fired and then asked back by higher-ups

A reader writes:

A new, young manager recently lost his temper with me over a disagreement that we were bickering about. In the heat of the moment he fired me, sent me home in the middle of my shift, and called the other girl who does my job to “tell” her (not ask, by the way) that she had to work all of my shifts because he never wanted me to return.

Immediately after I left work, I received phone calls from the other three managers telling me that I am not fired, they would never fire me, and asking me to please just come back to work — reminding me that if I didn’t it would only hurt them and my fellow employees much more than it would affect the new manager who fired me. (I have been with this company for over two years, and it took them essentially two years to find me–this manager has been there about 6 months. He is one of four managers who oversee us, and one of the others is the one who’s really in charge.)

Basically, I like–or rather liked–my job before this falling out and don’t want to burden my coworkers with the extra work load, so I plan on returning. I have never been “fired” before however, and don’t know how to behave with this manager especially since I no longer respect him in any way. What is the best way for me to behave at work so that I can enjoy myself again, yet make it clear that I strongly disagree with that manager’s rash and hasty actions? Also, how am I supposed to take any direction from him or take anything this manager says seriously now? Frankly, I don’t even want to say “hello” to him anymore.

Well, first of all, he’s probably pretty chagrined right now, since his authority was undermined and his decision overturned, and he knows you know it. I’m assuming the other managers must have addressed his error in judgment with him since they would have needed to explain that you’d be coming back; I have no idea how harsh they were with him, but even the softest approach in this situation has to be humiliating for him.

So he’s probably not sure how to behave with you now either. Two things are likely: He’ll either be a jerk to you because of this, or he’ll steer clear of you. If he steers clear, I’d simply minimize your contact to him to whatever extent possible, and when you have to deal with him, be polite but distant to begin with. Things may improve in time, now that he has a better understanding of what he can and can’t get away with. But if he’s a jerk, I’d say to go to the other managers, the ones who clearly like you and intervened after he tried to fire you, and explain that you were glad they wanted you back, but the other manager is now having trouble treating you professionally, and something needs to be done. Having overruled him in a pretty dramatic way already, and having asked you to return, my bet is they’ll be more than willing to straighten this out.

Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out!

{ 3 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Wench*

    If he asks you to do something just say “I’ll make a note of that and staple it to my forehead”. This statement has done wonders for my career. People I say this to make a point of never initiating a conversation with me again. Try it!

  2. almostgotit*

    I love HR wench’s suggestion! However, while delicious, a flippant response is not likely to be endearing, and it strikes me that it could be dangerous if this problematic, abusive manager remains in a position of authority over this employee.

    I would suggest heading off any future problems before they start. I’d prefer contacting the highest of these other managers and, in a very calm but firm way, ask what assistance they intend to provide, and what assurance they will give, that this kind of abuse will not happen again. Because, obviously, it was completely unacceptable.

    I assume the employee is documenting all of this, too… if she’s not already, then start now.

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