations manager made one of his quarterly visits to us. He was just going over general stuff with the management team to make sure that we were all on the same business page when he began cautioning us about getting too trigger happy firing people. He only got a sentence or two into the conversation when he remembered which branch he was visiting. He stopped himself, smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it. You guys never fire anyone anyway!”

    We took it as a compliment. We intuitively knew that it was not good business to set up a revolving door to staff the place.

    @ Omar and Cochrane

    “someone else’s garbage”

    “job hopper”

    “gaps”

    Twenty million people in America did not suddenly “break bad” beginning in December of 2007, but in 2010 when I applied for a job that I was perfectly suited for, the hiring manager suddenly turned cold when he saw the gaps in my resume. The forty years of continuous employment before that didn’t register. There obviously was something wrong with me. I was approaching a year of recovery from depression. I was recovered enough to feel righteous indignation at this, and extended the doomed interview to eat up as much of his executive time as possible. I pushed my professional portfolio in his face, opened to a diagram explaining my productivity monitoring. He stared at it for twenty minutes, looking as though he were trying to comprehend Greek. I just sat quitely and waited for an intelligent question, which, of course, was not forthcoming.

    I’m sad to find out that nearly ten years later, a lot of managers still haven’t gottten the memo that the second worst economioc disaster in modern history is the cause of these “gaps”. It’s like stigmatizing a victim of a tornado, or hurricane, or flood, or fire. It’s called blaming the victim.

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