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(OT) my first fired experience

by leocharre (Priest)
on Jun 12, 2010 at 08:37 UTC ( #844335=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

I've been working at a small financial firm for about 5 years, here in the state of Maryland. I do development, unix, perl. The man that owns the firm is an accountant. My boss is the I.T. manager here- he asked me to come work with him five years ago. It's great working with him- he knows hardware and network very well- I do software and development for the firm and various clients.

In late May, I was called in by the firm owner for a meeting one on one. I thought it was odd, we never meet without my boss to discuss work- he's the glue between my nerd language and the language of users, god bless them. I just can't help myself from explaining things to clients and the firm owner without getting excited about the details- I try to explain and show much more than these people have interest in- it's fair. I sat down- I was asked about this project- I was told it wasn't going well- and that we should part ways. Today would be the last day- as is company policy (they do something with payroll to pay two weeks ahead or back so they can lay people off without giving notice- it's gruesome, I've seent it happen to a lot of people here- it hurts to "watch").

I basically said that it was fine and I had no grudge or ill feelings. After all, a job is a contract by and employee and an employer- and at any moment either party can terminate the relationship at will- more or less. But- I kind of felt something the matter about what was going on in this room- aside from what would happen after I stood up and walked outside it. I tried talking a little bit about the work itself, the poject mentioned- how I've been waiting for feedback on some of this for days- how I maintain many projects- about how my superior is actually up to date on all of these matters- But to no avail- he was not interested in discussing any of this, and simply left it at 'we dissagree'. I also suggested that maybe he should consider letting me work there for a couple more weeks, to finish up some projects (I maintain a lot of software- some of it is pretty important to the firm and some clients). I mentioned this is probably not the best way to go about getting rid of someone in I.T- that it may not be good for the company- that usually you want someone in my position to close up loose ends- leave things as clean and documented as possible for any potential people who have to deal with what you left. Thankfully- I am always thinking of those things when I deploy. I document, leave trails, comment, make sure variables are named simply, etc etc. I've maintained code left by chimps before, I don't ever want to do that to someone else. Again, no interest in any of this.

I looked at the piece of paper titled 'termination notice'- it said I was being terminated because I had not completed this project to satisfaction/on time etc.

I looked at the company owner and said "This is embarrassing.. I've worked here five years, I've done a lot of work here- How am I going to go find another job with this?" He looked back at me without change of expression and said "Nah... I'll write you a reference letter, it won't say that."

My boss, the man who asked me to come work with him here 5 years ago- was about as surprised as I was. He helped me gather my things in some boxes- drove me home. He said he was feeling ill from this and didn't go back to work- he went home for the rest of the day.

The next day mostly I just scratched my head. After that- I thought about the project discussed in the 'layoff meeting'. This was a website redesign and seo backend check- two projects really- but only the website front end was mentioned. I was actually really looking forward to deploying this- and I was kind of proud of it, I made it to build from simple text source, ran through filters it would output html, etc- nice unixy stuff. I'd also done a bit of research on all company terms and the usage of such against google terms data, etc- a bunch of fun stuff. The website was basically done- we had met weeks earlier- I was asked what else was needed- what we do from there. I said, I need you to basically look at this layout, tell me if there's anything you want to change, different colors, home page, etc, and we can make it live- I'd write a follow up email on this to remind the firm owner and my supervisor of what we had done in this meeting and what I needed feedback on to go live. It seems the firm owner thought it was my responsibility to- after sending out the email- check back with him to (maybe remind him?) revise. I can accept that maybe some people expect that from their employees- that's fine- it's not my style- if I've not been asked to explicitly do that- and we have many many things to work on already. But- still- if, say- my employer thinks part of my job as a software developer is to help scan in documents or answer the phones- and I don't do this or do it poorly and therefore they want to get rid of me- ok- so be it. But telling me I didn't complete the work when I'm waiting for your approval? Strange. (That may be some venting, excuse me.) So- I'm thinking about that project. I thought it was a pity to leave it like that. The current site for the firm was horrible- terrible code- missing titles, alt tags- etc- I'd been asking to be allowed to set time to redesign that site since I began work there five years ago- and here it was- only needing a final approval for- presentation, of all things! Ha! It's like working as a master cheff and getting fired because you misplaced a fork! (Ah.. venting.)

So I resolved to offer something. I talked to my supervisor, and told him to run something by the firm owner. I would offer to finish the project- that is, make it live- close up and loose ends- links- whatever- and that I would offer to do this without any compesation, even. That I just wanted to see the work used- My boss knows me- he understood where I'm coming from- the type of creative passion I have for good work.

I was hoping I would at least part from this place that I had invested so much time and energy into- leaving behind one last "something nice and useful" for the company.

The firm owner had no interest in this.

Days passed- had the first few beers I'd had in maybe a year- smoking up, to two packs a day now. I figured out to file for unemployment- talk to my landlord and mention I don't have any income anymore- contact my ex about how this child support payment is going to be the last of this ammount until I had more information.. Planned out some other worst case scenario stuff- such as having to move out at the turn of a dime- maybe ending up putting most of everything I own but clothes in the trash- including all my art- which I did once, ten years ago.

Today I received a notice from the state of Maryland unemployment office, that my former employee has a 'claimant dispute'- and we will settle this over the phone on Wednesday.

Any suggestions, comments- on.. (?)

  • A) I've never been fired/terminated before from- anything. Is all of this normal?
  • B) I'm torn between just letting this go and just ignoring filing for unemployment- because- I worked here for five years! What kind of "reference letter" will I have with them after a dispute settlement with the state of Maryland's unemployent office? And if I don't have *some* income- I mean, rent, kids, you know..
  • C) My actual boss boss- supervisor- no problem- for references rationale. But I also fear I can't keep from mentioning to the state, that my supervisor was informed of my work- in fact- knew of my work and what it needed to deploy- etc. So this could put him in a situation of having to lie to protect his job (?). I don't know- I talked to him about all this- he says he understands whatever I need to do, that he'd try to talk to the firm owner again on Tuesday- and likely to no use. I still fear putting him in a tough spot with all of this. It wouldn't be fair.
  • D) I had high hopes for doing some good things in the industry- in free software. I'm teetering on breaking down and just pouring myself on my past life, selling my art- so, I'm learning about the painting techniques of the old masters- helps a lot to use the right tools; http://leocharre.com/art-update/p1/ .

update

Mon Jul  5 06:41:56 EDT 2010

Answers to the questions above..

  • A) Yes, it's becoming normal. Depends who you ask. Some commentary out there suggests employers are becoming increasingly aware of the costs of laying people off.
  • B) As per the guidance I received here;
    • I filed immediately.
    • I was given quite a little run-around, playing phone tag with the state. I received various 'we may or may not call you on x date from now between the hours of y an z'. At first I was taken aback that my former employer was disputing my claim to unemployment benefits.
    • Had a series of phone calls with the state over the last month, maybe 3 or 4, each about 20 minutes. I made sure to listen carefully and not interrupt.
    • Made sure to be honest- careful- say what I needed to say- keep it short- realize that the person at the other end of the line is on the beat (I found it useful to remind myself of this, and pay it some due honors, as least in my head).
    • Almost one month later, I can collect unemployment now. My former employer can still appeal, I won't be surprised- and I won't be resentful etc. As was suggested by the people who took the time and care to comment on this thread- It's not personal- it's a force of nature. When the storm breaks the roof, we patch it up as best we can. We fix it. That's how we roll.
    I have to say- the difference between being able to claim benefits and not- is make or break. If you are honestly entitled to it- and you've got monsters to take care of-( like some of us here-) not doing so is criminal. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, go- get drunk- get it over and done with- and then file immediately the next day.
  • C)Heard nothing since.
  • D)Doing ok with art, it's meaningful. Until I find some ambitious unix hackers to work for- There's an endless and beautiful world we're creating out here- so much to learn.

    However unlikely, I came to the right place. If you go through this weirdness- consider browsing the discussion.

Comment on (OT) my first fired experience
Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by JavaFan (Canon) on Jun 12, 2010 at 10:24 UTC
    I don't know whether it's normal. It certainly hasn't happened to me, and I have parted ways with employers many times. One thing I've learned: it doesn't pay to have any company loyalty after being laid off. Always file for unemployment - and be honest with the employment office. Do not feel sorry for your supervisor; he couldn't protect you, so why risk your benefits (which you seem to desperately need) for his sake? Don't worry about the reference. People are too afraid to give bad references, specially if they are unfounded, as they may get sued. Get a reference from a co-worker. Or explain in an interview how you parted with your previous employer, and that that is why you didn't ask them for a reference.

    It may be too late now, but it isn't too late for your next job: join a union. I did, after parting ways in a bad way with an employer (who suddenly claimed it had no money to pay its employees), and it did pay off when parting ways with another, if only for the free use of their legal department (the parting of ways was done cleanly, via a court settlement (that way, my unemployment rights were protected). I phoned my union once, got a form to fill out, did not even have to appear in court myself, got half a year of severance pay. Legal fees: nada. This was in Europe, BTW)

      A union.. haha.. this is the U.S.- other countries send soldiers to your home, take you out in the middle of the night and shoot you. We- well, we send you bills.

      All kidding aside, there are some stringent requirements for unionizing in the U.S.- I know if you work for the city of DC, for example, you can opt into one- I also know that in Boston- it's illegal to unionize if you're not fulltime- (something of that sort is the loophole).

      Love the things I hear of Europe. Seems like you guys don't spend most of your budget on things to kill people- that's inspiring- almost as if you guys learned something from wwii about the importance of treating the average person with care and respect.

      Phew..

      You make a sensible point about what to take personal and what not to- about filing for unemployment quickly. And yes- the advice about not holding loyalty- especially in such a situation- after an ending relationship- real world.

      moritz also makes a point about not being overly concerned with references. I think it's sound.

      Yes, it's not personal. That's something I taste here- I think it's financial. It just seems so dirty. Why not just say something more honest- aha- I think that- if they said something like "we're having trouble with clients etc, we may be laying you off in the next x timeframe"- that would put them at a disadvantage. Because then they have someone who may at any point tell them they found other work- etc. Or maybe they fear having now someone working with less interest/etc.

      I'm still concerned with their angle- what kind of dispute they will offer up- and having my wits about me to say the right things when I talk to the people managing unemployment disputes.

      There's a paper trail all over, in my favor- it's just so petty to take things to that level.-

      I'm quite - sobered- about what I see stated in these responses- that people are hessitant to - esentially- tell the truth- about their former employees- I guess it's obvious- but I for one- had no idea that a reference from a previous employer was such an empty piece of paper!

        Love the things I hear of Europe. Seems like you guys don't spend most of your budget on things to kill people- that's inspiring- almost as if you guys learned something from wwii about the importance of treating the average person with care and respect.

        The US took the de-facto policing role after Europe's industries were laid to waste or otherwise prohibited from war-making after the World Wars (obviously not as strenously as Japan, who got a constitution that does the same). Not to mention that staying less aggressive helped to avoid provoking the Soviet Union, which occupyed a significant portion of the continent. For good or ill, Western Europe outsourced almost all of its military as a matter of immediate necessity and, shortly after, Cold War politics.

        I can't speak to the change in culture in the intervening century or so, though the soviet political model seems to not be completely out of favor in influencial parts of their Union.

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by moritz (Cardinal) on Jun 12, 2010 at 10:45 UTC
    I can very well feel your disturbance about getting fired. I can very much imagine I'd feel the same (and hate myself for feeling so strongly about how some bunch of a****les acted).

    I haven't been through this yet (thankfully), but I did heard that much of it is normal:

    • telling you in the latest moment possible, for fear you might do some damage if you continued working after knowing you are being sacked
    • Not being up to any discussions; once the big boss tells you about it, the decision has been made, irreversibly. No amount of reasoning will change it.
    • It happens that people get fired without any fault of their own; in that case the reason presented to you was probably just an excuse
    As a piece of encouragement, please consider that
    • It wasn't the decision of the people who worked with you, but somebody else, probably for reasons completely unrelated (financial maybe, or looking for somebody to place some blame)
    • The big boss who fired you was probably pretty much indifferent about you; he didn't hate you. There are good chances you'll get a good letter of reference; he doesn't gain anything from earning your (or your direct supervisor's) enmity.

    I wish you the best of luck, and hope that you'll find something to do which you both like, and which can sustain you.

    Perl 6 - links to (nearly) everything that is Perl 6.

      I was actually randomly approached by a potential employer half way accross the country- maybe a year ago. Likely offering a pay raise- as well as a more challenging working environment. I looked around- and I thought- I can't be such an a****le to leave like this- and I had my hot shot ivy league gf working a city over. The gf dumped me- the work- well.. the work.

      I guess my office and street smarts didn't keep up with my fledgeling unix hacknicity.

      Someone should write a good book about a balance between 'keeping the distance' and being a professional. Maybe Duncan gave it a try. I don't know that he talks enough about some of this, though.

      Again, thank you for your points. They are of use, and I will think about them.

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by Jenda (Abbot) on Jun 13, 2010 at 20:42 UTC

    I can relate to your feelings about the unfinished project. I would feel the same. Though ... I used to work for a financial firm as well, a much much bigger one, not even sure how many levels were there between me and the capo di tuti capi. And I also left an unfinished project. But I was not fired, I left on my own and I do not give a damn about the project.

    The system I was appointed to work on was in a horrible state so as soon as I got to know it a bit I sat down to try and give it a bit sounder foundation. Shared code, the first ever regression test, ... and found out that it takes hours to "release" a one character change (19:00 to 18:00 in a one line shell script), that I spend more time fighting the many ill-designed ticketing and change requesting and approval preventing applications than developing. That I have to manually test and provide "test evidence" any part of the system that might have been affected ... only to find out that the development, QA and production system have different version of perl, compiled with different options and with different sets of installed Perl modules and system libraries, ... (Yes, now I am venting).

    You know what? To hell with the work, to hell with the system and to hell with the company. If the company does its best to prevent me from working ... I kinda handed over the stuff I did, I had the modules documented from the very beginning and do I care there are a few things that were days from completion? That could have made the system much quicker? In a situation when the system barely keeps up with the load? Nope!

    BTW, you know what's funny? Out of the New York part of the team there were only Indians (making unintelligible sounds) and one Russian (if you've heard such a strong accent in an action movie, you'd thing they are overdoing it.) And all of them loved phone-calls. Hey dude! I don't understand a word of your mumbling! And I would not consider any single one of them competent. A huge and important company. I'm not surprised by the financial crisis! I'm surprised it's not much worse.

    Anyway, I hope you find a new job soon. Fingers crossed!

    Jenda
    Enoch was right!
    Enjoy the last years of Rome.

      Well, since we're already OT.

      I'm not surprised by the financial crisis! I'm surprised it's not much worse.

      It is much worse. There is just enough inertia to make it appear otherwise for awhile yet.

      I lived with a Russian paparazzi in Boston, who used to make art under the Soviet Regime, would be told what to paint. Old school Russians are creepy and smart as all hell!

      You know what's funny- I had two or three projects there that are base to what they do. We designed and I wrote and tested everything by myself- alone- it was .. Hard as hell- No room for error- An error means data loss- means loss of clients or worse- I was automating maintenance of gobs of user created data- heuristic psychodelia- lemme tell ya-

      Point is, stuff I made is sound. I made sure to document well- to allow for failures- etc etc- In the case that should anything ever happen to me- should I leave, or die- I wouldn't leave behind just a mountain of undecipherable hacks- and if you've worked in a small isp/hosting company run by unix hackers.. and I have.. oh man.. the creepy things they leave behind. It's like these guys walk around and half solved rubik cubes are falling out of their pockets behind them! Only, these things run the company!

      So I made sure not to leave such fragile insanity.

      And.. I'm a little bit proud of the fact that I *can* be fired- the software systems still run- caring for the little bits and bytes of human endeavour :-)

        Well, the system I left (due to the company selling off some branches) a few years ago still runs, prettymuch untouched. But that was my baby. Even if adopted. Something I fixed, extended and cared about. Something I was allowed to fix.

        The project I complained about is actually ... erm ... pretty important as well. It provides "static" data about financial products to almost every system in the company. It's not built as such.

        Jenda
        Enoch was right!
        Enjoy the last years of Rome.

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by wazoox (Prior) on Jun 14, 2010 at 11:01 UTC

    First, I agree 100% with Moritz... The best you can do now is forget all about this company as quickly as possible and look for another job. I think that good programmers are seriously needed about anywhere so that shouldn't be too much a problem.

    Today I received a notice from the state of Maryland unemployment office, that my former employee has a 'claimant dispute'- and we will settle this over the phone on Wednesday.

    I didn't grasp this one. Whom does your former employee have a dispute with? On what subject?

    BTW, nice art, excellent drawings. Kudos :)

      You don't get unemployment benefits if you are terminated "with cause". His former employer has notified that state that they believe they terminated him with cause. In short, they are trying to prevent leocharre from getting his benefits.


      TGI says moo

        In short, they are trying to prevent leocharre from getting his benefits.

        This is unjustifiable, unless leocharre voluntarily harmed the company. I suppose they're simply assholes.

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by Herkum (Parson) on Jun 14, 2010 at 19:40 UTC

    Today I received a notice from the state of Maryland unemployment office, that my former employee has a 'claimant dispute'- and we will settle this over the phone on Wednesday.

    You seem young, so let me tell you the first thing you should learn. There are people who just don't care. I know you want to help but some people are more interested in being right and will not listen to you.

    Second, unemployment is worth more to you than reference. The owner is trying to screw you and a letter of reference is not really worth that much. If you need a reference you can ask your direct boss for one and he should be able to do so on the side. You can always find references, even friends or other people you have worked with before. They are not hard to come by, you just have to be a little creative in who you ask(which means not just your boss).

    Third, as for dealing with the unemployment, this is where you have to focus on the important things. Did your employer give you notice a project was going well? What steps were taken to address the issue? Does the owner have any documentation to support this assertion? Basically, it sounds like the owner tried to BS you and you fell for it. If you have never talked with the owner one-on-one before and there was a problem with the project, he should have come forward much earlier than preparing a termination paper.

    The fact of the matter is the owner is trying to fire you for cause (a cause that makes you look like an undeserving slacker) so he does not have to pay additional unemployment benefits. If you think that this schmuck is going to do ANYTHING for you, you are sadly mistaken. If he did, you could bring it back to the Employment Office and point out what he gave you and what he said were two different things.

    Sorry, there are just some people like that and the best thing you can do is mitigate the damage and move forward with your life. Don't get hung up on this issue but don't be a sucker and not fight for your benefits. Otherwise you are being a victim again.

      In the UK, you would I think in those circumstances have a very good case for "Unfair dismissal" and receive a good amount of compensation in lieu.

        In the US, you can be pretty much fired at a whim. You can fired for no reason at all(companies get in trouble when you get fired for a specific reason that they are not supposed too. Examples would be sex, age, or race for example).

        The thing is, if a company that fires you does not have a good reason, the state will pay unemployment benefits. Where do they get the money from? They charge businesses a fee, depending on how many people they employ and how often they fire someone. Companies that have a habit of firing people are charged a higher fee because they are putting a burden on the state.

        For leocharre here, he mentioned that the owner is an accountant which probably he knows the rules better than most people. If this guy is the penny-pincher that I think he is, then he is trying to avoid having to pay that higher fee. It is a petty thing, but there are plenty of petty people out there.

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by runrig (Abbot) on Jun 15, 2010 at 18:06 UTC
    Nah... I'll write you a reference letter, it won't say that.

    It's probably too late now, but if you'd have gotten the reference letter right then and there, you could have used it in the unemployment dispute as evidence...even if you got the letter from the boss instead of the owner.

    Good luck, and like Adam Corolla said in his last radio show...It'll be ok, and probably even better, eventually. Or something like that...

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Jun 19, 2010 at 01:44 UTC

    I certainly would like for you to name the company, so that everyone else in the Perl community will know not to go to work for them. Word gets around fast on the Internet. Spread the word on places like Facebook, too.

    No, I am actually quite serious. I've been in this business for a very long time and sometimes you really do need to fight fire with fire. You can be “disarmingly neutral” when you express the opinion that such-and-so company is not advisable to work for.

    Also:   bear in mind that, if you are good with Perl as you obviously are, there is always great demand for what you do. The world may be stuffed full of PHP hacks, but it is not stuffed with skilled Perl folks. “Older, but wiser now,” move on.

      I sympathize—I do seem to say that a lot…—but this isn’t good advice. You should never be or even have the potential appearance of being petty. It’s not good for yourself psychologically and it might alienate an employer you’d really like to work for.

      Besides, there is no secret here. :) Dyer & Associates PC, Kensington, MD. All just data now. No judgements or op-ed, just information. Now to follow my own advice before I say anything else about that.

      I appreciate the sentiment. But- It's a hard call to be upset with them in any way- personally, that is.

      I did work there for five years- and it was a good job- Meaningful- I helped develop some systems and hacks that saved co-workers etc a lot of time- I got to work with a couple of very talented people..

      It was a good experience- while the experience was happening.

      To be perfectly honest- I don't even know that I would advise for or against working for this business. There are always things to be concerned about- in all of our experiences, interactions formal and informal with other people. Maybe somebody needs the job- maybe *some*how in some way I cannot understand or fail to see- there was some miscommunication issue- and this next situation for them will work out. Likely not- but it's up to other people to create their own reality.

      And- you mention you've been in the industry for a long time- then you know- There can be much worse situations than this one- Maybe your employer gets offended when you don't come to their house on Christmas and down shots of vodka all night long instead of visiting your own family and friends- Or they don't pay you.. or... You know.
      Relatively- the situation is simple..

      This place does have a high turnover rate. It may be as mentioned - the employer is trying to minimize the penalty with the state. As moritz first mentioned, wisely so- it's nothing personal. I do get that feeling.

      As for also- Too old to be excited about the next brand new experience, and too young for wisdom... I'm wondering how many of us suffer from this sort of- post partum depression thing- after an event of this sort.

        it's nothing personal

        I don't know the actors, events, etc, etc, but assuming it is what it looks like I'd say: integrity is always a personal issue and firing someone for cause where there is, in light of fact, no cause is both personal and despicable. Saying it's "just business" doesn't justify unethical business practices. It's horrifying that we've come to associate business with amorality.

        You have good perspective. It might take awhile but I am betting you'll land in a better situation. I know how humiliating searching for a job can feel even when you're doing it willingly. While you're looking, remember that job hunting is quite a bit like dating. You're both looking for a good match and a fun, positive, self-confident attitude is very attractive to pretty much everyone.

        Total sidebar: you have some chops with the paints. I was a merciless art critic in a former incarnation too so I'm not just saying that. Keep it up! Dig deep while you've got extra cycles and see where it takes you.

        ... I'm wondering how many of us suffer from this sort of- post partum depression thing- after an event of this sort.

        Everyone does - its normal. You mentioned being dumped by your gf earlier, well here you were dumped by your employer. Regardless of right or wrong, personal or not, the emotions are the same and everyone suffers them. The solution is to put it behind you and move on. Time will heal the wounds. BTW I've been "let go" from four different jobs for four different reasons over 25 years or so. The last one was just as painful as the first, but each time I got over it and moved on to something better. So, good luck with your next adventure.

Re: (OT) my first fired experience
by Anonymous Monk on Jun 22, 2010 at 18:51 UTC

    What Herkum and moritz said.

    Nothing personal, they just have some reason unbeknownced to you why they wanted to let you go, and they don't want to pay more in unemployment fees. Nothing personal, it just costs them more and you and your family's welfare isn't a concern on their balance sheet. Nothing personal, mind you.

    The phone call is standard. This happens all the time. Be truthful and get your unemployment benefits so you can do some job hunting and get back on your feet. Good luck.

      "Nothing personal, mind you."

      In case it wasn't obvious, that was intended to be sarcastic. It's nothing personal to the them, but it's pretty darn personal to you.

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