Going to be fired. Should I quit?
February 15, 2021 8:17 PM   Subscribe

In my last Ask, I requested coping strategies to deal with a bully-boss (owner). Well, I now expect to be terminated on Wednesday. Should I resign for resume optics?

I can't think of what grounds they wish to fire me, but on Friday evening I received a voicemail from HR that she and I would have a 15 minute meeting today (Monday) at 8am. She and I are somewhat friendly (I just bought $30 worth of Girl Scout Cookies from her kid lol) so I sent her a text asking if I should be polishing up my resume. When she didn't respond, I quickly followed up with an apology and my assurances I would only text her personal cell for work-related matters if it was *urgent.*

Only because my boss is impulsive, insecure, and irrational, with a history of rash terminations and hating my personality (or whatever. Being threatened and, again, insecure, when all I aim to do is benefit her team) did it cross my mind I was a goner. And, that she was having HR contact me on a Friday felt like a malicious move to ruin my weekend.

A former colleague alerted me to a job posting for my position that was posted Friday.

My HR meeting was cancelled today because of a power outage, and so I conducted business as usual, including several meetings with boss/owner.

I'm not being promoted. This is definitely a job posting for my role.

I know I can't collect unemployment benefits if I resign but I'm not sure that's the most important thing. What should I do?

(I feel terrible about all of this. I feel like people must assume I've been a bad employee. I've always worked my tail off and gotten results. I receive a great deal of praise and gratitude from everyone I interact with, minus boss. I have tried to win her favor and she just hates me. It just snowed here in Oregon and an employee from the midwest with 4WD was driving in it and I said something about that person having experience with snowy weather... and I think that was the last straw; as if I was insulting my boss for never having lived outside of Oregon. It's just so fucked up. I'm saying this because I could really use some advice and I promise I'm not a terrible person. Did I mention I've been working my tail off??)

To quit or not to quit. And, there's a slight chance I could plea for a demotion or something, to ease the transition.
posted by shocks connery to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I know I can't collect unemployment benefits if I resign but I'm not sure that's the most important thing.
That probably is the most important thing - especially now with pandemic enhanced UI.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:21 PM on February 15, 2021 [108 favorites]

Is there something I’m missing? I don’t see anything in your question about why you’d quit. What would you get out of quitting? Not letting them have the satisfaction of firing you? Not feeling the shame of being fired? Is it worth giving up unemployment benefits for that?

The “resume optics” are the same regardless. Telling a prospective employer that you quit and then sat around unemployed for a few months won’t look any better than telling them you were fired. If anything, it might make them think you weren’t telling the truth, because voluntary unemployment is not a mainstream choice.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:27 PM on February 15, 2021 [26 favorites]

Firing could also come with severance or incentives to sign noncompete or nondisclosure agreements.

Go into the meeting with arguments for how good you are for the company, including any measurables or client comments (off the top of your head is fine) asking them why a personality conflict with the boss isn’t something that can be navigated.

Do not resign.
posted by mahorn at 8:32 PM on February 15, 2021 [49 favorites]

Do not resign - let them fire you.

Get that UI dough!
posted by spinifex23 at 8:38 PM on February 15, 2021 [30 favorites]

Think of it this way. Your boss already knows what kind of reference she will give you. Letting her fire you, or quitting right before she might do so, won’t change that. So you gain nothing by quitting besides maybe being able to say “I was never fired”. By letting her (maybe) fire you, at the minimum you can at least get unemployment (during a global pandemic no less!!!) And again, the reference won’t change. You gain nothing by quitting. I’m sorry, and good luck.
posted by sillysally at 8:42 PM on February 15, 2021 [12 favorites]

"Quit to avoid being fired" seems to be the same thing as fired when they ask about it on job apps. Might as well just be fired. Also, what everyone else said about unemployment.

I'm sorry to hear this. I hope it doesn't come out as hideous as it's sounding, but pack your shit anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Do not sign anything. Repeat DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. No matter how much pressure they put on you to sign, just say, "I'll need to take that home and look it over before signing it."

Now that's out of the way, if they want to fire you, make them work for it. Make them "prove" their case. Before that happens, however, copy and document everything you can to show that you've been doing your job, that you've been doing it well, that people like you and respect your work. This will be the ammunition you (or more specifically) your employment lawyer will need to negotiate a better settlement/termination package.

Yes, it will be harder to say "I was fired" in a job interview than "I quit my last position" but again, don't do anything until after a lawyer looks over whatever they propose. Maybe the lawyer can even negotiate a "not fired" departure (whatever that means in whatever jurisdiction you reside in).

Even though you're probably right and this is a firing, maybe it's won't be. Maybe this will just be the "warning" they give you before firing you (i.e. setting you up for being fired in the future, no matter how wonderful you are). If that's the case, take it for what it is--an extension of time to find a new job.
posted by sardonyx at 8:52 PM on February 15, 2021 [43 favorites]

There is zero reason to quit if you suspect you're going to get fired.

I've seen people do it because they thought it would save their pride, but I don't know anyone for whom that's actually worked.

More practically, you don't put why your employment ended on your resume, and during interviews you can truthfully say something about a lack of alignment either way--and you'll be able to say it more confidently if you aren't trying to dance around "I left because I knew I was about to be fired".

Doing it for reference reasons doesn't make sense, either, since "Yeah they quit out of nowhere" isn't any better than "We let them go because it wasn't working out", and it sounds like using this boss as a reference would be risky anyway.

And unless you are wildly independently wealthy or have a new job lined up to start the day after you'd leave, do not give up your right to unemployment benefits!

I know it feels awful, but keep in mind that everyone but your boss likes you and is thankful for your work, and they definitely know what kind of person your boss is. It's not your fault and very few people will judge you for it; it's your boss' fault and most people will judge them for being a bully.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:54 PM on February 15, 2021 [12 favorites]

I’ve been in your exact position, and making them fire me was so embarassing and tough, but definitely the right choice. It’s been 10 years and it’s never been an issue in interviews; they don’t ask “were you fired,” they ask “why did you leave,” and you have a perfectly reasonable answer to that: wasn’t working out and it was time to go.
posted by assenav at 8:59 PM on February 15, 2021 [18 favorites]

One easy thing (but time consuming) I might do is start combing through my work communications looking for 'attaboy'-type words and collecting those. They can help you build positive stories to tell in interviews, help you be really clear about your strengths, and, again, help you find references for the future.

And reviewing that information will help you feel how amazing you are when you need it.

One more thing - maybe look around at a few employment lawyers so you feel more secure if you get into a difficult negotiating situation.
posted by amtho at 9:19 PM on February 15, 2021 [6 favorites]

On the off chance you've heard this, or anyone tries to convince you of it, being fired does not make you ineligible for unemployment. The rough principle in unemployment is that it's the employer's job to hire the right people for a job, not the employee's job to meet arbitrary expectations. If you quit, it'll be quite difficult to get unemployment, and your references will still be identical to if you fired. So, make them fire you. There's rarely any reason to voluntarily resign from a job.
posted by saeculorum at 9:57 PM on February 15, 2021 [24 favorites]

"Resume optics" are not a thing, there is no Permanent Record. If asked, you can either say you left or were laid off. Your HR department, having gotten caught up in what may very well be an unjustified termination, is not going to say boo to a goose except confirm you worked there and the dates of your employment. It's possible that a reference check will ask if you're eligible for rehire, which is a real weird gray area because "eligible" is a word that means things, and I would not worry about them saying no until that is an actual bridge you come to, since you probably won't.

Stay until they make you go, and then file for benefits from the parking lot.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:32 PM on February 15, 2021 [20 favorites]

Definitely make them fire you. Don't be ashamed. The loss of dignity is theirs. But before you go, make sure to link to a couple of friendly colleagues who might be able to give you a reference at some future date, and who might not mind starting with a LinkedIn recommendation in the near future. Also consider volunteering (yes, even from home) while you ponder your next step. There are a lot of ways to blur how jobs ended without lying about it — or having to talk about it in an interview either, and volunteerism might also be just the ticket to mend bruised self-esteem.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:33 AM on February 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Let them fire you. She deserves the higher unemployment insurance cost as at least a mediocre penalty for her behavior.

Try to take documentation with you, if possible, that boss is the problem. Ask HR person, if they seem sympathetic, or other coworkers if possible, if they would be willing to be employment-related references.

Then file for unemployment (online), file for food stamps and medical (online) if your other household income or lack thereof means you would quality (to cover your rear with a buffer just in case) and you go about looking for work like the rest of us.

And don't stress too much. There's an awful lot of us in similar boats - my particular [self-censored] of a boss pulled some particularly obnoxious shenanigans himself in November, so I'm laid off again, and I keep having nightmares about him expecting me to come back. (Pretty sure he won't, but if he gets desperate... who knows?)

That said, there are many jobs out there if you're in a financial situation where you have to be working because unemployment isn't enough. There's also help to get you through in the meantime. (If you aren't sure where to find those things, or the ones I mentioned above, direct message me here - I'm also in the PDX metro, I'm happy to help, and I have more than expected free time on my hands these days...)
posted by stormyteal at 12:48 AM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I got fired in 2019. I’ve gotten two new jobs since (lost one due to pandemic) and, know what? Neither one of those places even bothered to ask me why I left that job I was fired from. It is not some hideous black spot that will haunt you forever.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:06 AM on February 16, 2021 [30 favorites]

Get fired. In this case, quitting is for quitters. Also, listen carefully at the meeting. It will be weird and surreal. Do not argue with them even if they are giving factually inaccurate assessments.

The only time I worked for a large corporation, I was chosen to be the person who got "downsized". My genius boss in the meeting told me, because it was in November, that they would give me the same bonus I got last year. I had the HR person put the general terms in a bullet point memo. Item 2 was "Same bonus as last year". We both signed the memo which included a non disparagement agreement. When my bonus check was sent to my house a few days later it was light. Materially less than what I had gotten last year. Turns out my boss looked up my last year's bonus, but followed the paper along the line of the person below me. He would not have agreed if he had seen mine. They had to write me another check for low 5 figures.

Whatever their offer is, you can try to negotiate it higher. If they say 2 weeks, say you have been there for 5 years (or whatever) and you want one week for every year you have been there. Or if you are feeling aggressive say something like, "Two weeks? That is not enough for me to forget the years of harassment I have been subject to." It is sort of a way to threaten a lawsuit without threatening a lawsuit. They will negotiate especially if they want you to sign a release. If they ask you to sign a release and you are okay with the terms offered to you, still tell they you need to read it again and will fax it to them tomorrow or soon after you read it carefully.

If you are okay with the amount they are offering or the terms, just sit quietly, smile, thank them for the opportunity and wish them good luck with your replacement.
posted by AugustWest at 2:00 AM on February 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

I can’t fathom indifference to unemployment benefits. If they fire you, they owe you that money; it’s rightfully yours.
To be concerned with ‘resume optics” is to pander to future bosses; look out for yourself now.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:50 AM on February 16, 2021 [22 favorites]

I think it might matter what state you live in, but where I am, even if you quit you can still collect un-employment.

That said, there is nothing to be gained by quitting versus getting fired. As others have said, no one asks "were you fired?" They might ask "why did you leave your previous job?" and you can have a coherent, true or semi-true response without saying you were fired.

It is a lousy feeling, no one likes rejection, but it happens, don't beat yourself up. Most people realize job situations can go south even with good employees.

Also, think how great it will be to not have this terrible person in your life.
posted by rhonzo at 5:51 AM on February 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Should I resign for resume optics?

No, for reasons already discussed by others, but specifically on your question about resume optics, the economy and jobs market are both being thrashed by the pandemic. Unless you think that the owner would actively slander you if asked for a reference, if you are asked why you left, shrugging and saying that the company needed to downsize after almost a year of reduced economic activity is going to be something that people doing interviews hear all the time.

And emphasizing that unemployment is a benefit that you have earned as part of your compensation package. Don't let strong emotions let them steal that from you.
posted by Candleman at 6:54 AM on February 16, 2021 [10 favorites]

Yep, you can reframe being fired as "department reorganization" or a million other things. Don't quit!
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:49 AM on February 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Nthing the above- do not quit. You have done nothing wrong. They owe you, not the other way around.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:52 AM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

One easy thing (but time consuming) I might do is start combing through my work communications looking for 'attaboy'-type words and collecting those.

YES! But, and this may sound paranoid at first, take those communications and/or emails and print them out, or forward them to a personal account that's away from the company's computers.

Some companies will quietly lock you out of email and servers while you're having that quick 'chat' with HR, so do it beforehand.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:24 AM on February 16, 2021 [12 favorites]

Just for future reference, it's not a bad idea to do that before you get to this point. If you do it regularly, it won't be such a daunting task to do it all at once.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:33 AM on February 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I know I can't collect unemployment benefits if I resign but I'm not sure that's the most important thing.

It really is the most important thing, unless you're sitting directly on top of a gigantic pile of savings already, and even then my answer would be exactly the same (and you wouldn't still be at that job anyway if that were the case!). Absolutely do not resign. Make them let you go. You've earned those unemployment benefits (and hopefully severance), please do not forfeit them! Your immediate survival and well-being are SO much more critically important than "resume optics" which can totally be managed and are not even a real thing in this situation, as others have addressed above.

I've been let go or fired and subsquently collected unemployment multiple times (and I'm not even 40, damn), for reasons ranging from poor fit to not enough work to refusal to create busywork to foundering relationships with colleagues. In every single case, the newer, awesomer job that immediately followed could not have cared less about why I had left my previous role. Not only did they not ask for specifics, they were visibly thrilled because it meant they could immediately bring me on board! This won't impact your future prospects in any significant or measurable way unless you let it, believe me. You get to own your side of the story here so don't let them take that away from you also. You know you brought value and delivered results and got along well with others, grab that proof and forget the rest.

And yes, start combing your emails and files NOW. Delete your personal files and grab anything else you might need, and quickly.

I'm sorry this is happening. Hang in there.
posted by anderjen at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

Probably too late to the thread but my comment would be - it is easier to find a job when you have a job. I echo other comments - you have nothing to gain in quitting, if they wish to fire you they must have reasonable grounds. Not difference in personality. I hope things work out ok well.
posted by numberstation at 1:29 PM on February 16, 2021

I suggest that when looking for your important emails or files, that you NOT forward them to an outside email address. Print them out or copy your .pst file if it is Outlook or copy the files electronically. Forwarding company emails to a private email is likely against company policy. Sending company files to an outside email could be looked upon as you taking company secrets or proprietary information. It certainly could be considered inappropriate and HR could add it to the pile of things they are using to fire. You do not want to give them cause. Just copy to a jump drive.
posted by AugustWest at 1:32 PM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

if they wish to fire you they must have reasonable grounds

Not most places in the US, unfortunately. Employment is mostly at-will and an employer can fire you at any point they like as long as it's not because you're part of a protected class (e.g. race, religion, etc.). You can be fired for wearing a green shirt of the boss decides they don't like green. On the bright side, in place of protecting worker rights, we also have a health system that spends more to get worse results than our peer nations.
posted by Candleman at 1:47 PM on February 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

IANAL, and it's not exactly your case, but someone I know objected to having his final paycheck decreased by the amount they paid the recruiter when they hired him, on the condition that if he didn't stay 6 months he would have to pay the recruiting fee. He didn't stay 6 months and they said see, you signed this document. He said, in this state you can only garnish wages for specific reasons, that isn't one of them. They replied that they would return the amount they garnished but would then sue him for the amount. So he let the matter drop. You see, he had nothing to gain by surrendering early. He didn't gain anything anyway, but he didn't know if they were going to call his bluff or not. Try to put the burden on the employer, try to get records that might help an employment attorney, and in any case don't make it any easier for the employer.
posted by forthright at 3:25 PM on February 16, 2021

As a business owner: see if and when they fire you. There is zero reason to quit, unless you have another, fabulous job already signed up. Your boss sounds like someone not worth losing another sleepless night on.

I am sure that the details depend on your jurisdiction, but from a legal perspective, I can't think of a single reason why quitting would lead to a better outcome for you. (Short of blatant unethical/criminal behaviour on your part.)

I am sorry you have to deal with this. I am stunned at the lack of basic empathy from your boss.
posted by Yavsy at 3:26 PM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

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