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I've been fired during my probation period (software) for not meeting expectations. Normally a week's notice is required, but they offered me up to a month, which I took. My managers were discreet about the whole thing, offered a reference, and I was allowed to announce that I would be leaving.

Nobody else in the department seems to doubt what's been said, but a couple want to talk about it more before I go, maybe after work.

If people push for details, should I just tell them that I was fired? The manager who made the decision left that week, and considering how it was handled, I'm hesitant to drag it up. I also have qualms about the situation, and don't know how much would be appropriate to say if I did.

That said, I don't want to look like a quitter. It was a tough start and maybe the fit wasn't perfect, but I think with more time it would have worked out, and some of the others who have been giving help when I got stuck might think I'm not bothering to try and make it work. They've also been helpful and I don't want them to think it was wasted or unappreciated effort.

So far I've just said that I'm maybe too inexperienced for the role, but if someone pushed I'd want to let them know rather than making up feeble lies.

Qualms

I've not bothered trying to argue my way back into the job, but I feel that the whole thing was hasty:

  • I'm in a Junior role, and was hired with no experience with most of the relevant technology
  • The training was a follow-along video course that we were given to go through before we started, and were given a week to finish at work after a couple of weeks doing actual work
  • My manager announced he would be leaving soon, and later that week told me I was underperforming (10 weeks in) and that I had a week to turn it around or be given notice
  • They were so busy preparing to leave that the whole thing took almost three weeks before I was told it wasn't working out
  • My work was reviewed after the fact to explain the decision, but I never got a review or early warning before that

Is it inappropriate to mention this?

Summary

Is it appropriate to say that I was fired while in the workplace?

If privately, how much detail is appropriate?

What about my concerns regarding the whole thing e.g. I think the manager was hasty and wanted it sorted before he left?

Edit: Thanks everyone for your input. The perspectives offered really helped me to understand exactly what I still have and how to continue from here. I do think that it's for the best, and that I've learned what I want in my next position.

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    Jurisdiction dependent point which doesn't answer the question, so I'm posting it as a comment : Whether you were fired or resigned may affect your ability to claim unemployment benefits. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Sep 27 at 10:52
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    @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere for this specific purpose what matters is how the company is going to document it (which, according to the initial problem statment is termination of contract during probatory period). OP can use whatever narration they want, as long as it is documented correctly, it shouldn't affect their ability to collect unemployment – Juliana Karasawa Souza Sep 27 at 11:53
  • The title says "allowed to announce it as if I quit," what does that mean? 'They allowed you to announce you were leaving (just like they would have if you were quitting)' or 'They allowed you to announce that you were quitting'? I feel like that makes a big difference to the best answer... – Alex M Sep 27 at 18:11
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    It kind of sounds like the place is crazy screwed up. You may have dodged a bullet. – danpritts Sep 27 at 20:11
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    You're asking the wrong questions. How much did you learn, both about software, yourself, your motivation, and the management style you work best under? Be honest, but constructive. What did you contribute (if anything)? If they had made you fulltime, would you have cared to stay? Based on this experience, what will you change about what you look for in an employer? Your thinking should be constructive and forward-looking, not defensive and backward-looking. – smci Sep 27 at 20:45
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This is a very graceful exit

This isn't being Fired. A lot of people use "fired" as casual slang for any layoff, but that's wrong and don't go around saying that. Fired is you do something bad, like embarrass the company on social media, and a security guard watches you pack your things.

This isn't even a layoff, where you're also escorted out of the building, but on a no-fault basis and you go straight to the unemployment line. Officially this is a layoff.

This isn't even a planned layoff where they tell you miles ahead that it's coming (you are not laid off, but you will be laid off on X/Y date, and trust you to behave yourself (which is no small thing, and says a bit about their assessment of you). Mind you, in a planned layoff, they expect you to seek new employ, so it it won't even end up being a layoff, just a voluntary quit on/before X/Y date. Officially this is a voluntary quit (if early) or layoff (at deadline).

This is a "planned layoff lite", in which you are being advised to resign on X/Y date, allowing it to look like a willful quit for reputation purposes. Though of course they expect similar new-job-seeking behavior. Officially this is a voluntary quit (though for unemployment eligibility, it's a no-fault layoff).

You'd be correct to translate this as "They think you're a good employee, just not a good fit FOR THEM for reasons which are not your fault". It means literally that. This is not a euphemism for "you suck". It's not. Really.

Seriously.

They set it up this way so you can actively look for work, presenting yourself as employed and looking for a better offer. This is most appealing to other employers. You don't need to tell your fellow employees anything. If you really need to explain transition-like behavior, say "I've got some feelers out and I may not be here much longer".

What to do

Your correct course of action, what they expect, is you will sharpen that resume tonight and slam the job marketplace HARD. To ease your transition, they are intentionally giving you all the toolkit you need to do just that. They expect - and won't mind - long lunches, early departures and late arrivals, and they know you are interviewing. In fact, it will be worse if they see no job-seeking activity, because it'll raise questions about your character and intentions, which could lead to an immediate layoff.

like a quitter

That's not even a thing at your level in the industry.

You might say it if you were a key project lead, holding a bunch of the company's revenue in the palm of your hand. Imagine if General Eisenhower, in late May 1944, just said "Hey, I'm going to work for General Electric, my last day is June 2, have a nice invasion!" You aren't critical enough for that to be an issue.

Actually, the spectre of quitting is what keeps employers honest. Staying out of "loyalty" just invites abuse and being passed over and taken for granted. You should seek employment dynamically, at places with bigger and better opportunities. Not least so you don't get stuck in a rut. They certainly aren't offering you stability; don't offer it back. For job stability, work in civil service.

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    This is a very important detail - being fired may be inquired about in the future - and although that's another entirely different discussion, being clear that this is not a firing will help significantly in terms of perception from more than just the OP. – user3.1415927 Sep 28 at 1:46
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    +1 I'd like to emphasize your remark even more "They think you're a good employee, just not a good fit FOR THEM for reasons which are not your fault". If this didn't actually mean what is says they wouldn't have offered a recommendation. When someone offers recommendation they put their name on the line for you. Which they would not do unless they felt you deserve it and they are not risking their name with you in doing so. – brett Sep 28 at 6:13
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    @CharCharles "you're fired, and I know you might be really sore and vindictive about this, but you're welcome to spend another month in the building and you can have normal access to our data infrastructure, all unsupervised". Yeah, that's not a thing. Ever. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 28 at 15:15
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    It might be a nice sentiment to say OP didn't get fired, but getting fired, getting laid off and resigning (whether asked to or not) all have definitions that don't depend on how graceful the exit was (although the exact legal definitions may vary between jurisdictions). Related: What is the difference between being fired and being laid off? – Dukeling Sep 28 at 17:30
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    @Dukeling Sure, I'm extending common terms, but only a little. I've clarified. Here's the thing. Right now, OP is describing this so entirely wrongly that s/he needs all the correction s/he can get. Going around calling this a "firing" is a mistake that will hurt his/her reputation and re-employment chances. I am trying to show them just how many shades of gray there are (beyond just "quit/layoff/fire") that separate them from "fired". – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 28 at 20:33
28

I'll make Gregory's comment into an answer:

You don't owe anyone anything. Just announce that you'll be leaving as of X date so nobody gets caught by surprise.

The circumstances and details of you leaving are your business and your business only.

You can give more details in a private setting to friends and colleagues you trust, but only as much as you feel comfortable giving - again, you don't owe anyone anything and they don't "have a right to know" anything beyond your last day with the company and maybe knowledge transfer.

Find another job and move on.

The other concerns can be addressed to HR during your exit interview (if there is such a practice in place), or another company defined communication channel.

6

Normally a week's notice is required, but they offered me up to a month, which I took

Good, use it to prepare well and find a job where you don't have an expectation mismatch.

My managers were discreet about the whole thing, offered a reference, and I was allowed to announce that I would be leaving.

What's happened is already past, but you have a good cover story. If you blow it, expect the references etc to go away.

Nobody else in the department seems to doubt what's been said, but a couple want to talk about it more before I go, maybe after work.

Avoid the gossip mongers, they are going to damage your reputation whether you stay or loose. Doesn't matter whether you were wronged or not, or how you feel, nothing productive will come talking to them.

If people push for details, should I just tell them that I was fired?

Do this only if you don't want their reference. And want to loose the 1 month notice, it is not by design that you got it.

That said, I don't want to look like a quitter.

Don't think of it as quitting. Nobody in today's world stays at a job forever.

It was a tough start and maybe the fit wasn't perfect, but I think with more time it would have worked out, and some of the others who have been giving help when I got stuck might think I'm not bothering to try and make it work.

Its all in the past, stop thinking on those lines

They've also been helpful and I don't want them to think it was wasted or unappreciated effort.

If privately, how much detail is appropriate?

3 months are nothing in a career of 30 odd years that one usually has, my advice is to not say anything. Just keep smiling, say personal reasons, and say you want to prepare for upcoming interviews etc.

What about my concerns regarding the whole thing e.g. I think the manager was hasty and wanted it sorted before he left?

You are already fired, so unless the company has a review mechanism, drop it. Even otherwise, if you think it is unfair, your co-workers aren't the ones who can get you back, only someone higher than the one who fired you can interfere and make the situation better for you.

  • "Avoid the gossip mongers", yes, but if people are really your friends, when tell them if you want to. I've instantly made friends with people, so it's not unheard of to already have good friends at this company. There may also be other people in your situation that want to know details so maybe they can avoid the same fate. – computercarguy Sep 27 at 20:19
5

In many sensitive workplace situations, people will want details. You may worry that they will jump to conclusions if you don't provide them. However, it's important to keep two things in mind. First, some people will jump to conclusions even if you give them details. You can't hope to control what other people think. So, be true to yourself. Secondly, it's really none of their business anyways.

Of course, you want to be honest when people ask, but you can also be discreet in terms of what you do tell them, with the above points in mind. Reading through your question, it seems pretty easy to pick out enough detail to answer questions, while still remaining honest. I'll piece together some of what you said into an example answer:

My manager leaving made things pretty disjointed. I don't want to look like a quitter, but it was a tough start and I don't think the fit was perfect. I'm leaving on good terms, the management have even offered to give me a recommendation! You've all been very helpful and I want you to know that I appreciate the support you gave me - it will certainly help me in the future.

You're being honest, and you're ending on a positive note. If people pry further, the best policy is usually to redirect towards the (positive) future:

Look, that's really in the past now, and what I'm focusing on is X (my new job, or whatever) instead of trying to re-live what's already happened.

Besides helping dodge the question, this can help change gears towards a different topic (your next job, or whatever you want to redirect towards).

4

You might want to consider that your closest coworkers already know you are underperforming. They might disagree about your potential performance, given enough time, but they are more directly aware of your current performance than your manager is. If you are evasive about your reason for leaving, they will draw their own conclusions. There's little reason to attempt to hide it, and it is likely not even possible. For the same reason, you probably don't have to go into much detail.

As far as concerns about whether it was hasty, most probation periods are fairly short, and it is much more difficult to let you go after they expire. Hiring someone is time consuming and difficult, so people tend to err on the side of keeping you. We have student co-ops with complete terms similar to your 13 weeks. They are generally making meaningful contributions within two weeks, and the best ones are spearheading features by the end of their term.

Alternately, there may be other business reasons you are not aware of. If a company needs to cut operating expenses, they will often let contractors, temps, and probationary employees go first, even if they would have otherwise kept you. It could be at least partially a case of bad timing.

At your next job, don't wait to be reviewed. Actively seek out information about your performance. When you're given assignments, ask how long they expect it should take. Get early review on your technical approach, so you don't spend too long spinning your wheels or moving in the wrong direction. Write your code in as small of increments as possible, so you never go too long without feedback. Seek out ways to improve your knowledge on a subject. These are the habits of experienced, productive employees.

4

There are couple of things to be noted:

  1. You were fired but the manager/company did you a favor when they gave you a recommendation and time to apply for a new job. So that's completely professional on their part.

  2. By saying that you were fired doesn't affect you or the people working at the company so there is nothing wrong telling people that you were fired. And it's completely up to you if you want to get into the details or not. Or you can simply say that your services were no longer needed so they let you go with one month notice.

  3. And lastly like the comment said there is nothing wrong with being a quitter. It is better to start looking for new job ASAP and with the recommendation I believe you will find one soon.

And good luck for your future endeavors.

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I was 'laid off' after a three year contract ended. I first asked for letters of recommendation, so they couldn't back peddle on my later on and say I was terminated. I then went on vacation for a month while on unemployment... applying for jobs the entire time. I enjoyed every moment of it...

Instead, I am taking the time now to continue studying and updating the relevant skills for the job I want, including C#, MVC, Web Development, Angular, CSS, HTML, Javascript, etc... all available readily on udemy...

Enjoy your time time... unemployment benefits generally last about 6 months for most states.

  • This doesn't really answer the questions, which ask how much the OP can talk about being fired, not what to do with his time. – Helena Sep 29 at 20:22

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