Reaching Your Expiration Date

By Robert Goldman

November 14, 2019 5 min read

Is that your phone?

Don't pick it up.

Is your computer receiving an email?

Don't turn it on.

Sure, you could miss an important message full of wonderful news, but when was the last time that happened? The message you are much more likely to receive (by phone, email, text or carrier pigeon) is bad news — very, very bad news.

You're fired.

Even if you expect to be fired, you probably imagine the breakup will occur in the course of an awkward, highly emotional, face-to-face meeting. Your manager will be sorry. You will be sorry. Both of you will agree it just wasn't working out and wish each other the best going forward.

What you didn't expect is your manager creeping up behind you, wielding that axe with all the sensitivity of Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."

But these days, that's the way it happens.

According to Alison Doyle of The Balance Careers, employers have no requirement to show any compassion for your situation. They can be as cold and as callous as they like, and, based on past history, that's something they like — a lot.

"When an Employer Can Fire You by Phone or Email" is the title of Doyle's post, and a chilling tocsin it is.

"Your soon-to-be-former employer doesn't have to be nice when they fire you," Doyle writes. (Considering that they haven't been nice to you since day one, this should not come as a shock.) "Unless you are covered by an employment contract or state law that stipulates how you can be terminated, there are no restrictions on how an employer can fire you."

In other words, your employer can use signal flags, skywriting, mental telepathy or a procession of zombies snaking through the office lead by the head of HR dressed like Pennywise the Dancing Clown. There's nothing you can do about it.

And it gets worse: Not only are there no rules for how they fire you but there are also no rules for why they fire you. Except for a smattering of state and federal statutes against certain types of discrimination, if your manager doesn't like the cut of your jib — or the cut of your hair — you can see yourself out the door.

For better or worse, most companies do have a process for terminating an employee, so you are not likely to be canned with a surprise termi-text. Such policies are to be found in your employee manual (that's the fat binder you chucked out on day one to make room for your collection of Bangtan Boys bobbleheads).

Chances are the first step in your termination will be a seance with a human resources professional.

If the company has any heart, that first meeting will be your last meeting, but if they really want to make you suffer — and believe me, they do — the first meeting will trigger "the opportunity to improve performance." You will also get the opportunity to grow wings and fly away to a new job in Oompa-Loompa Land, so I wouldn't expect much.

You're toast.

At this point, you have only one chance to save yourself and your job.

Regardless of how the firing finally happens, Doyle reminds us that "organizations also want solid documentation that you have received their notice of termination, such as a signed document or registered mail receipt."

This is the best and last opportunity you will have to escape firing. No matter what they send or how they send it, don't accept it. If you follow my advice and stop answering your phone, opening your email or reading your texts, all while shooing away carrier pigeons as they land on your desktop, you should be immune from firing — forever.

In the off-chance that the company does manage to foist a termination notice on you (pro tip: If a pizza box mysteriously appears on your desk, don't open it), the best response is to ignore it.

Just keep coming in to work. If they unplug your computer, plug in a PlayStation 4. If they take away your phone, open the window and shout. If they take away your desk, sit on the floor. If they take away your floor, sit in the parking lot.

As Doyle asks you to remember, "Firings can happen to anyone," and, "It is important not to beat yourself up."

Absolutely true. When it comes to beating yourself up, your managers do a much better job of it.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

Photo credit: StockSnap at Pixabay

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