One week ago, I was involuntarily terminated from my job of six years.
Fired. I got fired.
Up until August 30, 2018, I had never actually been fired. I was laid-off once back in early 2009, but like, who wasn’t? The bubble had burst, and my company that performed fleet management for the recently bailed out automotive manufacturers got hit hard. Other than that short stint of unemployment, I have been gainfully employed since the age of 14. As I’m sure you can imagine, the life of a stay-at-home-mom is quite the culture shock for someone who has been employed for twenty years.
Why did I get fired, you ask? Wellllll, let’s start with some backstory.
For the last six years, I was a loyal and proud employee of US Bank. I had many different positions within the organization, but for the last two-and-a-half years, I was a mortgage supervisor in the default counseling department. Most recently, I led a team of 11 mortgage counselors, and I was really freaking good at it. My team consistently hit their metrics and were top in our business line, I was trusted to turn in accurate, high-quality work in a timely manner, I was reliable, and people- agents and management both- liked me. So what could possibly result in the immediate, no-questions-asked termination of an employee like me?
The word “shit-head.”
The agents in our room talk to mortgagees all day long, and I failed to realize that an agent was working overtime past regular business hours in a cubicle very near mine. I asked someone not to be a shit-head (I swear it was not out of malice, that was just the nature of our relationship), and in a serendipitous moment of silence on an active call, my fatal expletive was recorded in infamy. The agent reported the incident to the Bank’s employee relations, and within 24-hours of an investigation being opened, I was terminated.
To be honest, I completely understand the reasoning behind their decision. I’ve had to terminate agents for similar transgressions numerous times; company policy is nonnegotiable, and I was the idiot recorded cursing on the floor. Taking responsibility for one’s mistakes is a lost art, if you ask me.
But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that is also irate, enraged, infuriated- gobsmacked by the injustice of it all. Corporate America is the worst, this is not a new concept. But it took getting terminated without warning for me to fully grasp exactly how little I mattered as an individual to US Bank. I was a tiny cog in an utter maze of machinery, a blip in a sea of 80,000 others just like me, save a select few. But, most importantly, I learned that I was completely and utterly replaceable.
That I had dedicated more than six years of my life to this company mattered not. That I had an extraordinary performance history meant nothing. That I had had every intention of working at US Bank for decades to come until retirement was irrelevant. That my employees were distraught and texting me that they didn’t want to work for anyone else was never considered. I had committed a fireable offense, and no amount of context or history was going to reverse it.
To be fair, I knew all of this already; on some level, at least. I knew in my heart-of-hearts that US Bank the company could not possibly care less about me or my existence- as long I continued to help cure their delinquency, improve their investor scores, and help their bottom dollar, I was free to continue with the status quo (AKA: employment). Otherwise, it’s off with her head. I was subconsciously prepared for this to happen at some point.
What I was not prepared for, though, was the absolute silence from my coworkers whom, up until now, I had counted as friends. Only two weeks ago we drank and laughed and danced to “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys together at a colleague’s wedding. We knew about each other’s sex lives and relationships and kids; we knew each other’s favorite foods and called each other cutesie things like “work husband/wife” and “sister-wife.” We vented to each other and celebrated with each other and after the whole world came crashing down around me, it was like I never existed. It was almost as if reaching out to me would be putting themselves at risk, as if termination of one’s employment is somehow communicable.
I guess I kind of understand where they’re coming from- what do you say to a women you’ve seen every day for years who has just lost her job, her income, and her security? It doesn’t make for a pleasant conversation. I’ve heard from my former employees and other coworkers that I had personal relationships with outside of US Bank, though, and I am so grateful for their friendship and comfort. Life’s all about those silver linings, right?
Being a stay-at-home mom is honestly not something I’ve ever wanted to be. I enjoy working. I like contributing to my family’s financial well-being and the stimulation that work brings me. I enjoyed forging those relationships with coworkers and mentoring and teaching my agents how to be their best possible professional selves. So I sobbed the whole 40-minute drive home after it happened. I sobbed for the loss of friendship, the loss of my time, the loss of my income, and the loss of life as I knew it. But I also sobbed for the overwhelming rush of freedom I felt, because it felt rife with possibility.
For now, my entire existence is focused on figuring out my next move. We’re going to see if we can swing life as a one-income household for a while, so I can spend some time with our girls. Childcare costs were a significant portion of our monthly expenses and, while the savings don’t offset the loss of my income, it’s still one of those silver linings I’m working so hard to find.
And who knows? Maybe this will ultimately be a blessing in disguise. While I was fairly happy with my job at US Bank and didn’t want to die at the idea of working there for the better part of my life, I certainly never dreamed of being a mortgage supervisor as a young girl. But I never even considered actually pursuing my passions because it didn’t seem like the responsible choice. Who quits a good paying job with benefits, vacation, sick time, a 401K, and all those other “good on paper” job qualities to try and make money as a writer?! A lunatic, that’s who.
Well, since US Bank ultimately made that decision for me, I think it’s time to embrace my lunacy and let my freak flag fly. They have been suppressed for far too long.
Dani Strehle, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, is hoping to reshape the narrative to leave behind a better world for her daughters, so that they may sustain, rather than battle and rebuild.