Last week I wrote about a paralegal whose prickly office interactions, and possibly less-than-winning personality, may have cost her a job. This week’s career dilemma comes from a paralegal whose boss seemed to like her a lot – but still let her go.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune published the paralegal’s career question in “Liked by boss, and yet fired without warning”. The paralegal was caught completely off guard after receiving specialized training in a new area, contracts administration, as well as positive feedback from her boss. She may have gotten the impression that her boss was as invested in her success as she was.

You can imagine my shock when, after nearly five months, the business manager called me into his office to tell me he thought that the job was a poor fit for me with the many contracts coming in and that they needed someone with more contract experience. I asked whether I had offended anyone and whether anyone had complained about me. He said no, that everyone liked me.

The paralegal was given a week’s severance pay and paid for accrued vacation. Despite the shock of the termination itself, the career columnist does not recommend pursuing a wrongful termination action. She praises the paralegal for remaining professional, and encourages her to call her former boss to diplomatically see if a little more information might be forthcoming. If not, she suggests the paralegal reiterate how much she liked her job, and ask for a reference, which will help when explaining the gap in employment to prospective employers.

If fired, say nada about the hair.

No one wants to be let go from a job, especially with no warning signs and when everything seems to be going swimmingly, but there is a lot to be said for maintaining grace under pressure and not burning your bridges. The truth is that most of us are subject to the whims of our employers and can be let go at any time.  Even if we are in the rare situation where an employer has violated state or federal laws prohibiting discrimination or retaliation, successful claims can take years to resolve, and in the meantime, you still have to eat.

We’re generally not too keen about preparing for this kind of exigent circumstances. As awful as it is to think about, kind of like writing down our burial instructions, we need to be ready for a sudden termination, including the kind where you’re escorted out of the building with no further access to your computer.  Law Practice Management’s recent post, “If Your Employment Is Terminated”, and Attorney at Work’s post, “Preparing for the Axe to Fall,” share several key recommendations that apply to any legal professional, including paralegals:

  1. Keep copies of good evaluations and complimentary reports at home;
  2. Keep your resume current – on your home computer; 
  3. Keep important personal information on your home computer; and
  4. Make a graceful exit.

A termination can happen any time, for any number of reasons, even if the boss seems to like us a lot. But it’s how we handle it that makes us true professionals.

Related Posts:  Take Immediate Action If You Are Laid Off – But Don’t Burn Your Bridges; Don’t Depart in a Blaze of Bad Grammar

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