This post is based on a real story.
There's no secret I'm reading a lot of literature on how to be a good manager, how to be a good leader, and how to be "a human" at work, like many of us are doing these days, right? And while reading different opinions and stories about good vs. bad managers, I tend to go back in time and remember the ones who were my managers and I reevaluate them through the lens I'm now using.
And it is impossible not to remember the following.
It was in the summer of 2010, more than 12 years ago, I was working for a small company as a software tester, it was actually my first job as a software tester. I was already working for a couple of years in that company, and now looking back, I don't realize how those couple of years went so fast. When they hired me, I knew nothing about software testing, or almost nothing, besides the things I have read and learned from the Internet, and even though I've graduated from mathematics and informatics, we did not learn much about software testing in college. At the end of the day, it was a win-win, I had a new context where I could learn more, I was paid for that, and the company had some juniors doing the job. And when you gather together a group of juniors willing to learn and willing to succeed, there are big chances that these juniors become friends, they start to laugh together, eat lunch together and make jokes together, which is great, looks like the perfect recipe to have a good working environment.
During those couple of years, some organizational changes happened, and we started to be suspicious about the safety of our jobs, but hey, when you're 24 and it's your first job, you might not have the maturity to see the big picture or at least to ask the right questions to the right people. And you go with the flow, hoping that everything will be fine.
And one day, our darkest thoughts came into the daylight and became real when the door of our office opened and the HR Manager entered the room (we knew she traveled from Bucharest to Cluj-Napoca, the city where we had our office, and we also knew she used to make those trips only when there was a purpose. We usually knew what the purpose was, but not this time).
A couple of hours later, a part of the team was already fired. Including myself.
A lot of reasons were stated, of course, many of them I don't even remember now - the organization is doing this and that, resources justifications, too much money spent, you know, it was an "it's not you, it's us" kind of situation. Which should have made us feel better, as we were not fired for how incompetent we were.
Okay, but what happened though such that after 12 years I still remember that day?
I stood in a conference room with my direct manager, discussing the firing process and so on, exposing the reasons that made the company fire me and he was kind and thoughtful enough to try and help me find some solutions and even find a new job, which I truly appreciate it even now!
I remember I had only one question.
In the team I was working in, there were several developers, but only two software testers, and one of them was fired. Me. And the question the 24 years old newly fired girl had was "why me?". "Okay, I understand the cutting costs and all that, but why me?"
And the answer is the one who stood and will stay with me forever.
"Because the team decided so."
My team decided they don't want me anymore.
I was shocked.
"The team? Do you mean the ones I was sharing my lunch with every day? The ones with whom I made jokes and laughed so much?"
My first reaction was to be furious, then disappointed, then deeply saddened, then of course I did not want to talk to them anymore. I felt rejected. I felt lied.
But as time passed by, I was able to understand better and accept what happened and the "why me?" question transformed into something else.
"Why did you make it look like it's them who fired me not you? Why did you put all the responsibility on their shoulders?"
You know, life is just laughing in your face sometimes. The other person working as a software tester in that team started to be my friend in 2008 when we were both hired, and today, after 14 years, she is still one of my dearest friends, part of my extended family.
I won't draw any conclusions here about leadership styles, accountability, responsibility, and so on, there were too many feelings involved in this story. I let you draw your own conclusions on how a manager or a leader should tackle those uncomfortable situations, like firing someone.