Job Termination EQ

There is an emotional reckoning that goes along with losing one’s job and that includes self-reflection. In my case, I’ve been replaying the events leading up to my own termination in order to determine whether or not the situation could have been avoided. While it is indisputable that my boss displayed vindictive behaviors, I felt compelled to assess my own actions and try to understand if I somehow precipitated her motives.

For those of you who don’t know the story, my boss fired me just two days before she left the bank for retirement. While the optics of her actions spoke for themselves our relationship wasn’t contentious and in my opinion, didn’t warrant such an aggressive act. I have therefore been trying to assess the role I may have played in all of this.

Here is the backstory of our relationship. My boss and I met several years ago, while working on a project together. Pleased with the outcome, she then recruited me to work for her in a new group that she formed. The role was a good match for my skill set and I began to excel. My boss was always supportive of me but more importantly, she didn’t stand in my way, even when I began to soar and at times outshine her. She gave me a fair amount of runway and that allowed me to gain senior-level visibility. I was grateful for that and in return she earned my respect and my loyalty.

Then in a dramatic turn of events, my boss was struck with a personal issue that would demand her attention, for an extended period of time. She was transparent with our team and we were all deeply concerned for her well-being. I personally, was very upset because we had developed a friendship and I cared for her. So, I did what I do in every adverse situation; I stepped in and took charge and tried to fix the problem. In this case, I approached my boss and offered to manage the team, so that she could exclusively focus on her matter.   

That seemed to be the turning point of our relationship. From that moment on my boss put me in a box and pushed me aside. Before that, she welcomed my council and now, she was completely disinterested in anything I had to say. I was trapped in that box and that didn’t suit me. As I struggled to get out it made some noise. The box tussled but the lid was clamped down too tightly and I was stuck.

I was frustrated and felt hopeless until the day my boss announced her plans for retirement. I then began to see a glimmer of light. By the time her retirement rolled around, my opinion of her had soured so much that I welcomed the news. I was the obvious choice to succeed her and thought she would finally be out of my way. She however, remained pleasant and cordial to the end which I now realize was a facade.

So how did we go so wrong? To help me figure this out, I received the unsolicited insight from my ex-mother-in-law, a perceptive woman who has been my sensei since I met her son at just eighteen years old. She is always glad to give me her opinion whether I ask for it or not. The insight of her assessment is well worth the sting.

This is what she said. At a time when my boss’s life was turn upside down, she tried to take hold of whatever she knew best and tried to control what she could. That was her career. Then I came in and although my intentions were sincere, she may have perceived them as an attempt to push her out. She already watched as I outshined her at times and feared that she would be forgotten. My ex-mom then explained the importance of meeting people where they are which may require coming down to their level. When you are down, facing off against someone who is standing tall and strong doesn’t feel very good and I made my boss feel bad. I’m sure she never forgot how I made her feel.

This struck a cord with me especially since I believe that some of my strongest skills are self-awareness and reading people. In order to increase my knowledge, I went out and bought Travis Bradberry’s book EQ 2.0 which includes the popular emotional intelligence test. While I scored very high on self-awareness, I did score lower on social awareness which is foundational skill of social competence. Social awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on with them. Looking back, I believe that this is where I first stumbled with my boss which set us on a course of a downward trajectory. By the end of our relationship, I was so ornery that my boss felt she had no choice but to fire me.

I would love to hear your thoughts either on my situation or your own, so please leave a comment.