(Wo)Man Down! My Boss Just Got Fired. Now What?
The emails went out early that Friday morning, each one sending a deep stab of concern through my chest, like a cold, steely breath of ice.
First, from our VP with the subject line “Emergency Mandatory Creative Team Meeting.” Next, an urgent email meeting request from our brand manager. The final one requiring all to gather in the company cafeteria several hours later. Emergency emails like that can mean several things and none of them are good.
As a freelancer who’d had a successful writing and consulting business the past two decades, “being corporate” was a new role for me, one slipped into rather reluctantly. My now-former client wouldn’t take no for an answer. So I came onboard, thinking, “Why not? If you don’t try something, how can you know if it works or doesn’t?”
Of course, that thought process is great for small batch organic skin products, juice cleanses or even a different workout routine. Trying on big life changes? That gets a little more… well, complicated.
Embracing that philosophy already had led me through a short (okay, very short) post with a famous designer, where I learned that corporate was not my jam. I stuck it out, though, as I liked to say, a year, a month, a day, an hour and a minute, counting down each second I was there. I did everything I could to not drink the Kool-Aid. The one good thing I got from that job was a freelance contract, allowing me to segue from full-time with grace and financial stability.
Whether I was repeating past life mistakes with this latest corporate move was yet to be seen. Nearly two years into it, though, I was still at “my” computer every Monday through Friday, adrift in a sea of desks comprising the brand that employs me.
Back to that Friday. At some point, our team noticed my boss’s desk had been cleared off and her office area cleaned out. The gossip started flying. All I could think was “OMYGODOMYGOD.” My boss, who had whizzed by me that morning with a chipper wave and hello, smiling more broadly than I’d noticed in eight months, was nowhere to be seen. Someone had seen HR come collect her bag and coat. She’d been escorted off the premises, whisked down the freight elevator and released to a life of career uncertainty.
My boss had been highly respected at the company for decades, clocking in as long as the now defunct Queen of J. Crew, Jenna Lyons’, mirroring the tenacity and length of her tenure. Truth be told, though, after our purchase by a major equity holding company, new C-suite executives kept popping up, and my boss pushed back — hard —on their new directives and personalities. Honestly, this whole Friday scene shouldn’t have come as a surprise. I felt a sickening sense of Brand New World politics sinking in. Talk about a reset.
All in all, three people were “gone,” just gone, that Friday morning after the internal dust had calmed down. We were told they had “left the company” —as good a euphemism as any. Our new leaders thanked them in their absentia for years of dedication and devotion to the corporation. I couldn’t help but feel the little curl of a sneer inside me at that. All I could think was, “Good God, they were fired! Let’s get real.” And I worried that maybe I was next in line.
She was the boss who hired me. She used to gush, calling my copy “so clever and creative,” telling me how lucky they were to have snagged me. I loved working with her. She’d made my job fun, showered me with appreciation and acted as my own personal cheerleader. More than that, she’d been a buffer, a shield between the rest of the executives and me. What happens when you lose that protection? What happens when a new crew comes in? What happens when you’re perceived as “old regime?” House cleaning, that’s what. Was I, too, just dust on the computer screen, trivial enough to be swiped clean?
A week later, I got an email from my SVP: “As you know, so-and-so starts Monday as your new supervisor…” Um, no. I didn’t know. No one had informed me. Gulp. Now I really felt my job security was at stake. Was I already falling through the cracks, being considered redundant and irrelevant?
The “New Boss” joined the company. Met the Content team. Met with me. Met my brand leader. We all seemed to have a meeting of the minds. And… I liked New Boss! A lot.
Employed in a different position than my old boss — a new role created in the company — I think New Boss yields a greater capacity of learning for me. Maybe I’ve been missing this in my latest career step, maybe this is the new perspective I need. I’m going to look at it as a career reset. It’s all good. At least, I’ve seen no emergency mandatory meeting emails in my inbox. Yet…