Sometimes, there are no amount of words that can possibly elevate your pain.
As a writer, human and lover of how liberating words and good communication can be, this perplexes me.
With friendships, airing bad feelings is a necessity in helping people feel heard and move forward together. In group-work, communication is the only tug-boat that can save a sinking titanic project, ignite trust or keep big accounts from looking elsewhere. In close relationships, arguments are therapeutic ways of still liking someone. Without this brand of honesty, people lose interest or feel walked over.
Words help us air our ugly truths and feelings. The things that get stuck in our teeth, heads or stay staring at us in our quiet moments alone.
Words keep me replaying a loop of my ex-boss and someone I thought was a friend calling me “entitled and rude to staff ” after he set up an atmosphere where I trusted him enough to be myself.
In the midst of a search for hope and perspective on my recent dismissal (that didn’t seem like a bad performance review but more so a personal slap in the face), an article online said personality can be the reason why you get hired AND the reason why you get fired (harris, 2018).
It was pretty funny to me that in school they tell you all the time to just ‘be yourself’. However since no one knows who that is, they really mean just survive, be liked by enough people and get good marks.
In adulthood, they tell you that you should be less apologetic about who you are and that people will like you or not and that most of the time, it has nothing to do with you. Just a clash of personalities, not technically personal.
In professional spaces they say be efficient, hardworking and polite. A watered down version of yourself that’s shiny, memorable yet respectable.
I wish I could say my firing was due to his listed reasons but even my own bias aside, that wouldn’t be true. Entitled, something almost laughable as he began my first shift by inappropriately offering me things like lunch with him (twice), free boxing gloves, free personal training lessons with him and asking if I was single while wiping a single hair from my face. I always offered to pay for everything so he couldn’t use this excuse, as I knew it’s corrupting effects on friendships. However, my attempts were refused and stamped with a “we’re friends, I get it” promptly shutting me up.
Due to our unprofessional proximity he had initiated from the start, I felt like a refusal would be a no, not just to friendship but to my new job.
If I’m being really honest I also didn’t really want to say no either, as the job opened up so many opportunities and fills for me. I was an extrovert that forgot she was and this job reminded me of my confidence and ability to connect with people using my dry humour as glue.
I fell in love with doing my job well, being surrounded by happy faces and chatting to people I grew attached to. I felt I found my place where I least expected it and that I was so lucky that the universe was also offering me perks.
The boss’s friendship made me feel even more special as his interest was playful and authoritarian over all others… well at least for the first two weeks. It very quickly turned increasingly hostile and unapproachable as the weeks progressed.
I tried to use my words to open him up but it was almost like trying to cut cement. Our friendship no longer rubber or anything with traction nor stability. Every time he came into reception, I had no idea what mood he would be in.
So I looked to other trainers and gave him some space, while still enjoying the clients, work and the classes I would take on my days off.
In doing this, my humour fell flat once in a group training scenario. The trainer was fine with me the next day so I thought it was all but forgotten.
The next week the one-on-one training with the boss was not on the menu and the following week I wanted to know why. I received a short explanation that didn’t make any sense, involving his lack of time and a reminder I wasn’t paying him. I offered to pay like I had from the start, still he was not interested.
The next day I was fired at the end of my shift. He gave me a nasty explanation, no warning yet offered me my boxing gloves for free after he called me ‘entitled.’
I told him I didn’t want them as I felt that would prove what he said was true, and as well as that I was shocked.
No more friendship, place of escape from home, money source, fitness passion or familiar faces and colleages I really enjoyed seeing.
It was all gone and he blamed me and my words.
After I walked out speechless, I began to wonder if he was right. All clients and staff I was humorous with had all given it back to me with a smile. All things I had said, I would have apologised for if I had known I went too far. I deeply liked and respected everyone who worked there, my boss being number one.
The feeling not only cut like a break-up but left my body feeling all outstretched and unfamiliar. The idea of hitting the gym or continuing my progress that I had made in the last month made me feel terrified. I suddenly didn’t feel certain about the happiest version of me or my hardworking self I was at work.
In all of 2 minutes, I didn’t feel like the person my boss joked with only two hours prior to firing me nor the person that clients laughed with every shift I worked.
So I went home and felt terrible.
Only after a few hours did I stop replaying every awkward joke or conversation that could have been taken as unkind and realised he didn’t want me there not just because of those excuses. He wanted me out because it was easier for him.
He set the pace and then took it back, for whatever reason I have no idea.
A real friend or even a proper boss would have given his employees a warning before firing.
And if he was efficient or even thoughtful with his words, he wouldn’t have personally insulted who I was, repeating how he thought I was entitled and ungrateful, after delivering the shock blow that I was now unemployed.
The last bit kind of makes me think he was emotionally invested but also that he was a man who’s aggressive career in fighting also played a hand in how he handled his words and relationships. Being in survival mode at age 10 and on the streets like he had told me, makes me think when someone hits a nerve, he immediately cuts them regardless of emotion invested or loyalty.
I think my real mistake was my proximity to him.
I shouldn’t have invested as much so soon but unfortunately I didn’t expect to love the social aspect or the boxing as much as I had. It was my favourite part of the week. A new passion that kicked me from 75kg to 68kgs in just four weeks.
Perhaps I also got too comfortable, which excelled my firing. But looking back other than laying my dry humour down thickly, I wouldn’t have done much different.
Unlike my last job where I grew disinterested and comfortable, I turned up early, did more than what they asked and towards the end even started buying drinks for the boss out of my own money, so he wouldn’t act as hostile towards me.
So, I guess this whole thing reminded me that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you invest or try with something, sometimes things just don’t work out.
If anything proves this harsh reality the most it’s watching one of those physical obstacle course shows on TV. These people have built up to this moment for months, conditioning their bodies and minds everyday while also eating clean only to lose their footing on the first jump and BOOM! Disqualified. A sculpted, physically and mentally fit candidate is all but disappointed by a thoughtless mistake of their own.
Sometimes life is just like that. I have no clue why but perhaps one day we might.
harris, P. (2018). The number one reason people are fired (is the same as the reason they were hired) – Workopolis Blog. [online] Workopolis Blog. Available at: https://careers.workopolis.com/advice/the-number-one-reason-people-are-fired-is-the-same-as-the-reason-they-were-hired/