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I was fired from a place I love. Help me
August 18, 2010 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I was just fired from a job I love, which also happened to be a place I spent a great deal of time socially. How do I cope?

I worked at a gym. I spent a great amount of my free time there working out or spending time with the regulars. My connections with the members there were actually part of the reason I got the job- I had over five references from current employees when I turned in my resume.
I was under the impression the whole time that I was working hard, and that I rarely slacked or did anything unprofessional.
About an hour ago, my bosses told me to meet with them. They told me that I was condescending to customers (which I believe to be totally untrue- I made a conscious effort to be patient and upbeat around customers), that I didn't make connections with the staff, and that I didn't work hard. I had been given no prior warning. At that point, they just let me go.
I feel like I put such an effort into this job. I loved it- the work has been better than anything I've ever had before. I put in extra time off the clock and I paid money out of my own pocket (I worked with kids and bought them treats when they did things well), I was never late and missed only one shift due to a scheduling error.
I don't know what to do. I spent so much time there, even when I wasn't working. I've been having a lot of issues with friends lately and this was my social connection- I made so many friends there and now I feel so alienated, like I can't come back.
How do I cope? Many of my good friends, including my boyfriend, currently work there. That job and the gym itself played a huge role in getting me out of my shell and acted to help me out of a long depression. I feel so betrayed and so confused, I don't understand why this happened and I don't know where to go from here.

Any advice, metafilter? I feel so horrible.
posted by pyrom to Work & Money (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry to hear this, this always sucks.

I had been given no prior warning.
This indicates to me that all the reasons they gave were total fiction. Politics, cost-cutting, the real reason could be anything, but at least know that it wasn't anything you did and those are just lame excuses they chose because they are so vague you can't really deny them.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:25 AM on August 18, 2010 [17 favorites]


Strange that they should fire you for reasons which you know to be false; I wonder what their real reason is? Quite possibly you have the basis for a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal, and if you wish to file such a suit, speak to a lawyer (you can probably get one to take the case on a contingency basis, so that it won't cost you anything). Other than that, I can only suggest that you find a different gym where you can work. It's very sad when these types of things happen, and since you have a history of depression in the past, I fear that you may become depressed again. However, I hope that you will be able to get on with your life and get a new job which will work out better than the old one. As for your friends who still work there, chances are they had nothing to do with getting you fired, and you can still be friends with them.
posted by grizzled at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2010


It's not you, it's them.

Keep this in mind. They made a decision; sure, it sucks, but this decision is about them and their choices, (and in a down economy, possibly their budgets), and not really the lame excuses they've made to paper things over. You're more or less an innocent bystander.

As a manager type occasionally in the past, I've had to let employees go. In each case, we had made a large investment in the employee- hiring, training, equipment, etc. We never destroyed that investment by firing people without counseling them first, identifying the issues with their behavior or performance, and trying to come up with ways to fix the issues. If an employee has to be let go for reasons other than direct malfeasance, it should almost always be the final stage in a process, not a bolt from the blue. Your experience smells like bad management to me. I've never had to fire someone who was surprised by it- usually, we'd all agree that the job was a bad fit, and that they needed to seek other horizons. It certainly sucked for them (and for us), but it certainly shouldn't ever be a surprise.

I'd suggest trying hard not to take it personally, to the extent that you can. More than likely there is another side to this story than you know about, and you'll uncover it as time goes by. This is most likely a financial decision made out of panic by an organization that's forced to downsize, and hasn't figured out how to handle it. You'll know if this is the case by talking to your friends. Stay in touch with them, and go out some night once the dust settles.

In the meantime, can I suggest that you do have several advantages as you pursue new work:

1) You've found a line of work you love. This is really important. Many don't.
2) You have many referenceable friends who work in the industry.
3) You've probably got some great connections with the parents of the kids you were working with; some of them just may come over to the next place.

Take the rest of the week off, then dust off the resume, and find a gig at the gym down the street. And try to take some clients- and some of the other trainers- with you.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Quite possibly you have the basis for a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal
Assuming the location (Wisconsin) in the profile is correct, this isn't an option. Wisonsin is an at-will employment state.
posted by sanko at 11:32 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This isn't precisely on point, but it sounds to me like you're getting screwed. I hate to advise this, because it's long and messy, but you could potentially have a claim for wrongful termination, or at least be able to contest your firing for cause.

It sounds to me like your bosses wanted to fire you for reasons of their own--no one is enjoying the recession--but didn't want to have to pay your unemployment benefits. If an employer fires an employee "for cause," i.e. for being a bad employee, they don't have to pay those benefits. But if they're downsizing, etc., they do. So instead of just letting you go because they need to cut back, they're firing you "for cause."

Here's the thing though: the burden of proof for avoiding unemployment benefits lies on the employer. So unless they've got documentation, and it doesn't sound like they do, they'll still have to pay. Furthermore, by making things up to fire you like this, they expose themselves to an independent employment practices liability claim. You are allowed to fire people just because--most states are still "at-will" employment states--but making stuff up about employees in order to fire them is dicey at best.

I'm not going to encourage you to pursue the latter route, as it's messy, mean-spirited, and not necessarily a high-odds proposition. But if you get turned down for benefits because you were fired for cause, you need to talk to a lawyer.
posted by valkyryn at 11:32 AM on August 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


All you can do is keep your head high and move on. Don't let this trigger another depression. The best revenge is to live well.

Don't burn any bridges. Try to get letters of recommendation. Find a new job.
Focus on finding a new path in life, focus on that like a laser beam - do not start wallowing in pity and depression over what is lost.
posted by Flood at 11:32 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it possible that they wanted your job for someone else?

At any rate don't be embarassed and hide at home, lest you lose contact with your friends there. Call one or two of them, meet up, chat. They might shed some light or make you feel better. If they are your friends they will still want to see you. This is important, ok?
posted by Omnomnom at 11:36 AM on August 18, 2010


I spent so much time there, even when I wasn't working. I've been having a lot of issues with friends lately and this was my social connection- I made so many friends there and now I feel so alienated, like I can't come back.

Maybe this was something your bosses didn't like - perhaps they couldn't see any difference between your work time and your social time. Mixing work and social life can often be difficult and can resulting in a blurring of the lines between your corporate self representing the gym and your social self with your friends.
posted by essexjan at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Quite possibly you have the basis for a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal, and if you wish to file such a suit, speak to a lawyer

I don't see any basis for this in this question. The OP doesn't indicate being in any protected class, and most states are at-will employment states.
posted by Pax at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is not legal advice, and I am not your lawyer (and I'm not an employment lawyer). But the thought occurs to me that you may want to consult an employment lawyer in your jurisdiction to clarify the reasons for your dismissal, and what the gym will say when a potential future employer calls to verify that you worked there.

These days, well-advised employers often will only confirm the dates of a former employee's employment. But if this message has not been drilled into everyone's head, one day you could be interviewing for another gym position, they call these guys and some loose cannon says, "Yeah, OP used to work here, and her personnel file says we fired her because she was lazy and rude."

I don't disagree with the upthreadders that, depending on whether you are in an at-will jurisdiction (i.e., most of the US), your employer could fire you because he thought your ears were too wide. But if your personnel file states that you were a bad employee and you think you weren't, you don't want that being repeated to other people (though that might itself be actionable as slander).

Again, talk to your own lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and none of this is legal advice.

Sorry for your situation.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:57 AM on August 18, 2010


What you've said about your performance and what they've said about it - those two things just don't jive. Like many above, I don't think they've given you the real reason why they let you go.

Try to learn the real reason they fired you. Is there anyone at the gym whom you can trust to be discreet and who will tell you the truth - whether staff or clientele? Your boyfriend? Can you go back to your former bosses and calmly try to get the truth from them? Once you find out, assuming it was indeed for a shady reason, go ahead and get nice and angry. Know that it wasn't you; it was them.

Don't share this anger with any of the people at the gym. Stay classy, and use your anger to lift your head up high, get some good references from your clients and colleages, and get yourself a similar job at another gym. A better gym. And, keep going to this gym, keep socializing with the people you were socializing with, and keep a smile on your face. Never speak poorly of your former bosses. This won't be easy, but it will sure raise your self esteem, make you tougher, and make you damn proud of yourself.
posted by kitcat at 12:02 PM on August 18, 2010


This is very important: At any rate don't be embarrassed and hide at home, lest you lose contact with your friends there. Call one or two of them, meet up, chat. They might shed some light or make you feel better. If they are your friends they will still want to see you. This is important, ok?

When I was much much younger, I was fired from a job I loved for odd political and office culture reasons. The hardest thing in the world I have ever done socially was maintain contact--social and professional--with the good friends and contacts I had at (and through) that job, but it was important and rewarding, both socially and professionally. But jumpin-jesus-on-a-cracker was it hard. Give it a day or two to settle, then call or message one of those people and say you'd like to get coffee or lunch or a drink after work (whatever would be normal for you). Don't press too hard, but sincerely try to get a date set.

Right before you get together, first do whatever is necessary for you to purge the bad feelings (take a run, take a pill, take a drink, sing really loudly to your favorite stupid song). Then wear your biggest (even if fake) smile on your way to the meeting place (you can relax into a natural facial expression when you get there). Be genuinely glad to see that person and spend no more than 10 minutes on the "man, it sucks! I loved that job. It's not fair. I don't understand." part of the conversation.

The transition into the next part of the conversation may be awkward, but just do it. Turn the conversation to something totally unrelated to the old job, your new job search, or how you feel about either. You don't have to visit with your friend for a long time, but make sure the person knows you appreciate their friendship, that you enjoy their company. If they offer to help you find a new job, accept the offer with something concrete (if you can) like "Do you know anyone at Alternate Workplace that I can talk to, as an informational interview?"

Then go home and congratulate yourself on doing a really hard thing with dignity and poise.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


File for unemployment benefits today. Talk to a lawyer about making it stick in the face of their claim that you were fired.
posted by grouse at 12:19 PM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


that I didn't make connections with the staff, and that I didn't work hard.

this definitely doesn't jibe with your statement that your boyfriend and most of your friends work there. You can't make friends without making connections, and most people don't love a gold-bricking co-worker. So I'd take the upthread comments about wrongful dismissal and employer's burden of proof in firing for cause pretty seriously, and see if you can't get some unemployment out of it, while you're looking for other work.

Could any of your friendly co-workers be construed as a supervisor? Put them down as a reference when you're job-hunting.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:22 PM on August 18, 2010


Also, document everything you can. Write down all the details of the conversation with your bosses, and anything else relevant, while it is still fresh on your mind.

Usually, you can't file for unemployment in arrears, so really go file today. If not, you are potentially throwing money away.
posted by grouse at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2010


Lots of times managers generalize their personal opinions to legitimate them. You could have annoyed one or two individuals who complained; the person(s) in question may still be very surface friendly to you. If you have an entry level job, management will see you as expendable, and generalize the criticism to bolster their decision. They may be generalizing the criticism to avoid seeming autocratic.

You wouldn't realistically be able to reconstruct or recover your situation socially or economically even if you filed a dispute. It's not a high level position. I would say your best use of your time would be to let it go and find another employment situation. I would be that the subtext will eventually emerge through the grapevine.

If you take the lawsuit route, lots of time, energy and money spent for very little in return.
posted by effluvia at 1:07 PM on August 18, 2010


I had something like this happen. It sucks, but onward and upward. I wouldn't worry about getting back at them legally or otherwise. If your friends there are really your friends, they'll stick with you and your friendship might become closer.
posted by sweetkid at 2:20 PM on August 18, 2010


The calls for you to consult an employment lawyer are completely off-base unless you have a contract. You can be fired for any reason unless you are in a protected class or are in a union. Nobody has to prove their alleged reasons for firing you. Nobody has to give you warnings. Said reasons do not need to be meticulously documented. That is how it is. The good news is that you will likely have no problem collecting unemployment. Unemployment is denied in cases of gross misconduct, which you are not being accused of. When you start job hunting again, have a friend call them and pretend to be a prospective employer to scope out whether they are damning you in the reference. (Sure, you could use a lawyer for this task, but they tend to be a little more expensive than a friend.) And use a trusted colleague for your reference, not your boss. Sorry you are going through this.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:43 PM on August 18, 2010


Unemployment is denied in cases of gross misconduct

This is false—simple misconduct will suffice in Wisconsin. Better to get your advice from someone who is knowledgeable in this area: a Wisconsin employment lawyer.

I see you are a student. If, by any chance, you are working for the gym at a public university, you may have some other tricks up your sleeve.
posted by grouse at 3:02 PM on August 18, 2010


You should call two or three of your friends from work -- people who you know will be honest with you -- and ask them whether the reasons you were given for your firing make any sense to them, whether they contain bits of truth. Say it's so that you'll know whether you should work on adjusting your world view or whether you should work on some of your social skills. Ask if they know of any specific incidents where you seemed condescending, etc.

It's probable that they will react with disbelief and agree with your assessment, or it could be that one or two incidents were read wrongly and blown out of proportion.

If there is something for you to learn here, good, you can learn and at least the world won't seem completely insane.

If not, if your friends agree that this is completely out of left field, then you can ask to get their comments in writing (or just ask again via e-mail -- or ask in e-mail initially in any case, since you're more likely to be able to avoid tears). Then you can ask these friends to serve as references for your next job search, and, if you feel up to it, call a lawyer.
posted by amtho at 3:08 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds to me like your bosses wanted to fire you for reasons of their own--no one is enjoying the recession--but didn't want to have to pay your unemployment benefits. If an employer fires an employee "for cause," i.e. for being a bad employee, they don't have to pay those benefits.

Except this isn't "cause." They may want you to think so, but unless you were fired for something like stealing, sharing trade secrets, threatening people, etc., then this isn't cause. Being condescending, difficult to work with, or lazy (not that I believe you were any of these things) isn't cause. Feel free to apply for unemployment.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:34 PM on August 18, 2010


Sometimes workplaces will ah, just come up with excuses to get rid of you. I have no idea if you were what they really considered "bad" or not, but the fact that they came up with nebulous stuff and, as far as I can tell, didn't go around documenting it, is suspicious. They NEVER said anything to you about? No formal warnings? No notification whatsoever and just canned you for being supposedly "bad"? This sounds to me like they wanted to get rid of you, not get you to become a better employee first. For all I know you were lowest on the totem pole or the boss wanted to open up a job for a relative and you ended up being the target.

Where do you go from there? Job hunting, unfortunately. And finding ways to see your gym friends outside of that gym.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:49 PM on August 18, 2010


I had been given no prior warning.
This indicates to me that all the reasons they gave were total fiction. Politics, cost-cutting, the real reason could be anything, but at least know that it wasn't anything you did and those are just lame excuses they chose because they are so vague you can't really deny them.

Sometimes workplaces will ah, just come up with excuses to get rid of you.


We had the same issue here with good friend of mine - he worked hard, was dedicated, they accused him of things we all knew were false, sacked him, and... a week later the client canned the project he was working on. So... he didn't get a redundancy payout.

It's a massively gutless way to go about things, and I feel like I've betrayed him for still working here. It sounds like the same has happened to you.
posted by the noob at 10:44 PM on August 18, 2010


"It's a massively gutless way to go about things, and I feel like I've betrayed him for still working here. It sounds like the same has happened to you."
A great number of my friends still work there, but more importantly, my boyfriend. Right now it's his only source of income, and I know he loves the job as well. I want him to stay and not feel bad about staying and could never ask him to leave for my own benefit. How do I make sure he doesn't feel like he's betrayed me for still working there?

Thanks to all responses so far, they've made me feel a great deal better. Though I don't think I'll be pursuing legal action, I might look into unemployment. I was depending on this source of income for the next four years as I progress through college, and I'm not really sure what I'll be doing next.
Also, if anyone is still reading this thread- how do I apply for another job and explain my getting fired from this job?

Thanks!
posted by pyrom at 7:55 AM on August 19, 2010


HR here (also in WI).

File for unemployment. Even if you are fired for cause, you stand a very, very good chance (unless they can prove something truly egregious) of getting unemployment.

It sucks that there was no warning process to give you time to a) get the feedback and b) make changes, but being an at-will state allows employers to end employment without warning.
posted by Twicketface at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2010


If you're a student, you almost certainly do not qualify for unemployment, but it's still worth asking.
posted by valkyryn at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2010


I had almost the exact same thing happen to me a few months ago - I worked at a bar for two and a half years, and was basically "the face" of the bar - I was ALWAYS there. Always working extra shifts, always helping everyone out, always doing more than my fair share. It was pretty much a Cheers-type place, everyone was a regular, everyone knew each other, etc. I met some of my best friends working there over the years and even met my boyfriend there too.

They decided to terminate me because they suspected I was giving free drinks away. Which I wasn't. I would buy the guys that worked there a couple beers because they'd stay with us (2 girls) all night to make sure we got to our cars okay, that nothing shady happened, etc. So I guess because I rang the beers I bought separately, they assumed I was giving them away, I don't really know. I was told there was video evidence but I never saw any of it. (Read: they had nothing.)

I'll spare everyone the long story here, but a week after I was fired (which I was, even though they told unemployment that when "confronted, I resigned" and I therefore did not receive unemployment and was out of work for two months) my boyfriend got a call from a manager telling him to "not bother coming in tomorrow, because we need to talk about a few things. So let's set up a meeting and go from there." (The MO of this place before they fire you... unless you're me, I was never given the chance at a meeting or even a face-to-face with the bitch owner who accused me of stealing) One of our friends who still worked there told us the manager had asked him "So what's up with him lately, is he upset about the whole slyboots421 thing?" We never acted obvious while we were there socially or for work, no one even knew we were together until we slowly started telling our friends that we trusted, etc. I have every reason to believe that they fired both of us for being together. Even though they never asked us if we were, never said they'd put us on different shifts if that was the case, nothing. They took their own assumptions to the bank. Is it possible that this is what happened to you too?

So, as you can tell from this long-winded and probably irrelevant ramble, I'm still pretty bitter about my termination. Especially because, like you, I spent a great deal of time there socially as well. I felt like I had been cast out or rejected and completely uncomfortable ever going in there again. (I have been in there twice now for friends' birthday celebrations and have felt like jumping out of my skin the whole time.)

My advice to you is to try to let the bitterness/anger/sadness you feel wash over you and turn into something productive. I've come a long way in my feelings, but they're still there. I don't know how long it'll take for them to fully go away. Just do your best to keep in touch with the people you still want to keep in touch with, try not to badmouth the management for what happened - just rise above it. It's very difficult and I wish you lots of luck. If you want to message me, please do. Your situation sounds eerily similar to mine.

Just keep your head up. This just opens many doors to you, though not in the way you'd choose for yourself.
posted by slyboots421 at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2010


Try to learn from the experience. It sucks. Yes, but... is there any chance you were fired with cause? Is there any chance you were to chummy with certain customers and too distant or disinterested with others?

What I'm getting at here is this: It's easy to say "Fuck it! It's clearly them, not me." And maybe that's the case... but maybe it isn't. The most important thing is to make sure that, if this was somehow your fault, you don't make the same mistake in the future... because if you think it sucks now, imagine how much it'll suck the second time.

Try to keep your chin up. Stay 100% positive, no matter what. Don't badmouth anyone from where you used to work because, believe me, word gets around.

Use this as a learning experience.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:55 PM on August 19, 2010


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