Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fired But Don’t Know Why

I was terminated from my last employer with absolutely no warning and no reason given. Her words were “This won’t work” and “Your services are no longer needed.” I had always been praised for my excellent employee status and at one point at lunch with the president I was told I would never have to worry about losing my job.

I had temporarily supervised the office (9 months) as management decided what to do with this branch. I told them I did not want the management position as a permanent position.

A new manager came in and after we worked together for about 4 months everything broke down. One day I asked her what her issues were with me and she stated: You are mad that I am the manager and you wanted the position. You are picking apart my work (I was auditor of the loan files – just doing my job). She was very stressed out because of the amount of work she had to do and I always asked her if I could help her. She would say no.

She came in my office the next day crying and told me it was not my fault and not my work performance, it was her issues and she was sorry. Things got better and then another 4 months went by and she fired me.

I don’t know what to put down on applications or say in an interview when asked, why did you leave your last job? Please help. Thank you.
-- Jennifer

by Marc Effron, VP, Talent Management, Avon Products

Hi Jennifer – I’m sorry to hear you had such a strange experience with your last employer. The easiest response to “why did you leave your last job?” is that your position was eliminated – if that’s what happened. If they replaced you, it gets a little trickier. Is there a good reason you were not kept in the role? Did they want someone who could eventually grow into the manager position? Was there a technical skill set that you didn’t have? Try to find a fact-based reason for why you were let go that doesn’t portray you negatively. Prospective employers will understand this as long as you can offer them the skills they want.

There are two answers you should definitely avoid. Avoid any answer that puts down your last employer or manager. Don’t go into the details about your manager’s erratic behavior. Even if she was a little weird – and it sounds like she was – an interviewer will likely wonder what you did to contribute to the situation. Also, there’s always the outside chance that what you say will get back to her, which could land you in an uncomfortable legal situation.

The other answer to avoid is, “I don’t know.” Even if you don’t, this response sounds like you’re either hiding something or you’re not perceptive enough to understand why you were fired. Either way, it won’t reflect well on you.

In terms of lessons learned, I’d advise you never to believe anyone, including the CEO, who tells you that you will never have to worry about losing your job. The world changes too much for anyone to keep that promise. You should always keep your skills up to date and your resume polished so that when the worst happens, you can hit the ground running.

I hope that helps and good luck!

Marc Effron is Vice President, Talent Management for Avon Products. He has authored two books (including Leading the Way) and numerous articles about leadership. He is a frequent speaker at industry events.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

No comments: