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You're Fired!

You're Fired!

My job requires me to carry out tasks that a malnourished orangutan could perform. No wonder I dream of being fired.


I almost got fired. And the sad thing is I'm disappointed that I wasn't.

My boss called me into her office with a grave look on her face and said, "Gideon, this isn't good." She proceeded to explain that upon her return from vacation, she was provided with our department's most up to date productivity numbers, and my productivity was markedly down. That coupled with the fact that I "don't smile anymore at the office" leads her to believe that I no longer want to work here.

She's perceptive - I'll give her that.

"If that's the case, and you are no longer happy with your job, then perhaps you should find another place to work," she said, like Walter Cronkite announcing the death of John F. Kennedy.

That's it? Perhaps I should find another place to work? I wanted a good old Donald Trump "You're fired!" Then I could have been escorted out of the office kicking and screaming, and the people who have never really come to like me could wish me farewell. Oh, and the severance package -- you can't forget about the severance package (which unfortunately does not accompany an employee if he quits). I could have gotten a nice severance package and moved to the Bahamas?for a week.

The truth is that my boss is right. My productivity is down. But that is because I am far dumber now than when I began this job, which is making my work suffer. I think that this is due in large part to the fact that I stare at a computer every day performing menial tasks that feel totally insignificant (I would tell you what I do for a living but I don't want to be responsible for lowering your IQ level). On top of that, my brain is not the only thing that is hurting -- my heart is not doing well either because as I sit here and think back to what I thought I would do with my life, I can't help but get depressed.

It's difficult for me to keep my productivity up because I don't feel like I am actually producing anything.

I was my grade school valedictorian. Every year of high school I was on the honor roll. I made the Dean's list in university and graduate school and participated in a wide array of extracurricular activities. All my life, I have been told that I had a great deal of potential and that I was "going places." Yet five years after entering the working world, the only place my career is going is nowhere. Fast. My job requires me to carry out tasks that a malnourished orangutan could perform. As a result, it's difficult for me to keep my productivity up because I don't feel like I am actually producing anything.

I know that I probably sound like a spoiled brat. There are starving people in Africa, and I am lucky to have food on my plate. There are women in Bangladesh who work 60-70 hours a week getting paid 17 cents an hour to make pajamas for Wal-Mart. Yet here I am in my nice air conditioned office, making more than almost anyone in the third world could ever dream about, and I am complaining. I know, I know. I repeat these factoids to myself over and over so that they have become mantras, but for some reason it provides little comfort.


I have sought outside comfort and advice from friends, family and rabbis to try and give me perspective on this issue. Their advice usually falls into two general categories. The first is what I will call the "Beck Theory of Working." It gets its name from a radio documentary that I was listening to about the musician "Beck." I know very little about him besides for the fact that he sings a song called "I'm a Loser," which these days resonates nicely.

Anyway, in the documentary, I learned that Beck's life goal was to play music. So much so that during the day he would work any odd job he could find just so he could have enough money to live. This would leave his evenings, and any other free time he had available for his real passion: music. Should this perhaps be the approach of a Jewish person to his profession?

Is a Jew not supposed to commit himself to the study and performance of the Torah? A life dedicated to good deeds and to spreading light amongst the nations? So what if I don't enjoy my job? I go to work so I can make money to live, just like my grandfather did, and his father before him. Then, I can use my "spare time" for holier pursuits.

So what if I don't enjoy my job? I go to work to make money to live and use my "spare time" for holier pursuits. Problem is that I'll have a nervous breakdown in the process.

Many would say that the Beck Theory of Working is correct, and it may very well be. The problem is that if I subscribe to this theory, I may have a nervous breakdown in the near future.

On the other hand, there is the "Brick Theory of Working," which gets its name from a parable I read: A wealthy and idiosyncratic king hired a poor farmer to do his bidding for him, for which he paid him handsomely. The king would simply have the farmer move piles of brick from one end of the field to another, and then back again -- all day long, and without reason. At first the farmer was appreciative because he was finding it difficult to make ends meet on his farm. However, in time, he began to resent the work. Despite the fact that the farmer was being paid handsomely, within a few weeks, he quit. The king, incredulous, asked why, especially in light of his salary. The farmer responded, "I don't care how much you pay me. All I do is move piles of brick back and forth for no reason. I can't live with myself because I don't accomplish anything useful."

The Brick Theory of Working explains that human beings will not be happy with professions that simply require them to move bricks without reason, or other similar professions because at our deepest level, we are creative beings. One of the goals of life is to strive to be "like God" and just as God is creative (He is the ultimate Creator -- after all, He created the universe), we too must create in some way, and we will never feel fulfilled in our professions until we are able to unleash that creative energy.

It's probably no surprise to learn that I have come up with at least one answer in my search: I ascribe to the Brick Theory of Working. The advantage of this school of thought is that I don't have to accept the idea of spending a lifetime in an unfulfilling career. The disadvantage is that I have to come to terms with my present job and the fact that I don't see any alternative career avenues, in the short term anyway.

Although I continue to struggle to understand my place in the working world, I take solace in my belief that everything ultimately happens for a reason. Even if I cannot see the value of what I am doing now, there is certainly some purpose in it. And when I finally find the career path that I am destined for, I know that what I have learned over the past few years will make me better in whatever I do.

In the interim, seems like I have no choice but to continue to move piles of bricks. Hopefully soon I'll be able to take those piles of bricks and build something. And who knows what I'll create then.

July 9, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 38

(38) Jessica B, November 3, 2007 6:43 PM

I have dreamed of being fired, hahaha

I work in the telecommunications industry, and I am so sick of the dryness of it all. It seems to me like the population at large doesn't understand or appreciate what it's like to be verbally abused for a living. I got suspended, and I hope I get fired. I have a job interview with another company, much more suitable to my personality and skill set. I think there's a problem in America, most people get so bored that nothing gets done efficiently. Anyway, thanks for your time and wish me luck on my new job journey!

(37) Anonymous, March 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Bull's Eye!

That article was right on target. Thanks for finding the humor in it!

(36) Sandra Lowenstein, August 12, 2005 12:00 AM

I really liked your article. I thought it was really funny, thought provoking, and brutally honest about the corporate world. I am about to complete my summer internship and go into my senior year of college, and the fact that you weren't sugar-coating the working experience made me feel a lot better about how I sometimes feel at my internship. Sometimes I feel great, like I'm accomplishing a lot, and other times, I feel like you said, I am doing jobs an arangatang (ignore the spelling on that word, please) could perform if trained properly. All in all, I am not sure what I want to do, and like you, I am worried I am not going to choose something that is personaly fulfilling as well as financially supportive. I guess time will tell, but its good to know that I am not alone.

(35) Rose B, August 5, 2005 12:00 AM

My experience

I've been threatened with being fired. I don't deserve it.

I gave up being the vice president of an exclusive private school -- tacning hmy onw kids at home and being "just a mom" -- and took a job to make endes meet.

At first, my waitressing job was often just moving bricks around. It was a new restaurant, and had very few customers. I made sure I treated each customer like s/he was our sole reason for being in business, and this kept many coming back, even while others accidentally discovered us. I put out fliers. When customers said thaey were very satisfied, I suggested that they tell their friends. I told people I met about the restaurant, and handed out copies of the menu. I made posters to promote each new offering. I thought up ways to improve service wihtout additional cost, such as folding inexpensive napkins into elegant shapes. I foudn ways to save money without cutting quality or service. I put my heart into making the business profitable.

Now, after five years of dedicated service, I have been told that I might be fired. That would make me the first employee to be fired, because even lazy bums who stole kitchen equipment have been kept on until they quit. Another worker, known to be a drag on business, is still working, and the boss confides she hopes that employee will just forget to come back after vacation. But I am still working my heart out, and I'm threatened with dismissal!

Just when all my hard work to build up the business is bearing fruit, and the amount I earn in tips is steadily increasing, I'm told I might not be allowed to stay on. It isn't fair! I've always been the employee who earned the most tips, which says something about the quality of service I render.

My best guess is that my boss feels threatened by my contribution to the recent profitability, that perhaps she things I will start demanding a share of the profits in addition to my wages and tips.

Yes, I'd like a little recognition, but I'd be content if that meant just being told, "you stuck with me when busines was thin and if you still want to work here now that the job has become more demanding and more profitable, you have earned it."

Since that seems unlikely, I think I need to start thinking about a different job.

(34) Jacqueline, August 1, 2005 12:00 AM

I complained I had no shoes until I saw the man who hand no feet

I may come off a bit judgmental so please allow me to apologize in advance if I come across as opinionated. Many others, myself included, would think you are exceedingly fortunate to have what you have. I never had the luxury of a good paying job, never mind a career - even though I struggled to overcome a learning disability to earn a university degree and hold financial planning & insurance licenses. I did "all the right things" to be "worthy" of a chance for a good job, or at least a job that would enable me to support my family without having to rely on food stamps and Medicaid because of the wages being below poverty level. I graduated college at age 35, trying to re-enter the workforce in 2001. Nobody would hire me because I was getting close to my middle-aged years (by corporate America's standards)yet I had no more experience than the 23 yr old college grads who often got good jobs over me. How do you think I felt after having more adversity to overcome as a disadvantaged partially disabled woman? My husband, fully disabled from chronic heart condition and back problems, gets a $604/mo social security check. We were reduced to extreme poverty because of my pounding the pavement with no income during a 4 yr long fruitless job search. My student loans went into default after my last unemployment/hardship deferrment was exhausted - which ruined my credit (something else that is held against job applicants is bad credit - even in jobs that have nothing to do with finance or money). With no health insurance, we were forced to go on welfare when we got hit with catastrophic medical bills we could not pay. The hospital was going to take our modest, working class home - if the bank didn't foreclose on us first, so we had no choice but to go on welfare - which is a very dehumanizing experience. Our gas (our heat, cooking and hot water) was shut off for inability to pay despit the little bit of help we qualified for as welfare recipients, because it simply was not enough to pay the outstanding balance and get caught up. Ironically, my career profile indicated I was CEO material and also lawyer material - but I would have been darn grateful for an entry-level professional job that paid a living wage with health benefits, and I did not even get a chance to have that. At the only synagogue in our town (Conservative), I was the absolute poorest Jewess - and I was reminded of it every time I was asked why I could not spare one dime to buy this or that book to participate in the study groups and I had to hang my head in shame in front of the others because how can I explain having no money without explaining I am poor - scraping just to survive? My husband and I were snooted by the rabbi's wife - because we were poor. Since I could not get any chance for a "real" job despite my education and credentials, I was treated like I was somehow less of a person than everybody else - I was always asked "did you try going to the unemployment office?" and "have you tried submitting your resume online to any companies?" and my favorite "did you try to get help from all these social agencies out there that help poor people?", etc which is the same as saying to me that I must not be trying hard enough when in truth I had tried everything ANYBODY possibly could have. We live in a classist society where anyone having problems getting a job that pays enough so that they still are not poor enough to qualify for food stamps is looked down on and treated like dirt, like they've got nothing to offer and are treated as objects of contempt, scorn, disdain and ridicule - as if the deprivation of real human needs entailed with being poor isn't bad enough without the bad treatment from everybody else in society on top of it. Moral of my long-winded story: You could be in much worse shape than in a boring job that pays well.

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