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The firing

I always wanted to work.  Even as a young girl, I couldn't wait until I was old enough to start babysitting like my older sister. But until then I came up with several ways to make money.  One of my "businesses" I ran was weaved loop potholders.  I sold them for $.25 each.  My poor Grandma was my biggest sale. She would even order them from me and give them away as gifts.  I wondered as I got older if she really did give them away or if she just kept them.  My second "job" was selling Christmas cards door to door.  That was long before they had fund raisers in schools.  I literally went door to door, made up my own script to say when someone answered the door.  I sold enough cards to earn me a dynamitic labeler.  I'm not really certain why at such a young age I worked so hard to earn a labeler but I knew where everything was in my room because it was labeled.  And what little girl didn't have a lemon aide stand?

When I was finally old enough I started babysitting for families in the neighborhood until I was old enough to get my first real job.  My first real job was a small restaurant in my home town. I was hired as a dishwasher by recommendation of my big sister.  She was a waitress there.  In the years to come I would have several restaurant jobs until I moved on to a clerical position answering telephones for an answering service.  I had a short career as a nurse’s aide, then several years a bartender.  In the late eighties I went into direct sales where I had pretty good success.  I spent 10 years, had several company free vehicles, and was tops in recruiting and sales. 

In the late 90's I decided it was time for something new. I went to work for a big box retailer where I was just going to work 20 hours or less per week.  I don't think I ever worked just 20 hours.  Before long I was working 5 days a week, plus I took a second job as an assistant manager at another retailer.  I had worked for about 5 months and a new supervisory position was opening. Though I was new it excited me to try for the position.  My husband encouraged me to just apply for it explaining to me that I probably wouldn't get it but at least they would know that I was interested.  So I did just that.  There were over 20 people who put in for three positions that were opening up.  We all had to go through preliminary interviews and some of us were called back for a second interview.  I remember the excitement of finding out that I had made the first cut.  After all, I was new to this company and though I had sales experience I really didn't think I would be considered for the job.  To my amazement I not only made it through the first round of interviews I was picked for one of the three open positions.  I loved my new position. Anyone who has ever worked retail knows there are no two days alike.  Well the same could be said for a supervisory position.  

 After 7months in my new position I decided to talk to the store manager about moving up to a Department Merchandiser Manager.   The Store Manager’s was a very large intimidating man which I found intriguing.  He looked like a short hair Mick Jagger.  I remember the day I decided to approach him with my idea of moving up.  I timidly knocked on the door feeling a little less confident about the response I would receive from him.  I asked if he had time that I could run and idea past him.  He was very cordial and offered me a seat.  And then I told him my idea.  He sat, he pondered and then replied with an sounding “NO”.  I was shocked by his reply.  No explanation, just “NO”.  So, I decided to push and ask him why he was turning me down.   In short the reason was because I did not hire in to be a Management Associate.  I felt very deflated leaving his office that day.

Within the next two weeks we had a meeting for the entire Supervisory staff of the area stores at our District office.  The meeting was put on by the District HR Manager.  I saw this as a great opportunity to ask her about promoting to Merchandise Manager.  So before the conclusion of the meeting I did just that.  I told her the response that I had received from my Store Manager when I had asked.  She said she would talk to him.

And that she did.  The very next day I was called to my Store Manager’s office.  When I entered he asked me if I was serious about becoming a Merchandise Manager.   I explained to him that I would not have asked if I was not serious.   He told me the requirements which were you had to be fully re locatable and I had to go through a certified interview.  And then he told me that I would have a certified interview that week.  My certified interview was 2.5 hours long.  I came out feeling like I nailed it.  The very next day the district hr. manager called me to tell me the interviewer really was impressed so much that he wanted me to do my training in his store.   I was to report the following Monday.  In just 4 days.

My year and a half training lasted a short 4 months before I had an offer for my first position as Merchandise Manager 72 miles from home.  The offer came with a move paid by the company. My report to my new assignment was Feb. 1, 1999 and we finally moved tour new home in July.  I was in my new position just 5 months and I had another department added on to my assignment.   And from there I had every combination of assignments possible in one store to having all departmen’st as my responsibility. 

In July of 2005 I received a phone call from my District Manager with another offer.  This one was to promote to become a Store Manager of my own store.  This offer also came with a paid move as my new store was 4.5 hours away from home.  Though the area wasn’t really a place I wanted to go to the thought of having my own store was very intriguing to me.  I accepted the offer before even talking to my husband.  Of course he was excited for me and that did not become an issue.

It was so exciting to have my own store I felt the way I should run it was as if it I owned it.  For every decision I made that is the principle I used when making that decision.  I also worked hours as if I owned the store.  Looking back now I see that I put the store before everything and everyone else.  Including myself.  I don’t think there was a year that I used all of my vacation and if you didn’t use it you lost it.

This brings me to April 2, 2012. Six and a half years of putting the store first, giving up my vacations and neglecting my family I had a surprise from my boss and the district loss prevention manager.   When one of my employees came in and told me they were in the parking lot I wasn’t surprised.  I had become used to having people drop in to make sure everything was complete.  So I continued on with my morning routine.  It was nearly time for the store to open so I went and held my employee meeting and continued our opening routine.  When I was done I decided to run back to my office to grab a pad of paper because if they wanted to walk the floor I wanted something to write their direction down on.

When I got back to my office I found it strange that both my DM and Loss Prevention Manager were out on the floor.  But I continued on, grabbed a pad of paper and then asked if they were ready to walk the floor.  My DM replied that they first needed to discuss something with me first.  I thought boy, someone must have done something pretty bad.   I watched as my DM pulled out a stack of papers he sat them on the desk and then the LP Manager came in the office and they shut the door.  I just remember thinking what could it be.  Then I noticed how quite they both were.  I thought “I hope they don’t think I’ve done something wrong” but I quickly dismissed that thought because I knew I hadn’t. 

As my DM began to read I curiously listened.  It seemed like what he was reading was just words. Like it wasn’t registering, I think I was so busy trying to figure out who they thought did something wrong that I just didn’t comprehend what he was saying to me.  And then, he said the words best fit for the job…

What, wait…what did he say??  I put my hand out and down over his paper work. I remember saying “Stop” I remember asking “Are you terminating me??”  He held up his hand and told me to let him finish.  I remember saying “No, you answer me…Are you firing me?”   He said yes.  I truly don’t remember anything else from that point of what he read.  The only thing I know is he said I didn’t fit the company’s new role.  How could that be??

And in all of this, I tried to hold it together and not become a blubbering mess.  Nothing mattered anymore.   They helped me take almost 7 years of stuff out to my car.  I remembered them telling me the coast was clear to get out of the store as if I “had” done something wrong.  I was not allowed to stay and say goodbye to my staff.  I was asked to leave immediately.  I was absolutely crushed.  I can tell you that I can see how someone who is not stable could harm themselves after something like this.  Because not only was I humiliated by being escorted out I now had to go home and tell my family. 

I don’t remember the drive home.  I do remember pulling over to call my husband before I walked in the door.  For some reason I felt if I told him on the phone I wouldn’t have to see his disappointment in me.  This wasn’t the case at all.  But I felt like I had disappointed everyone, myself included.  The worst part is I still don’t know why.   What was the reason??  What did I have to do to be a good fit??  If I had been so awful why did they pay me nine months’ severance?

I walked in the door just before 11am. My husband was waiting for me and held me for what seemed a long time.  I truly just wanted to go to our room and pull the covers over my head and never come out again.  My husband actually seemed excited at the aspect of me being home all the time. And all I could think of was what was going to happen to my store and the people who worked for me.

I had several calls that day, from other Store Managers to people who worked for me to even the maintenance guy who visited my store once a month.  There seemed to be one constant between them all...shock.  And that included me.  The calls came all night I think the last person I got off the phone with at midnight.

I don’t think I slept for the first three nights.  The tears didn’t stop for about a week and then they would come and go as they pleased, breaking out at the worst time possible.  The hardest part was the overwhelming feeling of failure.  I still have waves of that 4 months later. 

And then you have the people who truly think they are helping you that say “maybe this is for the best”.  If I had a dollar for each time someone said that to me I probably wouldn’t be as worried about what I’m going to do to replace the money I lost for my family. 

If you ever have been through losing a career that you truly love you will find the range of emotions is similar to the death of a close relative.  I never thought that could really be true.  After all, it was just a job, you can get another one.  That is my point.  This wasn’t just my job.  It was my career.  I ate, drank and breathed it for probably 18 hours a day.  I worked my way up every step of the way by working harder than the next guy and perfecting my strengths. 

What I can tell you now, 4 months later take time to mourn.  Take time to feel sorry for yourself. Don’t just take the first job offered to you.  You will find that your first impulse will be to jump at the first job offered to show “them” what they lost.  Take time to reflect and to get to know your family and yourself again.  After fifteen years in the same career, and 25 years since I’ve had any time off to speak of I have forgotten what I like to do when I have free time. 

And what I can now say 4 months after the fact though I don’t have a new career, maybe it was for the best.  It forced me to put my priorities back in the order they should be.  My family will never be second again.  I know now that all of this happened to no fault of my own.  This did not change who I am or make me a lesser person.  If anything this has helped me see just how strong and resilient I am.  And maybe, just maybe it was for the best?

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