I was overly confident that all thinking people would make the same decisions as me. But, the truth is that people’s experiences and values are the lenses through which they view life and it makes their perspective a distinction shared by none.
Around this time of the year, I always reflect on the one and only time in my life that I have been fired.
Here’s what happened:
The year was 2003 and our revenues had been mostly good for the first six months of the year. While we weren’t setting any records, neither were we dropping in share or doing anything else that would fire up warning flares. Although 2002 had been a tumultuous year, the advertising markets had settled down after the tragedies of 9/11/2001 by the time 2003 rolled around.
I was feeling good.
I was a veteran manager – having managed the sales department of KISS 104 for two different owners and three different General Managers over the course of four years. The little turnover that we had experienced on the sales team came from the bottom 30% of revenue generators – a not uncommon situation in our business.
Everything seemed to be sailing along. On a Monday, my boss, Tony, asked me to come in a little early on Wednesday to “go over a few things” before the usual sales meeting at 8:30. I asked him what kind of things so that I could be prepared for the meeting and he mentioned revenue projections for July.
On Tuesday, I gathered all the data. On Wednesday morning, I arrived early so that I could print out my reports – only to find that I couldn’t log on to my computer. While I was trying to figure that out, Tony came to my office to see if I was ready to meet. I explained my computer problem and he told me not to worry about it for now. So, I grabbed my notebook and a pen and followed him to his office.
As we walked in, I noticed that the head of the HR department was seated at the circular table inside Tony’s office. I was confused as Tony hadn’t said anything about her being there. As I was trying to get my bearings, Tony closed the door behind me and asked me to sit down at the table. That’s when I remembered the story of a previous manager. . .
“I walked in and Krista was sitting there with a manila folder in front of her and that’s when I knew that this meeting was unlike any other that I’d ever had. . .”
Sure enough, Krista had a manila folder in front of her.
Tony started the meeting as Krista examined her fingernails.
“We’ve decided to make a change. You will no longer be managing KISS 104. In fact, you will no longer be an employee of Cox Radio. Krista has some paperwork that she would like to go over with you.”
“Hold on a second,” I said. “You are firing me?”
“We just think it would be best to make a change in management at KISS 104.”
“But, I’m not going to have another job. So, that means the change you are making is firing me.”
“Yes. So, Krista has some paperwork that will be important to you.”
“First, I have a question.”
“Why are you firing me? I mean, what is the reason for my termination.”
“We don’t want to discuss that with you.”
“You don’t want to discuss it with me? But, I’m the one that you are firing! How could you not discuss the reason with me?”
There wasn’t much more to the meeting. Neither Tony nor Krista felt obligated to tell me the reason for my termination which was ironic since both always insisted that I have reams of data and written warnings to support any personnel decisions that I wanted to make. And so it was that on that day, July 17, 2003, Tony became the only person to fire me. A distinction shared by none.
Now, I could end this post right here and feel pretty good about getting all of this off my chest in a public forum. But, that is not the purpose of telling my story six years after the fact. Or, I suppose I could use the above example as an entrée into a discussion about the best way to let someone go. But, there’s a more useful moral to this story.
While I have spent a good deal of time over the past six years wondering how it was possible for Tony to make the monumental mistake of replacing me with an inexperienced manager that was terminated only three months later, I have spent much more time wondering about my own mistakes.
How come Tony didn’t value my skills and talents? Why didn’t I know where I stood with Tony?
When I was the sales manager of KISS 104, I made decisions that affected the income of the sellers. Some of the sellers questioned my judgment and went directly to Tony to opine that my public declarations masked private reasons that were sinister and prejudicial in nature. While it would have been nice if Tony had come to me to ask me about my decisions, the real onus was on me to go to him and explain myself. And, the best time to do that would be in advance of certain sensitive decisions that are easily spun or misinterpreted.
My image with Tony was my own responsibility. I shouldn’t have assumed that my decisions were self-evident and I should have sought his counsel on controversial or highly impactful decisions.
The problem with me back in 2003 was that I enjoyed the freedom of making decisions that were mine to make. I was overly confident that all thinking people would make the same decisions as me. But, the truth is that people’s experiences and values are the lenses through which they view life and it makes their perspective a distinction shared by none. May I suggest that before the second half of the year has a chance to flower, you seek out your boss for a first half review and gain some perspective on how those lenses are viewing you?
About the author
Tim J.M. Rohrer is an eighteen year veteran of advertising sales. Currently, working as…