Thank God, I'm not fired.

This has been in doubt for some time. About a month ago my supervisor and I met in the office of the company president. (Our company only employs about thirty people internally.) The catalyst was a client who hadn't gotten their files, from me, done in the time we'd promised. After taking a few minutes to make me uncomfortable by chit-chatting with the secretary, who was also part of the meeting taking notes, he told me that my performance and general attitude weren't up to par and that I was on probation for one month. If improvement wasn't seen by then, my position would be terminated.

Now, this shocked me just a little bit, seeing as I was the only employee who knew how to do Web development. There were two others when I was hired; one went freelance midway through 2001, and the other was abruptly fired a few weeks earlier for misrepresenting company work as his own. I thought I was just a little invulnerable because of that. But the fired employee had, after leaving, sent a terse e-mail around to select staff suggesting that the management was looking for more creative ways to get rid of their Internet staff. So yeah, I was a little freaked.

The first proactive thing I did was to increase my medication. I have attention deficit disorder, at least in a mild form, and I was on 10mg of generic Ritalin twice a day. I promptly increased it to 20mg a day while I waited to talk to my doctor to increase the prescription itself, and did my best to reassert myself at work and take better notes.

The fact that the company president liked walking behind my cubicle at random times, looking at what I was doing, and then walking past my door with an audible *hffffffft* did nothing to improve my mood. Sure, he had a right to look in on what I was doing, but he never once bothered to ask if I was taking a break, occupying myself while I was waiting for something to arrive, or slacking off. (Almost, but not always, it was the first.) I resented, and still resent, being spyed upon and summarily judged like that, without any chance for a response. I do not feel unjustified about this.

Meanwhile, other people were talking around me at work about quitting or being laid off, due in part to financial problems with the business. This got my paranoia going even more. My wife advised me from the start to get my résumé in order and assume that I was being fired at the end of my probation period. And yet, they just kept giving me new projects at work, as if nothing were ever wrong.

Yesterday the company was finally informed that five people were being laid off, mainly because there wasn't enough work for them; five others were taking a 20% reduction in hours; and the rest of us were taking a 10% pay cut. I wasn't one of them, but my probation period wasn't up until Monday the 4th. So I was still restless.

So today, I was told that they'd move my meeting up to today so that I wouldn't have to fret about it all weekend. And I was told that they'd seen improvement, that I wasn't going to be laid off, and that all was well. I nodded and smiled. Afterwards I told my manager for the first time about my ADD and that I'd had to up my medication after the last meeting. He agreed to keep it as discreet as necessary. I just wanted some understanding that, if this happened again, the first thing I'd like them to do is to bring to my attention that my meds may not be working like they should rather than put me on another probation.

Some things I've learned, and/or developed opinions about over the last month:

  • "Christian business" should be considered an oxymoron. A business' purpose is to bring money in; a church's is to give money out. You can say your company conducts its business in a Christian manner, with honesty and integrity, but you're still in it for the money.
  • Always keep a résumé out there, no matter what business is like. Better to get a better offer before you're fired than have to scramble to find one afterwards.
  • A corollary: keep copies of your own work somewhere portable. Whether you want to show it as a portfolio or build on it elsewhere (I frequently cut and paste from old code to make new code work), this will come in handy.
  • Look busy. All the time. Best to actually be busy, of course, but when you can't, don't let it on. Assume you're being watched.
  • Work your ass off, and if there's nothing for you to do that day, make something up. As soon as they notice you're not doing forty hours of work for forty hours of pay, you're in trouble.

Thank God, I'm not fired.

I think I'll say that a few more times to myself, so it can sink in.