The One Where Evil HR Lady Gets Fired

At the end of September, I got a message from the managing editor of MoneyWatch. It said, “I need to talk to you about some changes at MoneyWatch. Can you let me know a good time to call you?”

I responded with times I was available and then added, “Can you give me a heads up as to the topic?”

When she just responded with a time, I knew my fate was sealed. I’ve been involved in a lot of firings over the years and this evasion is a dead giveaway. I’d seen it coming for a while–editors were taking longer and longer to get to my pieces, the level of editing was increasing, and I was getting pushback on things that I had been doing for years.

To her credit, she handled the actual termination of contract (after all, I have never been a CBS employee) just like someone who has been instructed by, well, an expert in HR and especially terminations. She was straightforward, told me immediately, didn’t soften it, and informed me that I would be writing through the end of November, at which point our relationship would end.

I asked the reason. I knew it wasn’t performance as I had doubled my hits in the past year. She said, “We’re moving away from the expert model.”

“So you want non-experts to write about things?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

I find this highly amusing. She added that the bigwigs at CBS wanted to do less commentary and more news because they were, after all, a news organization, not a commentary one. I am decidedly not a journalist. I don’t go out and chase stories. I give commentary on things, and I answer questions. I totally respect the concept that they want to be more “newsy” (although, probably not more Newsies). But, regardless, I find it amusing that I was terminated because they don’t want experts writing about things.

Now, I’ve said in the past, that when you terminate someone, it should be immediate and with severance. After working out two months of notice (and no severance, which is fair, as I was a contractor), I have to say, I stand behind that advice 100 percent. Here’s why:

1. I wasn’t the only one let go. A bunch of bona fide employees were terminated at the same time, which meant MoneyWatch HQ was in traumatized turmoil. My understanding is that the employees were not given a notice period and I don’t know if they received severance (but I would guess they did, as CBS has given out severance in the past). So, the people left behind were stressed out. They now had more work to do, and had the emotional turmoil of losing their coworkers and friends. They were awkward with me as well. I mean, how do you treat someone who’s just been let go, but is still working?

2. Things changed, but I wasn’t part of the change. No one notified me of changes, but when I made a mistake because I wasn’t doing it the new way, I was criticized. This was frustrating on everyone’s side.

3. I needed to find a new contract, but I had to fulfill the old one. This meant I was working my tail end off, trying to job hunt while writing. And, for the record, I’ve landed a couple new contracts (yeah, networking!), that I’m really really excited about, but I’m still open to more possibilities. You want to hire me? Email me at EvilHRLady@gmail.com

It would have been much easier if they had simply handed me a paycheck for 30 days (as 30 days notice was stipulated in my contract) and we all parted as friends. I’m not complaining, mind you, just pointing out that there is a reason for the advice I give.

This was my first paid writing job (although it has gone through many changes, and many editors), and I learned a lot over almost 5 years. I am a little bit sad, but I’m also going to get back to more letters, since I stopped writing those for MoneyWatch and they are my favorite.

To look back fondly at this time, here are some of my favorite CBS articles:

The first:

Your Boss Loves you, Here’s Why He’s Going to Stiff You

The most popular:

Why My Child Will Be Your Child’s Boss

The one that got me death threat emails:

Am I too Fat to Get Hired?

The one where I learned that people have confirmation bias in a big way:

Why Mitt Romney Likes Firing People (I wish the comments hadn’t gotten deleted when CBS switched back ends, because the comments were hilarious. They alternated between, “See? It’s just another Republican defending Romney! You horrible, lousy Republican!” and “See? It’s the liberal media hating on Romney. We can’t trust the media! They are all liberals! You horrible, lousy Democrat!” These made me laugh and laugh and laugh. I am sad they are gone.)

The one that ended up in Reader’s Digest:

How to Get Your Boss Fired

The one I refer people to the most:

Forced to Resign: What Are Your Options

 

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55 thoughts on “The One Where Evil HR Lady Gets Fired

  1. Yowsa, not easy. At least they gave you some notice. Love reading your column and a big fan! Gone through some changes myself over the past year or so. In any case, for what it’s worth, you’ve got my support. – Daniel

    1. Thank you! Change is good, and actually, I’m happy to move on. Should have done it myself.

  2. If it helps you feel better, (which it likely won’t) none of your CBS links ever worked with my phone or computer OS, (apparently some BS compatibility issues) so I never bother with anything on their stupid website.

    (Maybe they will listen to me about their website being stupid, considering I avoid being an expert at such things, and expert opinions are what they claim they are trying to steer clear of. I wonder what they will try to avoid next.)

    I am pleased you have picked up other contracts and look forward to actually being able to read your articles for a change (here’s hoping).

    Good riddance to them, and may you land on your feet Evil Hr Lady…

    1. My feet are big enough that they are pretty easy to land on. 🙂

      Thanks for your kind words. And FWIW, I agree about their website being stupid. It’s really cluttered and hard to navigate. When it was BNET, I read tons of stuff there. MoneyWatch? Hard to find what you want.

  3. Wow! What an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing this. If nothing else, at least you got a good story out of it. I’m betting that before long, a non-expert (I mean REPORTER) will be calling you for a quote on an HR related story. Won’t that be interesting?

  4. Sorry for your sad news but as you’ve already noted sometimes we just need a push to get out of our comfort zones. It’s nicer to be given a nudge than a shove as I agree the expectation that you’re to look for a new contract while still fulfilling theirs is abusive on the end of the employer. I recognize there’s a difference between full time employees and contracts but we both know they likely didn’t treat the full time employees any better. Thank you for sharing your personal story as I’m sure it will help many who are currently going through the same insulting and demeaning behavior from employers who opt for less talented players, as you’ll currently see in the medical device industry. Recently a division of Johnson & Johnson laid-off employees only to tell them they could re-interview for their position if they still wanted to be employed. Employers preying on desperation and fear they created and manipulating the rights of their employees which is not a trend it is entrenched in business today.

    1. I hate it when employers don’t treat their employees well. It really bothers me.

      Thanks for your kind words. I did need a good shove!

  5. It’s almost always better to be the dumper than the dump-ee, huh? I was just informed by an interview-ee that she had chosen a different caregiver. This was fine by me: I’d had a bad feeling about her, and had only that morning decided I didn’t want them anyway. Darn! I wish I’d sent my email — “sorry, the space is no longer available” — before I received hers. 🙂

    I’m glad you’ve found new contracts. I usually actively enjoy change. It’s refreshing! I hope your new contracts — the ones you have, the ones you’ll find — are refreshing, stimulating, fun … and lucrative!

    1. They should be! Well, not super lucrative. No one ever got rich doing freelance writing. Well, maybe someone, but not me!

  6. Probably because they can pay non-experts peanuts to write for them. >:(

    Yay for new contracts! If anyone read my Clerical Chick blog, I’d hire you for a guest post. 🙂 Or for a writing post for my writing blog…hmmm. HMMM.

    1. You are very kind. I think the reality is, they aren’t hiring someone to replace me, they just won’t cover what I did any more. Which is fine–their choice.

      1. Yes! Networking is the awesome. And forgive me, since I don’t include names on my columns, link me to the one about you. :>) Please?

  7. You will be missed and I hope you keep us posted on your landing….you are a refreshing voice with an all too rare objectivity that gave unique credibility to your every word. Not to forget insight…..the glasses with which you saw, and see, every piece have been a constant source of learning and grounding and my professional life will have a void in it until your voice reintroduces itself to our lives.

    Wishing you every success.

    1. Thank you! And never fear, you’ll always be able to find me right here. In my little evil cave, filling out paperwork, handing out lousy raises, and stalling people’s promotions.

      Oops, did I actually type that? I’m not supposed to give away too many HR secrets.

  8. The only reason I ever went to that site was to read your column. I tried a few times to sign up to be able to make comments there and it never worked.

    I am stunned you received death threats. I read the article and it could be upsetting for some. But death threats? It’s an opinion piece. Some people are really out of control.

    1. People were so angry about the fat thing. So, so, so angry. It was bizarre. Since I live across an ocean and most CBS readers are Americans, I went to bed and woke up with literally hundreds of angry emails.

      Weird. It also got quoted by Reader’s Digest and by Yahoo and I think the angry emails came from Yahoo readers. Yahoo has more issues than just their CEO.

  9. Very sorry to hear this, Evil. I look forward to following your future endeavors, however – I know you will continue to do well and help us mere mortal HR-types out here.

    Good luck (hang in there).

    1. Thank you! Once you get your devil horns and lose all compassion for human beings, HR becomes a lot easier.

      Just sayin’

  10. Sounds like they’ve jumped onto the mediocrity bandwagon, just like so many companies who prefer the work of “non-experts.” What a shame! I love your blog and your articles. Write a book, Evil HR Lady!

    1. A book is in the works. I’m debating going the self publishing route or trying to find a publishing house.

  11. Wow. You’re not alone – the whole country is “moving away from the expert model.” Same thing happened to me. We can still follow you here & on Twitter, right?

  12. So you’ll be writing for others…right? Tell us that it ain’t so and that your blog isn’t totally gone. We need more expert advice…not less. Reading your blog is the highlight of my day.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad I can be the highlight of your day. No fears, it will be right here and with more unique content.

      Life is about to get better.

  13. Thank you for sharing your news. I was one of those that never went to that site except through your link. One door closes…yada, yada. I am of the please write a book audience. Your advice is current and valuable and needed. You have a platform and a loyal audience.

  14. In my business “moving away from the expert model” is called “pooling our ignorance.”

    Sorry that this has happened to you.

  15. Well, if you’ll accept my layman opinion, I’m glad we still have your sage advice here. Here’s to 2015 and new opportunities.

  16. I’m sorry you got fired but I’m glad you landed on your feet nimbly. You gave me great advice before and wherever you go, I will always read whatever you write because you give great perspective and clear insight into HR and career matters. CBS just lost a really damn good columnist.

  17. So many comments! Who knew you had such a following??!?

    Congrats on getting fired! Seriously. I’ve been fired myself several times, and it is invariably a blessing in disguise.

    I look forward to reading your stuff in the future!

    1. Thanks, Jeff! My readers are the best! And while getting fired stinks, I agree that it can be a blessing in disguise.

      I’m already seeing good things and I should have left of my own accord earlier, but comfort zones are like black holes. They just suck us in!

  18. I left a comment a few days / weeks ago saying I liked your posts on this blog more than moneywatch. Because I didn’t know you’d been let go, now you know I meant it and that I am not just being a supportive reader.

    My fave were your old old posts, where you didn’t couch your words at all because blogging wasn’t a job, it was just where you vented about your full-time job. Those were good times!

    1. Yes, you did and your comment made me very happy. I’m definitely doing more posts with my own voice rather than trying to sanitze them for general consumption.

  19. Usually when things like this happen it opens the door for even better things. It would be unusual though for a contractor to get “severance” so it seems by giving 30 days notice, as indicated in the contract, they were being fair. It’s a pretty big company so they aren’t going to care too much that it was challenging for you to look for work while still working. Just the way the cookie crumbles.

    1. Oh goodness, they were very fair. 60 days notice was more than required, and I respect them for doing that.

      I have no qualms with how I was treated. They are changing their focus, and that’s their perogative. I had a really good run there and I’m really happy that I did it and that I had the opportunity.

      I think they are making the wrong choice, of course, but it’s their choice to make.

  20. Bummer! I will certainly continue to follow your blog& recommend it to others. I read it precisely because you are an expert but what do I know?

    As to point #2 above–“No one notified me of changes, but when I made a mistake because I wasn’t doing it the new way, I was criticized.”–been there more times than I can stand. Such a common practice anymore, sadly. Why would you want your employees to know what’s going on in your company, right?
    Best of luck to you!!

    1. Oh yes, very common. And not really any one’s fault. I’m sure things at MoneyWatch HQ were in such turmoil and shock that I was the last thing on their list.

      Just frustrating.

  21. WOW! I have enjoyed reading you post’s and love your work, you will have to let me know were you land. This is a terrible decision on your former employer’s side.

  22. I am sorry that you lost your gig there, as HR expertise/experience is certainly relevant to navigating HR in the modern workplace.

    However, the irony that just struck me is that “Moving away from experts” is exactly like having 23 year old HR interns screen engineers for mid-level positions.

    I fear that you will be replaced by some ‘eager’ (read this as
    “young”) female intern– don’t be surprised if the daughter of a CBS executive just out of Princeton, Yale, or Harvard takes your gig. Expect heavy use of the term ‘social media’, a Tumblr- like interface and vapid content.

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