“Rick, I hate to say this, but your explanation for this situation is just not good enough,” I found myself saying to the wide-eyed young man I had been supervising for just under a year.
“You willfully disregarded the policies that have been put into place and instead followed your own ideas. That ultimately placed three students in a physically dangerous situation where we could not longer vouch for their safety on this campus.”
“Additionally, you chose not to involve your direct supervisor in the situation after you have been given three separate warnings on this exact issue.” I stopped and cleared my throat, praying that my nerve would continue through the rest of the conversation.
“Because of these problems you will not be allowed to continue in your current position. The choice you have to make now is whether you would like the public opinion to be that you resigned or have been fired. I will respect your wishes in that matter.”
“So…” Rick’s voice dwindled off for a moments as he processed my words. “You’re actually firing me?!”
Keep it simple, short and courteous, I told myself.
“This is ridiculous! You’d rather hold yourself to a policy standard than take people’s individual development into account!” Rick said hotly.
“Rick, I’m not asking you to agree with me, in fact, I really don’t expect you to agree with me at all,” I responded as calmly as I could. “It doesn’t change the decision.”
“You are going to wind up all alone and miserable because you’re incapable of maintaining relationships! Or caring about anything except the rules!” Rick’s face was flushed and little drips of spit shot out of his mouth as he talked.
“I feel sorry for you and for any children you might possibly raise in the future!” he said with finality.
I knew the conversation needed to end as I listened to the blood roar in my ears.
“I respect your right to opinion, Rick. I don’t need your sympathy. I’ll be sending you a written document that outlines the logistics of the end of your position.” I stood up and walked to Rick’s office door. “I’m sorry it has come to this.”
I gently closed the door so that it wouldn’t slam behind me and continued through the building to the exit. Once outside I pulled out my Blackberry ® and shot off a text message to my supervisor:
“I just fired Rick. Thought you should know.”
I walked only 15 paces before the buzzing of the phone in my hand alerted me to a newly received text message.
“What took you so long? You have my support. He needed to go.” Reassuring words from my own boss.
I finished walking across the college campus to my own office. After unlocking the door I made the decision not to open any of the blinds to the office – my subtle hint to any students walking by that this was not a good time to drop by for a conversation.
Rick’s words began to replay in my head.
You’re going to wind up alone and miserable.
Always a possibility. Anyone was capable of wind up alone and miserable, I told myself. But the reality was that I was married to a man who adored me and I adored him. If I wound up alone and miserable it would be because something had gone terribly wrong in my marriage that I couldn’t foresee happening at this point.
I feel sorry for any children that you might have.
My hands went protectively to my abdomen, where the beginnings of a new life, only about six weeks along, were housed. Rick had no idea that I was pregnant, I hadn’t told anyone except my husband yet. However, his words struck me as deeply as anything I knew as they preyed on my own insecurities about becoming a mother.
You’re incapable of maintaining any relationships.
I stared at the plaque on the wall of my office. It was made of mahogany wood, with embossed gold lettering proudly stating, “Staff Member of the Year.” Surely I wouldn’t have won the award from the college’s student government association only three days earlier if I was truly incapable of maintaining relationships, right?
No matter how many times I tried to block his words in my head, they just kept hammering at me. I replayed every aspect of the situation, my words, my reactions, my response to the disciplinary situation. Try as I might I could not believe that I was making the wrong decision.
But his words still hurt. I began to cry. This was the part of the job that made it so difficult to be a leader.
I shifted my gaze from the Staff Member of the Year plaque to another sign, this one photocopied and tattered along the edges. I had displayed it in in every office I worked.
“What is right is not always popular. What is popular is not always right.”
My tears dried up. My heart still hurt. I stood up, turned off the lights to the office and locked the door.
It was time for a drive.