It finally happened on a Monday.
The Friday prior, one of her coworkers was fired. The boss did it via chat. He was in the office all day, working alongside her, then left around 2pm, went home, and chatted her. Her response was aghast, “are you really doing this over chat?” She was surprised, confused, and hurt. She packed up her things and left.
All weekend, her boss kept emailing her, telling her she wasn’t doing her job. She had a feeling she was going to be fired as well. They had family visiting that weekend but, as much as she tried, she could not let go and enjoy herself. Her boss emailed her all weekend, asking what was on her to-do list, what had she completed, why wasn’t she more dedicated to the job. She talked to her husband–he knew, she knew, they just knew that she’d be fired.
That Monday at work, her boss was away. She gave her plant to her coworker, who was surprised and reassured her that everything would be fine, of course she wasn’t getting fired. She googled the rules of getting fired all day – she always was one to be prepared. She removed her office keys and placed them on the edge of her desk. She cleared her browser history, cleaned out her computer of anything not related to her job, and emailed some writing samples to herself. And then she did some work.
A few months prior, her boss had instituted a rule that everyone email him their completed and current to-do lists at the end of every day. He was a micromanager to an extreme – to the point that he insisted on being CC’d on every single email that went both out of the office, and between colleagues. His email was so full that he had two different addresses, but still, the insanity continued.
That day, she emailed him her list and said what she was going to start working on next. He told her to hold off, they had something to discuss, he’d be in the office soon.
The feeling of dread was something like she’d never experienced. Usually, when you fear something bad is coming – before a test, public speaking, running into an ex – you fear the worst, but you know, deep down, that it won’t be that bad. She was experiencing something entirely different. She knew, deep down, that the worst is actually what was going to happen.
Eventually, her boss came to the office mid-afternoon. He walked into her office and shut the door. He started talking about how she wasn’t dedicated to the job, he knew she wasn’t dedicated to the job, and why don’t they take a little break and see if after a while, she could become dedicated to the job, and could consider coming back.
What a wimp. He couldn’t even let someone go properly. He couldn’t even say it.
“Am I being fired or laid off, I need to know so that I can apply for unemployment.”
He demurred. She wasn’t dedicated, but whatever the positive one is, so let’s say laid off.
“Great. I need my last paycheck today, before I can leave.”
The person that writes the checks is in a different office, so he can’t get it today. Is that the law? He doesn’t know what the law is.
“The law is that you have to pay me out for all time worked and give me the check on the last day.” Her preparation was useful, I guess, because he was incompetent at even this.
Uh, ok, they could get her a check. Why doesn’t she hand over the keys and they can talk about what would happen next. She pointed to the keys at the edge of her desk. He said he would look into her check, would be right back.
She sat in her office. Chatted her coworker that it happened. He chatted her that her check would be ready today. Good job coming back, good job doing this in person. She told them to give her check to her coworker in the other office, she’d get it from her. She wasn’t going to go to the other office now, now that everybody knew what happened.
She picked up her stuff, her bag overflowing with a framed picture and some snacks, and walked out of her office. The coworker who received her plant earlier in the day saw her on her way out, tears in her eyes.
She sniffled all the way home. Not full out tears, as she was sitting on public transportation for 45 minutes, but consistent, obvious sniffles. Every person on the train must have known what had happened. A woman in work clothes, clutching a bag full of office decor, sniffling at the end of the day. She didn’t let the tears out totally until she walked through her front door. At that point, she broke down.