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Monday, July 07, 2008

Getting Fired

My first job after college was with 3M. I was in the manager's training program starting off at the order desk for microfilm sales office in Redwood City. That ought to date things. In any case I lasted about 3-4 months and was fired. I had no real training. The guy who had the job before me, Chuck (God, I can still remember his name!) was leaving the day after I started. He took me through the basics and then was gone. Now there was another order desk guy right across the hall for another division but no one ever thought to have me spend time with him. I was also pretty green and the thought didn't occur to me either.

The first month I led all sales offices in errors. My boss, Ray made sure that he threw that one in my face. Can't say I blamed him. It was up around 16%.

The next month focused hard on improving my score. Every time you made an error the warehouse in Santa Clara would send you a notification in the interoffice mail. I traced the number of orders I put through and the number of errors. It was simply math.


Anyway after my second month I knew I was down around 3% which based on the number from the month before told me I would be among the leaders. I waited for Ray to bring that tally sheet in but it never showed up. I asked about it but was given some sort of mumbling excuse about that not being very important. I was only 22 but even at this point I knew something was wrong.

In the meantime I had figured out a way to speed up order processing so that some of our very pissed off customers could get overdue product. One of the very angriest was a small company called United Airlines. Most orders were sent in by interoffice mail. In a few cases each month I called in orders directly to the warehouse and sent in the order paperwork at backup. It seems that this was against policy. Bottom Line: Sales people happy, former pissed off customers happy but someone wasn't happy.

One day I am covering the front lobby when someone walked in to interview for my job. Even this dim witted, green behind the ears, recent college grad knew what was up. I talked to my father about it.

"They are going to fire you," he said without any fanfare.

I decided to hang in there and get fired. My father and I agreed that it would be a good experience. Strange but true. It was the beginning of my oddity for the surreal in the world of work. Each day I would chant silently to myself, Today I am going to be fired! Today I am going to be fired.

Strangely it didn't happen for another month. My error rate was down to about 1% but I knew that at this point I was a dead man walking. When I was finally fired I went out gracefully. The sales people were very pissed and so were several of our big customers. I didn't tell them. The sales resp did. One of the senior VP's over at United called me and offered me a job with them sight unseen.

"As long as you don't have two heads," he added cautiously. I thanked him profusely but said that my future lay elsewhere. I was 22 and already burned to a cinder.

I always thought Ray was sort of a jerk for not letting me know what was going on but recently I realized that he was just a young branch manager trying to make a go of it and I was a loose cannon. Maybe if I were him I would have fired me too. He still ranks among my worst bosses (even though I forgive him). In presidential terms I would rate him below James Buchanan, who put off the whole Civil War so Lincoln could deal with it but above Bush Junior who never found a war he didn't like.


On the running front. I jogged an easy 40 minutes today. I got out before 9 am. The heat is settling in and will hammer the Bay Area for the next 4-5 days.

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