Important message to my next boss If you ever have to fire me, please don’t tell me how hard it is for you. Believe me, it is a lot harder for me. It is also not the best time to tell me how much you like me and what a “nice guy” you think I am. You may be too young to remember Leo Durocher but every time someone tells me that it reminds me of the statement that immortalizes him even more than his baseball feats and failures: “Nice guys finish last.” “This isn’t personal” is another expression you might consider avoiding while explaining to a person that he is losing his job. Who do you think you are firing, a cow? Don’t get me wrong. I know it is hard for you. I happen to have some experience in this regard, once having been called on to fire six people who reported to me in the editorial department of a medical publishing company that had fallen on hard times. To prepare me I received expert training from the head of human resources at our parent company, an affable fellow named Lou, who brought me to corporate headquarters to begin the lessons. “OK,” he began. “Pretend that I’m Barbara and you just called me into your office. What is the first thing you are going to say?” Barbara, a secretary, was an excellent worker and also a devoted single parent of a young son. I looked at Lou and said, “Barbara, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.
” “No!” he interrupted. “That is not what you do. You have to make small talk first
get them feeling comfortable. Try again.” “Hi, Barbara,” I said. “How do you like those Mets?” But eventually I got the hang of it and when it was time, I performed professionally, appearing calm even through the awful shrieks, wails and cries of desperation that punctuated several of the sessions. Lou was there to witness it all. When it was over I called my wife and began to share the anguish I had somehow managed to keep in check. Before I could finish Lou took the phone from me to tell her what a great job I had done and how proud she should be of the way I had handled it. In the awful, sleepless nights before, I handled it quite differently: I was John Garfield in a movie, telling my bosses, “Sure, sure
you want me to do your dirty work for you. Well I won’t do it. If you want to fire these people you are going to have to it yourselves
or get yourself another boy
because I QUIT!” A few months later I lost my job when the parent company decided to close the place. As part of my severance package I was given two months of outplacement services. One day at outplacement I heard a familiar voice speaking on the phone in the cubicle next to mine. It was Lou. Listen, I know how it feels. If you must get choked up or teary eyed, please wait until I am out of the room. Maybe it would be better if you did it the way they used to in the old movies or comic strips: Mr. Dithers to my Dagwood Bumstead. Glare at me and snarl, “Kaufman, you’re fired!” But please don’t make me feel bad for you. I don’t care if you are an old friend or someone I barely know. You still have your job. I have to figure out how I am going to support myself and my family now that I don’t have mine. Michael Kaufman of Warwick, N.Y., was a senior project editor at a medical education company in Bergen County until a week ago last Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.