Firing people is the most difficult part of my job. Managing affordable health insurance for the hundreds of people who count on me to do so is creeping in behind as close second. I hate to fire people and while it evolves and becomes different with time and experience, it never becomes easier. The only good part of that responsibility is that I am the one doing the firing versus being the employee on the receiving end. That is my wanna-be optimist, keeping the glass half-full.
I initially considered titling this post, “Firing people in the local community since 2000”, while accurate, sends the message that I am proud of that statement, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The problem with firing people in the local community for nine years is that while they are multiplying in numbers, the town isn't getting any larger. Over the course of the past month, I have repeatedly run into many of these “former employees”. It is an epidemic. Did they start a club? Are they strategically aligning their positions to correspond with my weekly errands? These situations are the epitome of social awkwardness.
It starts when I realize that someone is innocuously giving me the Don’t I Know Her From Somewhere Look. You know the look I am referring to, repeated glances in your direction, small smiles, and desperate grappling for anything that would indicate mutual recognition. I can see the wheels churning as they play the mental game of trying to place me in the sitcom of their personal history, the syndicated version. What role did she play dammit? I am sure the ratty clothes, lack of make-up, tennis shoes, and toddler affixed to my leg throws them for a loop, providing me a substantial witness-protection-program type of advantage. Despite that, suddenly, over bins of fresh produce, I realize that they succeeded at making the connection. Next comes that uncomfortable moment of minimizing eye contact and politely nodding their head.
I nod and move on, pushing my cart, hoping that they aren’t compelled to address me. Panic. What would I say, “How are you doing?”, “Sorry about that job thing”, or “I’d reconsider continuing to have potential employers contact me – especially financial institutions if you catch my drift.” While they are busy sizing me up, my mind is racing as I am trying to remember just how horrible their termination was, and the speed at which I should be headed in the opposite direction.
Simultaneously, I am trying to place them. Wait, were you the one who showed up to work drunk and proceeded to engage in a verbal altercation with me regarding the technical degree of your intoxication? Perhaps you were the one who locked yourself in your work area and refused to leave the premises. How about the one who fell asleep, only to be awaken when the next shift employee arrived? No? Okay, hold on, I’ll place you too.
When a relationship ends, a well known phrase intended to soften the blow is, “It isn’t you, it’s me.” In each of these awkward past-employee situations, I have to resist the urge to politely say, “I’m sorry, it wasn’t me. It was definitely you.”
A Tour of My Parents’ House
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