I got fired because I am pretty!

Well, not exactly.

A young woman phoned me asking for advice.  She had been fired.  As with all young people fired for the first time, she believed that she would never get another job.  Her career was over before it even began.

This is called being human.  I have had older workers come to me with equal panic and frustration believing that their careers were over because they too were fired.  In those case, for the most part, I was able to reassure them that they were not “fired” but rather only “laid off.”  There’s a big difference, but I’ll leave that for a future post.

Let’s get back to our young woman.

I asked her what happened and this is basically what she said:

It was just like in high school.  All the boys would hang around me between classes and at events.  I liked the attention.  And it continued in college.  But at work it got me into trouble and I got fired.

Nothing new here.  We have all witnessed this ourselves.  I still see it at so-called “professional” networking events.

I asked her what she said to the guys at the office.  She told me that she told them that she had work to do and didn’t have the time.  They would then ask her out.  She told them she had a boy friend.

Then I asked what the boss had said to her.  She told me that the boss had said she was not getting her work done because she was spending too much time socializing.  She had not been hired to socialize.  She was then fired.

She had only been on the job three months.

First, I explained that I was not an employment attorney.  There may be grounds for legal actions because it could constitute sexual harassment or a hostile work environment depending on a number of things including corporate policy and whether or not she followed the policy in filing a complaint.  I advised she consult with a qualified attorney.

Second, even if she has grounds for legal action, right now she needs work and she therefore needs a good explanation of what happened.

I told her to simply tell the truth: “Guys were hanging around my desk.  I told them I had work to do.  They still came over.  When they asked me out I said I had a boy friend.  They would still come over.  The boss saw it, though that I was socializing and fired me.”

So far so good.  But now, I told her, she had to show that she learned from the experience, knew what she had done wrong, and would not do it again.

“My mistake was not going to my boss.  Impression is reality so the boss did not know what was really happening.  I should have asked for advice and direction.  If it ever happens again, that is what I will do.”

For the record, if the boss had been aware of what was actually happening, the riot act should have been read to the male employees and if they did not leave the woman alone they (the men) should have all been fired.

I have every confidence this young woman will have little difficulty finding work.  Good employers like people who admit their mistakes, learn from them and make no excuses.  I know because I have gotten jobs for people who have been fired for far more serious errors in judgement.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

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