How to get fired | The Financial Express

How to get fired

Big Tech’s firing mood shows that lay-off decisions by companies may even be precipitated by reasons not entirely comprehensible

How to get fired
The book is certainly a useful guide for helping young recruits successfully transition into the professional world by telling them what not to do. But did it explain “everything”? Not really.

By Atanu Biswas

Can one be fired before the first day on the job? I was reading a 2012 write-up in the Huffington Post by Khristopher Brooks, a Detroit-based journalist. Twenty-seven-year-old Brooks received a job offer with the Wilmington News Journal. “Khristopher is a reporter,” he declared on his personal Tumblr blog to inform his family and friends about the next step in his career. Well, soon after that, he was notified that his job offer had been rescinded due to “illegal use of the company logo” and for having quoted from their offer letter.

Brook’s firing certainly reveals some valuable lessons for someone interested in being fired: How one’s job can be at stake if the boundary between work and personal social media accounts is blurred. But, what if your employer still doesn’t fire you? Well, American keynote speaker, Jeff Havens penned his 2010 book, How to Get Fired!: The New Employee’s Guide to Perpetual Unemployment. The chapters of Havens’ book are hilariously titled: Fake Your Resume, Establish Your Incompetence, Destroy Your Work Ethic, Alienate Your Co-Workers, and even Cocaine, Meth and Other Things To Put In Your Coffee.

The book is certainly a useful guide for helping young recruits successfully transition into the professional world by telling them what not to do. But did it explain “everything”? Not really.

You may be fired if you are an underperformer. The definition of an underperformer, however, may vary. Isn’t it a bit subjective? Brilliant business magician Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of General Electric, of course, pioneered the controversial ‘rank and yank’ policy. Welch stated in his 2001 book, Jack: Straight from the Gut, that he asked “each of GE’s businesses to rank all of their top executives” along a “vitality curve,” and underperformers (the bottom 10%) were generally let go. Welch was initially criticised for cost-cutting and layoffs, which earned him the moniker “Neutron Jack.” However, he is heralded by many as the greatest leader of his era.

Well, Big Tech is in a firing mood in this post-pandemic world. They may be compelled to, to some extent. However, people may still struggle to conceive why a company would hire employees from the opposite side of the globe only to fire them within just 2-3 days. And this happened to some new recruits from India who were relocated to Canada after a lengthy visa process. You can’t even be on board in two days! You may not even learn how to operate the coffee machine in the lobby of the office in two days. And, importantly, this is not rank and yank, for sure.

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Do we truly comprehend all of the reasons for dismissal? There are plenty of issues beyond our control. There are plenty of issues that we can’t even see.

Remember the 1989 American documentary film Roger & Me, which is a quixotic quest of filmmaker Michael Moore to interview General Motors’ chairman, Roger B. Smith? Smith orchestrated the closing of GM’s factory in Flint, Michigan, which resulted in a huge regional economic impact. There were 80,000 employees of GM in the Flint area in 1978, which were reduced to about 50,000 in 1992, and approximately 7,200 or less in August 2015.

You may get fired for numerous unforeseen reasons even if you go on working naturally, honestly, and diligently. A pandemic, a war, and the resulting recession might induce thousands of job cuts, but there are additional factors as well. Unforeseen, unpredictable, unplanned, and beyond modeling. For example, the world’s richest person, who invariably was the chief feeder of the Blue Bird for years, may suddenly wish to become the official “Chief Twit,” and 3,700 employees may lose their jobs within days.

Other Big Tech companies must have had plans for layoffs, for sure. But, when Elon Musk leads a show, it becomes easier for others to follow. In the contemporary world, many of these laid-off people would struggle to get a formidable job. We Got Fired! … It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us was the title of American businessman and author Harvey Mackay’s 2004 book. However, turning a modern bummer into a major blessing is a rarity, especially in these shaky times.

What next? In 2019, Jack Ma lauded the industry’s notorious 996 work culture: 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. That’s 72 hours a week, and that sounded like sheer exploitation to many! But, Ma might think that he couldn’t sound tough enough. Musk now says Twitter employees have to work 80 hours a week to be in a profitable position. I double-checked, and it’s 80, no mistake!

Musk asked employees to be prepared for “working long hours at high intensity” in Twitter 2.0 or take a severance package of three months and leave the company.
Don’t try to recollect the movement for an 8-hour day at New York’s Haymarket about 136 years ago that defined history.

Of course, you are free to ignore such a directive or refuse to comply with either, if you’re ready to face the consequences.

Overall, an employee just may not need to strive hard for getting fired in today’s world. If you are lucky enough, astonishingly, your company may even ask you to return, admitting that you were laid off by mistake. You may rejoin and wait for another such mistake on the company’s end. I’m wondering whether a big new chapter titled Completely Unpredictable may thus be appended to Jeff Havens’ book.

The author is Professor of Statistics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

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First published on: 05-12-2022 at 04:45 IST