But some tales are much crazier than others. We asked 13 women to share their stories. Here’s what we found out.
1. I was fired from my big fat job running AOL’s Entertainment Channel in 2001. I loved my work and I did a killer job for years, but I knew I would be fired in a layoff because a senior VP pretty much hated me and that’s how it goes. So my bags were packed and I wasn’t traumatized when I was fired over the phone. My boyfriend, however, clearly thought otherwise because that night in bed, he couldn’t — ahem — properly comfort me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just feel like you’re damaged goods.” The following day I had three job offers by 11 am. But guess who didn’t get sex for a week?
—Pavia, Founder/CEO, Fathom
2. I was working at a giant corporation and hated my job. My division was going nowhere and my boss had completely checked out. So I went from coasting to straight up slacking … strolling in at 10:30 am, long lunches, not showing up at all (yes, really). It's truly impossible to get fired in that kind of environment. Trust me; I'm a manager myself, and the paperwork alone is a deterrent. Anyhow, I finally got "fired" after doing basically nothing for nine months — meaning I got laid off with four months’ severance. Yay for corporate America!
3. A company I used to work for (which shall remain nameless) was sold, so my coworkers and I knew our time was limited but we didn't know when we were going to be given the boot. An employee from the company that purchased us called to ask a question and accidentally told us when we'd be let go. We tried to grill her on it to get more details but she ended up flustered and trying to backpedal. She hung up almost immediately.
We had a good chuckle about that one. I still remember the date we were let go, because it was Halloween. We're all at solid companies now, so it all worked out, but that was by far one of the most hilarious and cringe-inducing moments of my time at that company.
— Lindsay, tech
4. My boss was super friendly with me — too much so. She was always talking about dates she went on and who she went home with. One Friday, she asked me to go for drinks around 4:30. I told her I was busy with a project but she said it was important, so I went, thinking she was going to rehash her latest breakup. We were two drinks in when she said, "I didn't know how to tell you this, but you're fired." At least she paid the bill.
— Julie, advertising
5. I worked as a nanny to twin infants in college, and I was AWESOME at it. My boss would constantly tell me how indispensible I was and how thankful she was to have found me, so I felt pretty confident about my job performance.
Then one day, I arrived at my usual time and my boss was uncharacteristically cool and distant. She sat me down and told me she was firing me, without any reason. I was so shocked that I handed her back one of her babies and walked out without saying much. She sent me a series of bizarre emails over the next few weeks, and to this day I’m not really sure what happened.
6. I was working as a lifeguard at a day camp. It should have been the easiest job in the world — I think there were five lifeguards for each child — but I was a teenager and more interested in my bathing suit choice and what I was doing that night. I showed up late very often. One day, I got a phone call that the camp director wanted to see me the next day. I was so sure I was going to be fired, I never went back.
7. I was the third employee at a startup that sold for $160 million eight years after it was founded. As big, evil corporations often do, they brought in their own people at the top, who brought in their own people beneath them. To say that my new boss and I didn't see eye to eye is putting it mildly. The fact that she openly "hated the brand" and I was an integral part of building said brand pretty much set us up for failure. (Who takes a job at a place they hate and then shares those sentiments with the team?) Add in that I’m highly opinionated and can't keep my mouth shut, and you can see disaster looming.
Then there was the fact that this was a digital media company and she didn't even know how to refresh a webpage. Long story short, the general manager of the company took me out for breakfast to tell me they would be paying me to leave the company and pretend like it was my idea. With no other choice, I obliged (after securing six months of severance), and both of them lost their jobs within a year. Silent revenge is the sweetest.
8. When the financial crisis hit, I knew there were to be layoffs. I had recently gotten a new boss who kept asking for “added value,” so I devised a script to help HR and managers lay off staff with as little awkwardness and pain as possible. A week later, my new boss ended up reading my own script to me. "As you know, with the financial crisis, we've had to make tough decisions,” she said. “You know, Kim, this script really was a value add. But your position's been eliminated."
—Kim, training and development
9. The boss took me to lunch at one of the best restaurants in town — a very public setting for a very public firing from a very public job. The worst part about getting booted as a television news anchor? Some of my “best friends” knew for weeks. They let me go to that lunch without a heads up. It was a lesson: Colleagues are not the same as friends.
—Ruth Ann, former news anchor; president, Harnisch Foundation
10. I was working in international education — a very specialized field that I had a master’s degree in. When I was told I wouldn’t be doing it anymore, I went into a tailspin. Even 7 years later, I still can't get over it. It was an identity change.
Just before losing my job I had gotten married. We blew through a $45,000 savings in the two years it took me to find a job, and shortly after I started working again my husband lost his job. I often think how life would be different if it never happened. I'll forever be marked by the total depression spiral I experienced directly after getting fired and the feelings of inadequacy I still struggle with. It was a very defining moment — I'd lived a charmed life until then.
In the end, I switched gears entirely and started on a totally new career path, which I love. However, I still feel delayed career-wise, and I have a title and salary suited for someone right out of college.
—Jessica, nonprofit sector
11. On my first day at a design agency, I didn't have a seat and met another designer who was friendly. He was the only one who made an effort to talk to me while everyone else sat with their headphones on. Unfortunately, the company let him go later that day — and gave me his seat. I was surprised, because I’d heard they’d just hired him a few months earlier. Agencies are brutal.
I worked there for about three months, enduring long days, terrible project managers, and extremely demanding clients. I definitely wanted out, but thought it was too early to jump ship.
One day they called me into a conference room while everyone else was hanging out playing ping-pong and told me I was being let go because of restructuring. My brief “Why me?” moment morphed into “Thank God.”
—Katherine, Web design
12. I was working at a well-known (and awful) club with a manager who was notoriously difficult; she literally fired people on a daily basis. I often tended bar with a guy she had a soft spot for. She gave him a leniency that she did not lavish upon me.
One particularly busy evening, the five cash registers had exactly zero singles between them, so my coworker (confession: I was into him, but he didn’t seem to return my affection) took the tip jar to make change. While he was gone, the manager stopped in and asked where he was, and I explained. BAM: She sent me home instantly.
The guy happened to live in my building and when he got home that night, he had the lovely and totally appropriate responsibility of telling me I was no longer welcome back at work. Yes, my boss made my coworker tell me I was fired. Years later, she was investigated for tax fraud. Meanwhile, he and I got married.
—Andrea, nonprofit sector
13. One morning I woke up to an email from an HR rep at my company, asking me to stop in her office when I got in. The company had been quietly letting people go over the past few weeks, many of them on my project team, so I figured I may as well get it over with.
When I got to the office, I met with the rep, who told me I was being let go because of downsizing. She said some other conciliatory stuff, informed me of my paltry severance, and asked me if I had any questions. I didn't say much except that it was surprising news to get on my 30th birthday.
Truth be told, I was ready to leave anyway. I wanted to return to my previous life as a freelancer. For months I'd been thinking about my next move, but I wasn't quite ready to put in my notice. As often happens, fate/God/the universe/The Secret was way ahead of me. That was my last day at the company, and I've been enjoying my life as a freelancer ever since. Some people just aren't built for offices.