20 years ago I was working in marketing for a large drinks company. I worked closely with a marketing agency, and they invited me to an awards dinner in London during which they hoped we would be picking up an award. It was a black tie affair, and I was looking forward to some intensive celebrations and an overnight stay in London.
Annoyingly, my new boss got his secretary to ring me that day to ask me to meet him for an important announcement. I assume this would be the results of a restructure he had been planning, and was hopeful that it might lead to a new role and maybe even promotion. It was annoying because it meant taking a detour to another hotel to meet him, and getting changed into my DJ in the car park.
How wrong I was. After waiting for 30 minutes in reception and seeing one of my colleagues walk out of the hotel without stopping to chat (and looking somewhat stressed), I went into a windowless room in the basement to meet him. I was surprised to see a guy from HR there, but thought nothing of it. Both of their faces dropped when they saw I was in black tie and all excited.
He sat me down with the minimum of pleasantries and proceeded to read me a statement. Paragraph two had the immortal words which I shall never forget:
“As a result of the recent review of the marketing function, the Board has decided that your services will no longer be required.”
I can’t remember much else because I had stopped listening. Two important questions had overwhelmed me:
1. How am I going to tell Charlotte?
2. What about the kids and the mortgage?
Oh, and question three, what about the awards dinner?
I drove home in a trance, moving through the classic initial change responses of numbness, anger and denial, all within the (probably very risky) 2 hour drive home. When I got home I was already deeply depressed and ready to fall on my own sword.
2 weeks later of course I was over it and creating a new career in which I finally found a job (the one I do now) which flicked all my switches. Looking back, thank goodness they pushed me, otherwise I might have wasted yet more years in that comparatively fruitless role (some of which would have involved having HIM as my boss).
All these years later what still gets me is the way it was done. But how could it have been done better? I’ve recreated the moment in this video. Watch it and ask yourself how many crass errors are made within just a couple of minutes. There can be no easy way to break this sort of news, but it has to be capable of being done so much better, surely?
Let me know what you think.