Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

The “F” Word

April 18th, 2011 | Bob Rosner

Image: Bob RosnerWhen I started networking after I was fired, yes, I actually follow the advice that I’ve been writing about for the last sixteen years, I came across an interesting issue. Do you use the “F” word with potential employers? You know, fired.

My initial tendency was to avoid it. I moved on, I was let go. Things didn’t work out. You know all these euphemisms. But I decided as part of the “Fired in real time” project, I would describe myself as being fired and see what would happen.

I got a call from a possible vendor. I needed to explain what happened, so I described myself as being fired. He seemed to take it in stride.

It was only days later, when a mutual friend called, that I learned that the vendor had called him to ask about me. Or, more specifically, to find out if I was “legit.”

Okay, it might not be a scarlet letter on my forehead, but it definitely is a stain on your credibility to be fired.

I did it a few more times, with a colleague, with the person sitting next to me at Rotary and with  someone who worked in a store where I was shopping. Okay, I’m not the type of guy who usually tells his life story to retail clerks, that’s the job of my seven year old daughter, but when the clerk asked why I was shopping in the middle of the day, I thought I’d drop the “F” word on her to see what would happen.

I’d like to say that the clerk immediately steered me away from the wool suits to the polyester section of the store. But I don’t even think that polyester is part of the Nordstrom vocabulary.

What I did observe was a variety of reactions, roreheads crinkle, eyes bear down on you harder and you can see someone’s brain kick into a higher gear. In short, people just check you out closer than usual. You’re not quite guilty, but not exactly innocent either. I think in Catholicism they call it “limbo.” In between.

At this point I have to tell you, I’ve all but dropped the “F” word. It’s just got too much baggage attached.

Ironically one person told me that I was brave to say it. She even told me a long story of the time that she was fired from a job. But then she said to me that I shouldn’t ever tell anyone that I was fired ever again. It’s just not something that people need to hear.

One of my favorite quotes is from Groucho Marx, “I wouldn’t ever want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” Kind of reminds me about telling someone that you’re fired. It’s a club with millions of members, but no one wants any part of it.

My a-ha: Honesty is the best policy, except when you’re fired.

Next installment: Getting back in the game


About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.org. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.org

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