Have you ever been walked out of a job? It’s a pretty awful feeling. I knew it was coming—it was a fast moving freight train, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. About 18 months previous to this date, my most favorite boss of all time retired, and my most unfavorite of all senior level managers was his replacement. We were oil and water. He had a PhD in Physics. I think he thought with a PhD, he knew everything about everything. He even had the nerve to tell me one day that he thought have an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) was a wasted and meaningless college degree. Yes, that is my degree, and he knew it.
The freight train started off slowly, but I knew it had started. I was part of the Senior Management Team, and the only woman in management at this company. We were a fairly cohesive group, although I related best to our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and my former best boss ever. From the time Dick became my boss (name changed to cover his identity but one that fit him well, if you get my drift), he started putting a wedge between me and whatever I was to accomplish.
One day he asked me to do a report on demographics of our company. I made a beautiful PowerPoint presentation for our next management meeting. I presented gender, age, ethnicity, education, everything that would tell you about the demographics of our organization. It was presented to him, our team, and our dotted-line management at headquarters in California. We discussed it as a group, and we moved on to the next topic. Six months later in my annual appraisal, he dinged me for not reporting our demographics. I pointed out to him that I had indeed run this report and presented it several months earlier in our staff meeting. He then said, “I wanted a 30 page written report. Everyone who works for me knows that.” Really, because I didn’t know that. I had never in all my years in Human Resources ever been asked to write a 30 page report. I was dumbfounded.
So the freight train was moving. I could feel the vibration of the ground as this train was gaining speed. I think I heard the whistle blowing. I think I needed to get off the tracks, but I had only so much time to find a new track to go onto. I heard the clickity-clack, and it’s getting louder.
In the meantime I was brushing up my resume. I had been at this company almost four years, and now I thought I needed to leave. By the way, if you never noticed, the higher up in a company one is, the less places one can go from there that will be equivalent or better than in their level and pay. You know, there is only one CEO in a company—if that person needs to find a new position, there are a lot less opportunities for a CEO than a first line manager. Therefore, the job search takes longer, and is a bit more difficult.
A few months went by, and Dick asked me to recruit a summer intern for our company. Okay, I could do that. What were we looking for, what was this person going to do, what were we going to pay this person, and what kind of opportunities will this candidate have to be hired after the internship? I knew that these were important considerations for a person from across the country to have answered in order to come for a short term assignment. Dick wanted me to find a PhD candidate, one with a specialty in the industry we were, and preferably from the University of Florida because he liked their program. No, we will not consider someone from any local state universities that might be PhD candidates with this expertise. I did my research through our corporate office about their internship programs and how they compensated. This company was very generous with the pay and also with help for temporary housing. I had my ducks pretty much in a row to start the recruitment, except for the big questions—what will this intern be doing, and what is the future for this candidate? I went into Dick’s office to discuss these two very important items. His first answer really surprised me—no, we would not be offering a permanent job to this person no matter how good they were. Dick’s goal was that this candidate would be so enamored with our company that when this intern went to a permanent first job after attaining the doctorate, they would recommend purchasing our products because we were so great. It was a marketing ploy from the start!
That surprised me, but not as much as the answer to the next question. When I call these folks and tell them about this opportunity, they will ask me what kind of work will be in this internship. Could I get someone from the engineering department to help me put together the internship program so I have an answer for them? Dick looked at me with a straight face, and stated that he wasn’t giving up any of his engineers to do this, and no, he didn’t have time to help me on this. I was supposed to call this candidate and say we have this really great opportunity for this summer, you will really like it, and it will be great experience. Of course, they will ask what their duties will be, and I just say it will be great, and you will love working here. Where is a job description? Why would a PhD candidate be interested in a job where they have no idea what to expect? It was crazy. Dick was serious. He was not going to give me any assistance to figure to what a PhD candidate in Photonics would be doing in designing products within the laser industry. Dick set me up to fail at this task. No help, no job description, no idea what this person would be doing.
These were the kinds of issues that kept cropping up in my face the 18 months I worked with Dick. There were times in between that things seem to run in a normal comfortable pattern. Also during this time, our company was audited by Homeland Security, checking to see if we had properly documented the employees’ eligibility to be employed in the United States. We passed with flying colors. All documents were in order and correctly completed for each and every employee. Then I was also audited by the Department of Labor (EEOC). It was an unusual audit because they weren’t looking for gender identity or racial mix, but looking to see if we were hiring disabled people and accommodating them legally. Once again, we passed with flying colors. These were not simple audits—I had to give these government agents access to what they needed without giving access to the privacy of the employees. Dick just ignored the fact that these two very important audits passed with flying colors. At my annual appraisal it was never mentioned that we had a human resources manager successfully complying with all the state and federal laws.
It was so obvious that this boss was not going to give me credit and/or respect for anything I did. We had our weekly senior staff meetings, and the one following Independence Day, Dick decided to ask the team members what they did over the holiday. One guy became a grandfather for the first time, one went skydiving, and as Dick moved around the table, he asked each one of these men individually. After they all shared their holiday adventures, before I had a chance to speak, Dick stated it was now time to start the meeting. Weeks later I asked him if he remembered that he bypassed me on that friendly conversation. He acknowledged the he indeed had skipped me because he didn’t want to know what I did.
I have a feeling you are now hearing the train speeding up, chugging along, and it’s whistle blowing. It’s getting louder . . . it’s getting close, but I cannot tell how close.
I met Dennis on a dating website. We started out communicating by email, then moved to telephone calls. I was busy with my job, and some company traveling. He was busy with his mother, who at that time was 93 years old. We didn’t have a date to meet until the day after Thanksgiving. It was a nice day spent together, but I am not sure either of us were swept off our feet, but we both agreed we needed to meet again, so Dennis came back the following Sunday. I told him that day the I was going to have a meeting with Dick first thing Monday morning, and I think Dick was going to fire me. This sweet man (Dennis) said he couldn’t see that happening.
The next morning Dick decided to meet in my office (bad sign). He walked in, shut the door, and handed me a letter and said as of that moment I was no longer an employee of this company. BAM! I was hit by the freight train—I didn’t get off the tracks soon enough. I can still feel and hear the sound of the crash, but it doesn’t hurt like it did that day.
Dick had listed in the letter some of the reasons he was terminating my employment. The first one was that when I went to a business meeting in California, and it abruptly ended a day early, I had not returned to work on Friday. Well, we were told if we could get a last minute flight at a reasonable price, go ahead and go back home on Thursday, rather than Friday. If not, stay with our previous travel plans on Friday. Well, I had requested (in writing) to have Friday as a vacation day, and my plan was to fly out from Los Angeles to Phoenix that Friday morning, and then return to Missouri on Sunday. I couldn’t quite change all these flight schedules (I was paying for my private part of the trip). My three day vacation in Arizona was to attend a memorial service for the spouse of my cousin. As soon as I read this in the letter, I reminded Dick that I had written approval for a vacation day on Friday. He admitted that he forgot he gave me the vacation day.
The next thing on this list was the fact that I never hired a summer intern. Really? How was I supposed to hire someone with no job description? He knew that I requested help to pull the program together, and he refused to give me a person or even the name. There was no internship program to hire someone.
There was more to the letter, and it was pretty much a rambling. I was glad to leave my employment there—or should I say, I was glad to no longer work for Dick, continually trying to figure out what he wanted from me. The target was always moving. I had a boss who didn’t respect the work of Human Resources. In the past, I had always been part of a team that worked together to build our business with our employees. But not with Dick.
I sent Dennis a text message and told him that Dick had indeed fired me. I also told Dennis that if he didn’t want to see me again, I would understand. He called me and asked why I said that. Dennis was a retired CEO of a railroad (haha—a railroad—hear the train coming?), and I figured that he would think I must have done something really terrible to be fired. He said he would like to continue seeing me, and he knew a lot of dumb CEOs! As you know, the rest is history!
It was tough being let go a year before retirement age. It was tough being let go and not being able to leave on my own, telling coworkers goodbye and having closure. I was also president of our local HR association in St. Louis, and I was afraid they would lose respect for me. I was wrong about that also. They were most supportive.
It took a long time to get through the feelings of being let go. There was no closure. I was in a career that I loved dearly. Even today I can fall into HR-speak quite easily. I have done a few consulting jobs since then, but decided I no longer wanted to do that. I loved what I did. I was good at what I did, and Dick cannot take that away from me.
What I really didn’t see coming was a train on the other track. When, BAM, I was hit by the freight train of firing by Dick, a train was coming down the other track with with Dennis as the engineer, and he swooped me off the track and into his train!
Over the years Dennis has said he wanted to call Dick and thank him. Thank him? For what? My sweet husband would smile at me and tell me that had I been working like I had been, we probably wouldn’t be together today, because he was looking for someone to spend time with, to travel with, and to just enjoy retirement. Because of what happened to me, I became eligible to apply for the job of wife! Sometimes I don’t understand hardships I am going through until later when I look back. I can now see how God allowed this to be so that I could have a wonderful retirement with a wonderful man.
I wrote in a earlier blog about the struggle I had when I thought I searching for that new position to get off the track with the freight train charging toward me. Go to the post dated March 1, 2018 to read. But, God said, “No.” Thank you, Lord, for knowing what was going to give me the next new and wonderful life.
I have not shared this with the general public since this happened in late November 2012. This weekend I was with a former colleague from my HR professional group, and her friend, who is still in her HR career. My friend brought up my termination from Dick. She actually thought his name was Dick, and we laughed when I corrected her, because she thought he was deserving of such a name. I realized I was able to talk about what happened almost eight years ago without being sad or angry. It just was what it was, and I have a beautiful life to live today.
It is time to celebrate that I am just where I am supposed to be today!