You’re Fired! By Text Message?


You're fired!

You're Fired! By Text?

Texting. The New Pink Slip?
Last week a friend of mine, let’s call her Sheila, had a small gig for a few days at a skin care salon. The business owner was looking desperately for someone to handle the phone and appointment book at the salon and Sheila was seeking full time employment.  It seemed like a marriage made in heaven.

Admittedly, front office work hasn’t been the focus of her career to date. Sheila, otherwise known as a “big idea” person, is heavy into strategy and business development. This salon job was a hyper-detail-multi-tasking balancing act a lot like the Chinese Jugglers on the Ed Sullivan Show back in the 1960’s. So, while the learning curve was fairly steep,  Sheila proceeded through the week thinking everyone wanted her to succeed after a long dry period of failure to find the “right person”. Ultimately, though, it didn’t work out and by the third day, Sheila would be asked to move along…for reasons we now refer to in the civilized world as “a bad fit”.  OK, well, these things happen.

Unfortunately, the surrounding details of this dismissal are the truly sad ones. As the story goes, at the end of the week, Sheila went to her boss, the business owner, and asked how the owner felt the few days went with Sheila at the front desk. She, herself, knew there were things to learn and some corrections to make. The boss confirmed that suspicion and added that these moments of uncertainty are part of a new job with a lot of moving parts. Seeking clarification, Sheila then asked the boss for specifics. Her job responsibilities, as first explained, were very different from what she was now told.  Leaving with this handful of helpful criticisms, Sheila expressed her appreciation for the feedback and promised to incorporate these changes from then on.

On her way home, Sheila suspected that there was more going on than may have been relayed by her boss. Her plans for the following week, made long before she knew she would be working from 10 to 7, Tuesday through Saturday, would have to be postponed or canceled. My friend was quick to text (the boss’s device of choice) her boss that this job was her most important priority.  She was prepared, she explained, to cancel these long-standing plans to show up as expected the following week.

What came back was a shock. “Don’t bother,” texted the boss. “I’ve already got someone to replace you.”

Sheila was dumbstruck. Sure, there were signs that adjustments were in order but “don’t come back,” was not what she expected. After all, isn’t it natural to take time to learn a new job? Even the boss, herself, proclaimed there was a lot to know and it all took time to learn. What was going on? Why? and Why by text message?

When I told this story to a  psychologist friend of mine, she explained the passive aggressive nature of the boss’s behavior. It turned out that money was missing from Sheila’s weekly check. When she caught it, the boss covered the omission telling Sheila that she hadn’t actually spent a full first day at the salon. Not true. Plus, Sheila’s salary was meant to be calculated weekly, not hourly. The way it was explained by my psychologist friend was that the boss was unsatisfied to a much greater extent than she was willing to say, so she shorted the paycheck instead.

Then, as the story goes, once the salon owner was asked for specifics, she simply dismissed Sheila. Apparently, something she couldn’t or wouldn’t do an hour earlier when Sheila was standing right in front of her.  Sheila was on borrowed time and would be replaced in a matter of days with someone new. True, she might have gotten a few more days pay out of the situation had Sheila said nothing, but that icky feeling everybody  knows something about you but YOU, isn’t conducive to a sense of comfort, let alone security, in any situation.

If You Are In A Similar Situation, What Can You do?
(1) Assume nothing and (2) preserve your integrity! The fact is that every boss is covering his or her own ass whether they are a business owner or not. We are all on probation and a need-to-know basis for at least two weeks (and sometimes even two months), unless the boss is your father, and even then…Regardless of the other person’s ineptness, you can still walk away knowing YOU did the next right thing. My psychologist friend advises that you want to leave every situation in a way that allows a future encounter to be civilized, at the very least. We never know when and how we may have to or want to see or speak to that person again. In a longer-term engagement that could end abruptly, we may still want a reference from the employer or business owner. We may have colleagues or friends in common who the story could get back to.

It’s important to be a lady or a gentleman no matter how off the hook bosses or anybody, for that matter, act. We, first and foremost, want to walk away from any situation with assurance that we handled it in the most civilized and courteous way. My psychologist friend suggested we go so far as to thank the boss for the time and energy he or she put into the test run. At first, this may sound outrageous but in life, lots of things seem ridiculous at first, but we’re glad we conducted ourselves with integrity when the new day dawns.

As for the text message element of this story, our human communications have, after all, been reduced to a tweet of 140 characters or less. Wedding announcements, births, deaths, divorces, child custody battles, TV show cancellations, even civil wars are now a matter of how many people are following you, not how honestly or well you handle yourself. So what do we expect when someone has bad news to deliver about a job? We are all hiding behind technology at this point. Either because we are multi-tasking and someone gets the short-shrift (remember the Seinfeld cell phone face off?) or we don’t feel like putting the time in to be cordial or politically correct. Or worst of all, we just don’t care anymore. What would The Donald say?

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To Work Or Not – On Spec


For many years, I’ve worked for myself or in a small group of entrepreneurs. When I was in the Ad Agency business, the company would shell out hundreds of thousand of dollars on pitches, involving many of the agency’s greatest talent and outside vendors. We would either try and keep and account or win a new one from many other worthy competitors. Those days of cut throat competing for business taught me a lot. I was even lucky enough to be in a Christmas Day pitch at Doyle Dane Bernbach for American Airlines. Mr. Bernbach introduced me as the most important person in the room. I was the button pusher or the poor shnook who signaled the projectionist to roll the film.

Since that pivotal event, I’m not sure if I’m proud or embarrassed to claim hundreds of man hours and lots of dollars to try and win business from notable competition. Sometimes with great success and most of the time, not.

The greatest lesson is how to choose the pitches to participate in and which to pass on. What are the actual odds that you’ll win against specialists when you are a generalist? Or visa versa. At a company where there are staff people who can be allocated to the task, the man hours are absorbed as cost of doing business. Not billable to a client unless the business comes in. And even then billing isn’t retroactive unless agreed by both parties.

On my own, I’ve been fortunate enough to find and collaborate with some amazing professionals who have made me look smarter.
I’ve been able to enhance my service offering by virtue of their participation which has given my small one-woman shop the imprameteur of being a much larger more diversified company. I’ve put a lot of creative energy into some of these pitches, the sales cycle sometimes extending into nearly a year’s time. At that point, some of the previously committed “strategic partners” have moved on. This meant, winning the gig, that I’d have to hustle up people or companies in their class of work who I’d trust as much to deliver the project on time and on budget. This often proves extremely challenging.

This brings me to the present. A time when getting a prospective client to cough up a few dollars for services is even more difficult than usual. I recently offered up some work on spec that will hopefully lead to an ongoing paid participation at their company. First, to win their confidence, I signed on as a commission sales and marketing consultant. In other words, I initially agreed to work on spec in another capacity. Once in the door, I had the ear of the senior executive and now am able to leverage the trust I’ve built into other work for fees.

One needs to be creative and have faith in one’s talent these days more than ever. Good luck out there!

Resolve to advance your career in 2009


By Tara Weiss
Forbes Online
updated 8:01 a.m. ET, Mon., Jan. 5, 2009
Update your resume, focus on your goals and increase your visibility.

It has been a rough year for the American workforce. Jobs have been eliminated left and right. The threat of downsizing continues to loom. For those who still have a job, raises and bonuses are a receding memory.

Yes, times are tough. But that doesn’t mean you should put your career goals on the back burner. This downturn will pass, hiring will ramp up again and you will want to be ready. With that in mind, here are career resolutions that will help you achieve success in 2009.

Your first one: Update your résumé. The end of the year is an ideal time to reflect on your accomplishments, especially if it’s slow at work. When writing your résumé, don’t just list all your job responsibilities. That won’t set you apart. A more impressive résumé shows results, too. Briefly describe projects and then detail what they concretely achieved.
“Having a career plan doesn’t mean it will all happen immediately, especially since the market has changed,” says Laura Hill, founder of Careers in Motion, a Manhattan-based career coaching firm. “But it’s good over time, since it allows you to direct your career.”

As you consider your career plan, be honest about whether you’re happy in your current job and industry. Is the job still a good fit? Are you still learning and growing professionally? What are the longer-term threats to and opportunities for your company, your career there and the industry?

Take an assessment test
There’s no reason to wither away in a job you hate, and there are plenty of books that can help unhappy employees match their passions with more appropriate jobs. Many have assessment tests that ask probing questions to help you figure out what field best suits you.

Laura Hill recommends “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. There’s a unique code on each copy’s book jacket that you can use to take a career assessment test over the Web. She also recommends “Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You’ll Love to Do,” by Shoya Zichy and Ann Bidou, which has an assessment test between its covers.

Next, consider the skills you need to get ahead and take classes to acquire them. Some employers offer in-house training; others will reimburse you for courses you take at a local college. This will make you more marketable both inside and outside the company. Classes are also a good way to dip your toe into another profession to see if it’s something you’d want to pursue full time.

Join a professional association
This year, join your industry’s professional association. Every industry has one. Just type the name of your field and the word “association” into an Internet search, and most likely more than one will pop up. But don’t simply pay the membership dues and put it on your résumé. Get involved. Join committees. That’s how you network, says Alexandra Levit, author of several career books, including “How’d You Score That Gig: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs — and How to Get Them.” You’ll meet industry leaders you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

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It’s also an easy way to get experience in another area. For example, if you’re a marketing executive, join your association’s finance committee. Voila, you now have finance experience to beef up your résumé.

Meanwhile, up your visibility at work. If you’ve just completed a big project, don’t assume the higher-ups know how successful it was. A great way to tip off the bosses without boasting, says Levit, is by sending a thank you e-mail to all the team members who participated in the project, with a CC to the bosses. The e-mail might say, “I’d just like to thank everyone who was involved in this presentation. Because of your hard work we were able to bring in X dollars for the company.”

If you recently lost your job, allow yourself a few days to wallow. Then move full speed ahead. Attend activities at your professional association and get involved in its committees. Do one thing a day to push your job search forward, whether it’s sending out a networking query, applying for a particular job or signing on with a temp agency that places professionals in your industry.

Don’t forget, Levit says, “The business world is going to recover.”