It was a brisk Wednesday morning in San Francisco. I felt the chill air slap me in the face, letting me know I arrived at Montgomery station. After a light jog up the stairs, I hit the corner and reached my destination: A skyscraper that I called my second home for more than four years. I said my customary good morning to the security staff before catching the elevator up to the 16th floor. I grabbed a bagel, a cup of hot tea, and made my way to my assigned cubicle. I flipped open my laptop and logged in, ready to get started on this routine Friday morning.
I checked my email and made my list of priorities, everything was moving along like clockwork. In the words of the infamous Ice Cube, “today was a good day.” I was ready to knock out the remainder of the week and get the weekend started.
Not even 15 minutes into my Friday my supervisor approaches me, a look of apprehension on his face. He says “Good Morning Bobby,” but what comes next took me off guard.
“I need you to grab your things and follow me.”
I wasn’t sure I heard him right, so I asked him why, but he only repeated the same thing over again.
Perturbed, I grabbed my backpack and the book I was reading, Steve Harvey’s “Act like a success think like a success,” and follow him into a small fishbowl of a room around the corner, a room I’d never been in with a young lady inside I’d never met. She was sitting at a table with a green folder in front of her and introduced herself and stated she was with HR.
By this point it hit me; today was my last day.
I can’t say I was truly surprised. It had been months since I’d spoken more than a few words to my supervisor even though I was assigned to his team and literally sat across from him. I was never invited to team activities or to celebrate in team victories. It seemed like every other quarter I was placed on a performance plan due to “productivity” or not being a “team player”. Of course, being ostracized from the team and put on punishment like I was a child did nothing to help this.
During the last 6 months with the company, I tried to make it work but was denied requests to transfer to another team and to be retrained. I was isolated to a group with other “misfits,” each of which was slowly picked off one by one. I was one of the last few left standing, so when she introduced herself, I knew what was happening. My time had come.
“By this point it hit me; today was my last day.”
The meeting lasted no more than 30 minutes. The supervisor named his reasons for letting me go. I heard phrases like “no longer a good fit for the culture,” “the company is moving in a different direction,” and “wasn’t adapting to the new policies and procedures as quickly as we’d hoped.”
I interjected but to no avail. My time was up.
Towards the end of the meeting, the supervisor attempted to shake my hand and wish me good luck, letting me know that upper management appreciated my tenure, but I couldn’t force myself to shake his hand. Call it pride if you want but it was nothing worth shaking on.
I asked if I could say goodbye to some very good friends I made during my time there, but that request was denied. HR escorted me directly to the elevator, down to the lobby, and didn’t leave my side until I was well outside. Unlike the supervisor, the look on her face was solemn. She’d only been with the company for a few weeks and wished the situation could have been handled differently. She wished me luck, and I really believed her, but I replied with a fake “thank you” and walked away.
And that was that. I was in and out of the office by 9 am. Happy Friday to me.
I walked a few blocks, not knowing where I was going. I remember stopping and staring up at the sky for a minute. I don’t know if I was looking for some kind of sign or just trying to understand what just happened, but after a few minutes, I continued down Mission towards Union Square. I wandered aimlessly for a few miles just trying to digest everything. I found a place to sit and started the hard task of reaching out to my now-former co-workers, at least the ones I considered friends. It was hard admitting to them what happened, that I had been let go.
I was filled with all sorts of emotions. Anger and Sadness at first, but soon those gave way to something unexpected, joy. Not just a flick of emotion, but actual uncontrollable joy. The type of joy that brings tears to your eyes. I was finally free.