"Fired Up: How To Win When You Lose Your Job"
Excerpt of this award-winning and timely book about coping and coming back from a crisis, such as losing your job.
Fired UpHow to Win When You Lose Your JobWIL LAVEISTCopyright 2008 by Wil LaVeistFired UpHow to Win When You Lose Your Jobby Wil LaVeistPrinted in the United States of AmericaISBN 978-1-60647-557-7All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guaran-tees all contents are original and do not infringe upon the legal rights of any other person or work. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author. The views expressed in this book are not necessarily those of the publisher.Unless otherwise indicated, Bible quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc., and The Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan.Cover by David ToddInspirational/Business/Christian Non-Fiction/Self HelpFired Up: How to Win When You Lose Your JobLELLC, INC.www.WILLAVEIST.COMwww.xulonpress.comvDedicationsThis book is dedicated to my children, Daniel, Joshua and Coryn. I pray that each of you get job experience and college-educated and then go into business for yourselves.ixTable of ContentsIntroduction ...................................................................... xi1. Thrown into the Well .................................................172. Sold Out ......................................................................333. Mourning Coffee ........................................................374. Josephs Firing ...........................................................855. At Someone Elses Will ..............................................956. 3 A.M. Wakeup .........................................................1017. Early Morning Meetings .........................................1138. Forgiveness at Work ................................................133Epilogue ..........................................................................171xiIntroductionFired Up is about climbing out of a crisis. This crisis was a job loss, but the process is the same for any trial. After a fteen-plus-year successful journalism career, I was abruptly red. It happened just six months after I joined a media company that aggressively recruited me to lead its new Internet publishing division. A shocking termination can be as devastating as any other losseven losing a loved onebecause what we do for a living is often intimately tied to who we are. After being terminated, you will likely go through the various stages of grief, such as denial and anger, before reaching acceptance and hopefully forgiveness. I went through most of the stages and got stuck at anger. I will share the steps I took to cope, recover and eventually forgive, enabling me to move on.The key to accomplishing this was how God dealt with me throughout the process, particularly though His Scriptures. Several times I had read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis beginning in chapter 37. Joseph and his brothers are the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. But reading the story this time while in the middle of a crisis similar to Josephsbeing wounded by your own peopleI came to truly understand the value of embracing the bad things that happen to you in life. That dening negative moment or Fired Upxiieven tragedy is often the catalyst God uses to launch you on a positive trajectory toward your destiny.In fact, I almost titled this book Released To Your Destiny, the phrase used by a colleague who told me thats what she believed her experience of being disrespectfully pushed out of a job was all about. She was hurt, but inspired to focus on her own business. She let go of all grudges toward the guy who cut her. Then about three years later the local newspaper reported that the organization she was dropped from had shut down because of a nancial mess. Its national ofce swooped down and shut off the lights. God had not only promoted, but also spared her any connection. So yes, like Joseph, who after being thrown in a well was eventually pulled up to the position in which he was destined, I was terminated so that I could be promoted. The promotion is not about a happy ending, though. The promotion is in the process.Joseph, who was given a dream by God that he would become a great leader and ruler was thrown into a well by his jealous brothers, who actually wanted him dead. They red him. Then, they pulled him out, reinstating him to the family momentarily, only to sell him into slavery; terminated again. After rising the career ladder from a slave to becoming the right hand man of a top Egyptian ofcial, Joseph was terminated a third time. The Egyptian ofcials wife pulled a corporate power move on Joseph, which led to him being thrown in prison.I saw the parallels between what happened to Joseph and what I was going through. I was red cold-blooded style from a company that claimed a family-oriented reputation. Then, I was reinstated at a signicantly lower salary. Then nally, a few months later, I was terminated for good. But as I studied Josephs story, I learned, as he did, vital lessons as God molded some of my character aws in preparing me for the next higher level. This is why its important to embrace the bad things that happen to you, whether it is a job loss or xiiiFired Upeven worse. It may sound odd, but you too will truly under-stand the Bible-based saying, What man meant for evil, God meant for good.My four-step process began quickly. I instinctively did the following:1. Reached out to others2. Reected on my past, as I assessed my present and planned for the future3. Allowed my raw emotions to owBut as I let my emotions ow, I got stuck and soaked in anger. I nearly drowned in it. Then nally I had a break-through, learning that forgiveness, the fourth and nal step of acceptance, was vital for me to truly emerge free and able to move on successfully. In these pages you will follow my process through these steps from that angry place in the beginning to forgiveness and freedom by the end.Though I recommend a person seek professional coun-seling for a major crisis like this, I didnt have to. The DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, a Christian executive lead-ership program I just happened to be accepted into when trouble hit, served that role for me. During one of the DeVos workshop sessions, a minister shared intimate and painful details about the breakup of his marriage. He told us, Turn your mess into a message. I was inspired by the strength and courage God had given him and that he hadnt allowed pride and shame to keep him from blessing others with his testimony. When a boss res you, like in the mean-spirited way I was red, he or she often assumes or hopes youll be so ashamed that you wont want to talk about it. The boss gures this will also keep his and the companys image safe. However, I believe in what Joseph told his brothers when he revealed himself to them:Fired UpxivBut as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.Josephs triumphant story is a written testimony that helped me. So, without shame I recount in these pages the raw details of how my termination happened to help others who have experienced similar. I omit some names and do not identify the companys location to protect the guilty and the innocent. Another goal of my message is that those who havent been red would be empathetic to those who have. I hope the next time you read that a top executive was ousted from a company, or that 1,500 workers were laid off from a plant, or even that a professional athlete was cut from a team, you will think of the individuals involved and how their lives and families will be altered. I hope you will see issues that wont appear in the news articles, such as teens possibly having to be pulled out of high school because Dad or Mom has to relocate. There are strains put on the single parent or the marriage, as the spouse who wasnt terminated has to uproot and start over again, too. I hope youll empa-thize with the ex-breadwinner, male or female, who has to adjust to being home baking bread.Of course not all terminations are unfair or nancially devastating. In fact, many are just the opposite and are simply necessary, nothing personal and just business. However, I want you to imagine the types of changes people are put through particularly when theyre let go without warning. And perhaps an employer who is considering terminating employees will realize that he or she doesnt have to be brutal about it. The same result can be accomplished humanely.My hope is that as Ive tried to keep it real in sharing my experience I might encourage someone who may be drowning after having been redthrown in a well like Joseph and me. I want you to realize that a crisis, such as a xvFired Uptermination, is actually a good thing because it can release you to your greater destiny. Whatever bad happens to you, you can choose to use it to make yourself stronger and to help others. You dont have to wallow in sorrow and self-pity. And you dont need a lived happily ever after ending either. Just trust the process. If youre in crisis, I hope these words help you to hear from God and stand tall in your well; for if you do, you will eventually climb out victoriously youll be FIRED UP!17Chapter 1Thrown into the WellSo it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. (Gen 37:23, 24)Fired Up18It was the rst time I had been red.It ended on a chilly October day in a major Midwest city. Twenty-seven years of nearly uninterrupted employment in different states across the country that began with my rst summer job in New York City at age fourteen.It was after a weekly team project meeting I was heading up as part of my leading role at a media company I had joined a few months earlier. This particular project was about creating a Web site geared toward children. As I wrapped up the session around 4:45 p.m., my recently hired supervisor, who had joined the meeting late, turned to me and said that he wanted to talk privately in his ofce. I dropped off my project folder in my ofce and took the elevator up to his.I sensed nothing unusual, as I stepped inside his ofce. My supervisor sat behind his executive desk, his burly frame uffed in the brown leather chair. As I looked at his black face, his white eyes shift downward away from mine. I slid into the blue cloth guest seat on the opposite side. CNN video of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois on the wall-mounted at screen TV prompted us to chitchat about the surprising momentum driving the Chicago politician towards consid-ering a run for the presidency. If he ran and won Obama would be Americas rst black commander in chief. Then suddenly my supervisors countenance turned from pleasant conversation to administering the deed at hand.He began saying that he thought the Web project meeting had gone very well and that he was feeling good about the Web sites planned launch in November. However, he had been thinking about the direction the company needed to go in terms of the Internet department I was heading: the depart-ment that just six months earlier I was recruited to lead. My supervisor said that he had recently returned from a maga-zine industry meeting in Phoenix where Web strategies were discussed in a session. He was vague about those strate-gies, but said that what he heard there prompted him to 19Fired Upconclude that I lacked what he felt was necessary to lead the companys Internet department. Therefore, he was making a major change: me.No prior warning.No performance review process.Just red.Dumped.Bye.I was stunned, as if an airbag burst from the steering wheel and slammed into my chin and chest, after being broadsided. When my supervisor joined the company unex-pectedly two months earlier, I was encouraged by the news. However, his mode of operation was to state what he wanted done, rather than investigate what I had already been doing. We never had a detailed discussion about my strategy for the department. He knew that I was nishing a twenty-page strategic business plan requested of me by the companys CEO after a series of summer-long managers meetings that concluded two months earlier. Cross-functional teams were set up to produce strategic plans for all departments. My supervisor joined the company as those meetings ended. It didnt matter to him that I would submit the plan on time to him, the newly formed cross-functional team and the CEO in a matter of days.After more than fteen years of successfully navi-gating my journalism career through white-owned media companies, a brothera fellow black manwas ring me, throwing me in a well. Not only that, but he was a top leader of an organization that advocated to keep journalists like me employed. As I watched him mouth words, thoughts raged in my head. I wandered off to back in the day on the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., to a time I would have dealt with a punk move like this by using my sts, a blade, or a gun.Fired Up20Leap over the desk and wear him out! I heard the corporate thug in me say.But then, through my anger, pierced the clear rm still voice:You are a professional and a family mana Christian, a new creature.I came back to myself. Then slowly leaned forward.I calmly asked my supervisor what I had done or failed to do that triggered a workshop at a conference to seal my fate. He began rambling about two incidences related to the same child Web site project we had just left a meeting about. In the initial group meeting in the CEOs ofce, my supervisor said he felt I should have expressed more visible enthusiasm about the project. During another meeting, he said I should have gotten up and used a white board to outline the tasks and goals. Although he had also stepped into that meeting toward the end, he said he felt compelled to take over and write on the board himself.I couldnt believe my ears.I boiled inside. The clear, rm still voice kept me cool.Not the time to be a lion. Be a lamb.My supervisor scooted up in his chair. He was on a roll now. He complained that I disagreed with him regarding the skill set needed for a staff position I had requested months before he arrived. He continued on about how my three-member staff missed a deadline for a test launch of the main Web site project we were focused on. I reminded him that he had imposed that deadline and that I had insisted it wouldnt be enough time for the test. We also had this second project added to the list. We were still on track for the Web sites ofcial launch, though. I eventually relented to keep the peace, so I thought.He stared at me, his head tilted to the side.I peered back at him.21Fired UpThis is B.S., I thought to myself. Ive been set up to fail.I imagined clutching his throat with my hands, my sts smashing his face.But where will that get you? the still voice asked rmly.My supervisor broke the silence.Ive made up my mind and the decision is nal, he said, handing me an eleven-by-seventeen-inch yellow envelope. Inside was a separation agreement for me to sign, promising not to sue the company.Well keep things condential, he said. Respect your privacy as you look for something else.Then he said something even more curious. He told me that he hoped I would stay around to continue managing the Web projectsthe same projects he had just criticized me for.I lifted slowly from my seat and stepped toward him.I paused.I extended my right hand to shake his. Firmly gripping his palm, I stared directly into his white eyes and told him that my ring was planned and personal; it wasnt based on whats best for the company, but whats best for him.Why come to the company and create a hostile envi-ronment? I asked him. It would have been better had you looked me in the eye man-to-man when you rst came aboard and simply said you had someone else in mind for my position. You couldve offered me another position in the company or simply compensated me fairly leaving no hard feelings, especially considering I was hired before you and had just relocated my entire family.Just three months earlier, my wife and I had purchased a home and moved the family in.This is personal, I said.Well, if thats what you think, he responded coldly.Fired Up22I left and headed back to what would no longer be my corner ofce three ights beneath his. As the elevator door opened, I stepped out, turned left toward the mens room, and entered slowly. At the sink, I washed my hands and splashed cold water on my face. I grabbed a white napkin folded above the sink. Patting my forehead, I paused as the paper slid below my eyes. I stared at my reection.I dont believe what just happened. How do I tell Rita about this? I spoke quietly.There was only silence now from the clear, rm still voice.The Short Ride HomeThe commute from the citys downtown to my home in its southern suburbs seemed faster than usual.Normally (except on Fridays) Id hurry to the commuter train line, eager to get home to my family; eager to hear how everybodys day had gone. This Wednesday night I walked slowly to the Kennedy Street station, hoping to maybe miss a train or two. No such luck.Once on the silver double-deck train, I wished for delays. Unlucky again.Next stop, 59th Avenue! announced the computerized conductor.As I sat silently, I remembered something my father would often stress to me years ago when I was a teenager.Dont keep things bottled up inside, hed say. The stress can kill you.So I called one of my three older sisters, Pamela Bell, a minister in Baltimore. Even before she went into the ministry, Pam was like a big sister pastor. I could always talk to her about a crisis, like the time she convinced me that I was in denial and at risk of becoming a college dropout.