Melissa Centers | Attorney, Author, & Consultant
Many years ago, I was recruited away from a cushy “big company” job to my first dream job at my dream company. I was tired of talking about things, making powerpoints, using theory words, producing products that are really just paper and thoughts, and pitching projects to fund. I wanted to build things. Real tangible things. In this new dream job, which was my first truly “big girl” job, I was going to get to do that. And, as an added bonus, I worked directly for a CIO who was smart, wickedly funny, and incredibly tough. I learned something every time I talked to him, even though talking to him was terrifying and often caused me to sweat through my shirt in very embarrassing and visible ways. He was like John Dutton in IT executive form. He was quick, slightly scary, and kept everyone on their toes, else they might be “taken to the train station.” I worked harder than I’ve ever worked, prepared more for every conversation, and tried to anticipate where he might go in every interaction. And this fear made me better, stronger, and faster than I’d ever been (queue the theme song to the Six Million Dollar Man).
And then one day, he was gone. And a new sheriff rode into town. One who had different goals for the organization, a different approach to how things should be done, and a vastly different personality. He wasn’t scary or challenging, just really nice.
Before I go further in this tale, some context. I am a “hall monitor.” I do what I am supposed to do, I try to follow the rules, etc. I had spent a career being a “top performer,” and getting great performance reviews, raises, and promotions. I say this not to toot my own horn, but to give the context to what comes next.
Basically, I had never really failed.
And then I heard these words from my new “nice” boss after just a couple of months: “you are just not a good fit here, thus I am going to have to let you go. Today is your last day. Someone will be here soon to walk you out.” I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to anyone.
In short: I was fired. Not as part of a reduction in force. Not because the company was out of money. Not because my job was being eliminated. No performance plan with a chance to correct. No quiet firing. I was fired because they just did not want me around anymore. And it hurt. A lot. And then it didn’t. As I read the articles about “quiet quitting” now, it seems like something that isn’t new at all. In reality, I was quietly quitting every day. I was not a good fit for the new direction, and the vision, while fine, did not speak to me. I was not enjoying the other changes taking place around me. I was getting sick more, and feeling really run down. I had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, and Sunday night was a really depressing time every week. What I didn’t realize was that these physical ailments were clues that I needed to change. And as I look back now, I am glad that I wasn’t given permission to quietly check out. I was shoved out of the plane at 30,000 feet and it forced me to use my gut to make some quick decisions.