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You f**ked up and got fired – now what do you do?

(EDITORIAL) Ever get fired, or have an office fail? We will examine how to handle problems and life crises in the workspace with seriousness and humor.

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fired pug thinks about life

One day recently, I was feeling lost and was about to use Google because I needed answers! I wanted to magically stop the world because it was spinning too fast.

Some questions have a lot of different answers. Some answers aren’t so clear and some questions are hard to ask when you are feeling like a major f@ck up. That was how I was feeling.

In this ongoing column, I will attempt to share some real-life situations, options, answers, and when needed, consult with experts to provide responses to those questions you may be too afraid to ask. Or, to consider questions you may have not even realized you needed to ask.

To kick off our column, the first I F@cked Up situation we will consider is getting let go or laid off. While they are not the same situation, they do have some similarities.

Why, Mary Ann, what do you know about either of these situations? Well, I’ve been laid off twice, both from major news enterprises. And, I’ve been released of my duties. Neither situation feels very good, but believe me when I say, it’s not the end of the world. These situations bring with them a lot of baggage to unpack, so we will break it down. Today we deal with what to do first.

I Just Got Fired/Laid Off

So, you get called to the office. You are met either with your boss and HR or a person your company hired to separate you from them. (Like in Up in the Air) If you are being let go, you may have seen it coming – if you were paying attention. If you were laid off, depending on if other folks were let go recently, it may come as a surprise and a very harsh blow.

How you feel

Regardless of how it happened, you probably feel like crap. It’s a fact. Whether you are happy to be set free from the most toxic of toxic of work environments, or you’ve been laid off and provided with a decent severance package, you will still probably have a bit of worry, fear and feeling of “what the hell is wrong with me” self-doubt going on. And, then there’s the big question. What’s next?

This is all pretty standard. Unless you are a narcissist and then, that is a whole different column.

When you are laid off or fired, most decent employers will try do it in the middle of the week – so you can call later with questions. If you were like me – you were a deer in the headlights. I remembered very little of the actual conversation. You will have questions you didn’t think to ask at such a moment. You will want answers. If you are released on a Friday. Your employer is really shitty because now you have the entire weekend to ruminate over the questions.

Don’t ruminate over the questions.

Feeling like crap and being pissed are normal. So, feel all the feels.

NOW, DO THIS:

Gather your things. Hold your head high. Tell your colleagues deuces. Leave the office.

If you imbibe alcohol, stop at the store, get your favorite food and whatever beverage you like the most. Go home. Get plastered or near shit-faced – if you don’t drink, then buy a carton of ice cream or a sheet cake. I don’t encourage over consumption of alcohol OR food, but at this moment, you probably feel lower than low. Give yourself permission for this moment to let loose, honor, and celebrate it. As much as it may feel like the world is blowing up, right now you get the opportunity to say “What the hell, what do I have to lose?”

The point is: Get it out of your system, and quickly. If you get released from your position take a few days before you begin to do anything work search related. Your ego is probably hurting. People get fired for a wide variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with their ability to do the work. And, if you get laid off, usually it’s about money, bankruptcy and situations far beyond your control. Still, it hurts your pride and can do a number on your self-confidence and self-esteem.

BUT, DON’T DO THIS:

If you’re pissed off after being let go, especially if you were fired and if your workplace sucked you may want to scream it from the rafters and announce it all over social media. DON’T.

Don’t go on Facebook and blast: I got fired!
Don’t go on LinkedIn and say: Company XYZ are a bunch of douches.
Don’t change your LinkedIn to say you are no longer at Company X.
Don’t immediately hit Glassdoor with a crap review.
Don’t immediately email/text/PM connections saying you were fired/laid off.
Don’t immediately start looking for jobs.

Why?

You are raw. You are pissed. You may or may not be super worried and concerned about your next paycheck. You may be really upset. You don’t want to come off as someone who is desperate, even if you really are. We will come back to this in another column.

What’s next

You’ve overeaten and gotten shit faced. You may have cried or broken stuff. Good! ARGH!

Feels so much better.

You should take a few days to rest, recharge and focus on self-care.

But, one thing you do not want to put on hold is filing for unemployment.

File for Unemployment the day after you get let go.

Now is the time when you need to be focused and aware. When you file, don’t lie about anything, be honest and fill out the forms.

You say you don’t want to take money from the state. Well, that’s great, champ, but it’s a good fall back option.

Also, please note, if you get fired for doing something very wrong on the job, it’s likely you will not be eligible for unemployment, so don’t be surprised if you called your boss a mofo and you don’t get unemployment.

You want to file as soon as possible because it takes weeks (from 4 to 6 but typically a little less) for the state to start paying. And, if you haven’t been saving and are living paycheck to paycheck – you know income creep – you will probably need what little unemployment provides, a lot less than your standard salary.

Unemployment filed, consider if you have any mileage you need to be reimbursed for and get that done. If you have a severance package, get those checks in the bank ASAP. If your employer let you go as part of a layoff, they may be having financial issues. So cash the check(s) fast.

Self-reflection

You’ve had time for a pity party. You’ve filed for unemployment. Now, it’s time to do some reflection.

You say, ‘self-reflection, that a lot of BS and I don’t have time for that I need money now.’

Yeah, you probably really need some self-reflection if you don’t see the value in it.

Now is the perfect opportunity to consider some deep questions like:

What went wrong at your last job? If you were released, let go, fired, why did that happen? Whether your boss was a total asshole or not, you probably had some part in the final outcome. Own it. Now’s the time to think about what went sideways. Was it a clash of cultures? Was it a personality clash? Were your skills not what you presented on your resume? What was your work ethic?

Even if you weren’t fired you should reflect.

Think about what was going on. What did you like, hate, learn? This is an opportunity to take the experience you had and use it to discover what you want next, which should be a job where you feel celebrated and not tolerated.

Find some surveys online where you can do self-reflection about your skills and abilities. Talk to your closest friends and ask them for feedback on what they like most about you. They care about you and can offer some real feedback to help you to regain your self-esteem.

If you haven’t done this before, take some time to do an inventory of what you like, hate, what you must have in your next position and what are deal breakers.

If you were working in a really awful workplace, you really may need time to decompress. Take the time to get outside, go for walks, do what you love. Now’s the time to sleep in and regroup. But, don’t wallow and start doing whatever you need to feel motivated for your next opportunity.

As my mom (and religious texts) always said: “This too shall pass.” So be ready.

Coming next week: You ate, drank, and reflected, so what the heck do you do now?

Mary Ann Lopez earned her MA in print journalism from the University of Colorado and has worked in print and digital media. After taking a break to give back as a Teach for America corps member and teaching science for a few years, she is back with her first love: writing. When she's not writing stories, reading five books at once, or watching The Great British Bakeoff, she is walking her dog Sadie and hanging with her cats, Bella, Bubba, and Kiki. She is one cat short of full cat lady status and plans to keep it that way.

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Opinion Editorials

AT&T hit with age discrimination lawsuit over using the word “tenured”

(EDITORIAL) 78% of workers are victims of age discrimination. As awareness arises, lawsuits show what may constitute discrimination, including verbiage.

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Older man at cafe representing age discrimination

According to the AARP, 78% of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. As awareness of ageism increases, lawsuits that allege age bias can help employers understand what constitutes discrimination. A recent case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Smith v. AT&T Mobility Services, L.L.C., No. 21-20366 (5th Cir. May 17, 2022), should give employers pause about using other words that could potentially be a euphemism for “older worker.”

What the lawsuit was about

Smith, a customer service representative at AT&T, alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his age. His manager told him that she was not going to hire any tenured employees. The manager wanted innovative employees in the management positions. Smith took this to mean that he was being denied the promotion because of his age. He sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Texas law.

The district court found that Smith failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to one claim and failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination as to the other two claims. Smith appealed. The Appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, but they did say it was “close.” AT&T did not discriminate against Smith by using the word tenured, because there were other employees of the same age as Smith who were promoted to customer service management positions.

Be aware of the verbiage used to speak to employees

This case is another example of how careful employers need to be about age discrimination, not only in job postings. It’s imperative to train managers about the vagaries of ageism in the workplace to avoid a costly lawsuit. Even though AT&T prevailed, the company still had a pretty hefty legal tab. Don’t try to get around the ADEA by using terminology that could screen out older workers, such as “digital native,” or “recent college grad.” Remind employees and managers about ageism. Document everything. Pay attention to other cases about age discrimination, such as the iTutor case or this case about retirement-driven talk. You may not be able to prevent an employee from feeling discriminated against, but you can certainly protect your business by doing what you can to avoid ageism.

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Opinion Editorials

Writing with pen and paper may mean your smarter than your digital peers

(EDITORIAL) Can writing old fashioned make you smarter? Once considered and art form, handwriting is becoming a thing of the past, but should it be?

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Writing on paper job titles.

When I was in college, in 2002, laptops weren’t really commonplace yet. Most students took notes by writing with pen and paper. Today, most students take notes with laptops, tablets, cell phones, or other electronic devices. The days of pen and paper seem to be fading. Some students even wait until the end of class and use their cell phones to take a picture of the whiteboard, so in effect, they are not absorbing any of the information because they “can just take a picture of it and look at it later.”

Is it easier to take notes on an electronic device? I think that largely depends on preference. I type faster than I write, but I still prefer to take notes on paper.

According to researchers at Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, students who take handwritten notes generally outperform students who typed them.

Writing notes help students learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.

While most students can type faster than they write, this advantage is short-term. As the WSJ points out, “after just 24 hours, the computer note takers typically forgot material they’ve transcribed, several studies said. Nor were their copious notes much help in refreshing their memory because they were so superficial.” So while it may take a bit longer to capture the notes by hand, more likely than not, you will retain the information longer if you put pen to paper.

As I teach English Composition at the University of Oklahoma, I would also like to say that while I find this to be true for myself, every student has a different learning style. Typed notes are much better than no notes at all. Some students detest writing by hand and I understand that. Everything in our world has gone digital from phones to cable television so it makes sense, even if I don’t like it, that students gravitate more towards electronic note taking than pen and paper.

While I would like to see more students take notes by hand, I certainly won’t require it. Some students are navigating learning disabilities, anxieties, and other impediments that make taking notes digitally more advantageous.

I imagine the same is true for other areas as well: instead of typing meeting notes, what would happen if you wrote them by hand? Would you retain the information longer? Perhaps, and perhaps not; again, I think this depends on your individual learning style.

I would like to suggest that if you are one of the more “electronically-minded” writers, use a flashcard app, or other studying tool to help you review your classroom notes or meeting notes to make them “stick” a bit better. While I find this type of research intriguing, if you enjoy taking your notes electronically, I wouldn’t change my method based on this.

If it’s working for you, keep doing it. Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here, writing everything down with pen and paper.

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Opinion Editorials

5 reasons using a VPN is more important now than ever

(EDITORIAL) Virtual private networks (VPN), have always been valuable, but now, more than ever, entrepreneurs and businesses really should have them.

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VPN

Virtual private networks (VPN), have always been valuable, but some recent developments in technology, laws, and politics are making them even more important for entrepreneurs and businesses.

A VPN serves as an intermediary layer of anonymity and security between your computer and your internet connection. Your Wi-Fi signal is a radio wave that can ordinarily be intercepted, so any data you transmit back and forth could be taken and abused by interested parties. VPNs act as a kind of middleman, encrypting the data you transmit and protecting you from those prying eyes.

Top10BestVPN.com offers a selection of some of the best-reviewed VPN services on the market; there you can see the different approaches to security and anonymity that different brands take, and get a feel for the price points that are available. But why is it that VPNs are becoming even more important for business owners and entrepreneurs?

These are just five of the emerging influencers in the increasing importance of VPNs:

1. The rise of IoT. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already taking off, with a predicted 8.4 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the end of the year. All those extra connections mean extra points of vulnerability; hackers are skilled at finding tiny entry points, so every new channel you open up on your Wi-Fi connection is another opportunity they could potentially exploit. Using a VPN won’t make your network completely hack-proof—user errors, like giving your password away in a phishing scam, are still a potential threat—but VPNs will make your network more secure than it was before.

2. The popularity of ransomware. Ransomware is growing in popularity, seizing control of devices, sometimes for weeks or months before activating, then holding the device “hostage,” and demanding payment in exchange for releasing the files that are stored on it. These attacks are fast and efficient, making them ideal for hackers to use against small businesses. Again, using a VPN won’t make you immune from these types of attacks, but they will make you harder to target—and hackers tend to opt for the path of least resistance.

3. The escalation of attacks on small businesses. Speaking of small businesses, they happen to be some of the most frequent targets of cybercriminals. About 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses, in part because they have fewer technological defenses but still have valuable assets. Protecting yourself from cyberattacks is a must if you want your business to survive.

4. Political attacks on net neutrality. Politicians have recently attempted to attack and eliminate net neutrality, which is the long-standing guarantee that internet providers can’t violate user privacy by collecting and/or reporting on certain types of data, and can’t create “slow lanes” that throttle certain types of traffic. If net neutrality is abolished, you could face slower internet traffic and decreased privacy on the web. A VPN could, in theory, protect you from these effects. First, your web traffic would be anonymized, so internet providers couldn’t gather as much data on you as other customers. Second, you’ll be routed through a private VPN server, which could help you get around some of the speed throttling you might otherwise see. It’s uncertain whether net neutrality will ultimately fall, but if it does, you’ll want a VPN in place to protect you.

5. The affordability and diversity of VPNs available. Finally, it’s worth considering that VPNs are more affordable and more available than ever before. There are specific VPNs for all manner of businesses and individuals, and they’re all reasonably affordable. Inexpensive options can be yours for as little as a few dollars per month, and more robust, secure options are still affordable, even for frugal businesses. If you try a VPN provider you don’t like, you can always cancel and switch to another provider. This availability makes it easier to find exactly what you need.

If you’ve never used a VPN before and you’re confused, try not to be intimidated. VPNs sound complex, but connecting to one is a simple login process you can use on practically any device. The hardest part is choosing a reliable provider that suits your business’s need. With the influx of coming changes, it’s a good idea to get your VPN in place sooner rather than later.

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