I was fired and asked to train my replacement

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my job for only four months, but the owner has already hired my replacement. She brought me into her office to let me know that “this isn’t working out” and had a replacement in by that afternoon! She posted my job behind my back twice, has generally micromanaged and disrespected me as an employee, and clearly has no qualms about letting someone go on a whim. I agreed to stay on for the time being to train my replacement, but I’m at the point now where I just want to make a clean break. I am planning to relocate out of state anyway in a few weeks, so my question is this — is it okay to simply leave this job now? This owner will literally push me out the door as soon as she feels that the new person can take over the role — why put myself through the stress of helping her out when I may end up on the street in a few days anyway?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Don’t forget to immediately apply for unemployment, even though you will be relocating. Besides providing you with some cash, the claim will count against your employer and their unemployment insurance rates will take a hit (call it karma).

        1. TootsNYC*

          but if you quit, will you qualify for unemployment if you leave early? I don’t know how that works.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            She didn’t quit, though–she got fired already. Though I wonder if she did move up her last day, would StupidBoss fight the unemployment using that excuse.

        2. SB*

          I had the same sort of situation about 3 years ago. I had a job for about 18 months where I was doing 3 peoples jobs (IT Help Desk, Server and Desktop Maintenance, A/V Setup, Training, and Maintenance and on call after hours support every night) for a nationwide production company. The job was stupidly stressful because I literally had to run from one job to another just to get half of them done every day. I was salaried at $40k and working 12 to 14 hour shifts, 5+ days a week. I had developed a heart condition from stress and I told my boss that it was too stressful. He hired an assistant and had me train them. After the first week, the assistant could do most of my job. My boss called me in and told me that he no longer saw a need for me and that my job was ending 2 weeks later. Being that we had a ‘Use it or Lose it’ policy for vacation/personal time, I called in every day except for my last day so I could show up, turn my laptop, badge, and keys in and then went directly to the unemployment office. The lady at the unemployment office hinted that the company had done this several times within the last 5 years and that they were a terrible company to their employees. I ended up getting unemployment for up to 2 years, but after 3 months, I found a job that pays better and I have much less stress. What I’m trying to say is don’t let companies get to you.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Been there, done that – well, theoretically; my replacements weren’t there, though other team members’ were. My team of 20 got laid off, 5 of us kept for 2 months to train the offshore “replacements” (as if 120 man-years of institutional knowledge could be passed on in 2 months anyway).

      Whatever money you get has to be balanced against the stress level – I had a nice severance package since I’d been there 9 years, but there were times I was willing to drop that and walk away. If I’d found another job before the two months were up, I was going to mic-drop my badge and walk out. The only thing getting any of us through it was that we had each other to commiserate with.

      I was the mentor for a NCG (new college grad) who wasn’t on the transition team but was offered a job on another team – I told him to take his severance money and run. He had 4 recruiters sniffing around him before the first week was up and already has a better job.

    2. Kelly*

      I’m curious about the LW saying “I’m planning to relocate out of state in a few weeks anyway.” Did the manager know the employee wasn’t going to be staying and that’s why she’s hired someone else? If she didn’t know and the LW was just going to quit anyway is it possible the manager found out from the grapevine and decided to be prepared? Or did the LW decide to leave the state AFTER she found out she was being replaced?

  1. Mockingjay*

    #5: “Work isn’t really about fairness; it’s about your organization meeting their goals, and the details of how they do that may not always look fair or even reasonable to you.”

    Like the OP, I didn’t always understand that. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and replace my younger, inexperienced working self. I’d have saved myself a lot of anxiety and stress. Ah well. I know it now.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      While I get the general sentiment here, I’m surprised Alison didn’t say “unless it’s impacting the team/work”. Presumably that persons output is less, but I suppose she could be a rock star that can goof off for an hour and still be as productive as the others.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s the part about work being about the organization meeting their goals. (And also the part in the answer above that that says “If this doesn’t impact your work…”)

      2. Koko*

        It could even be one of those jobs where she doesn’t have enough work for a full-time load, but someone needs to be there full-time to answer the phones and greet visitors, and there isn’t any other work they’ve identified as suitable for her. For all we know, she has an arrangement with the chief and he knows that she doesn’t come in until 8 because the phones and office aren’t open to the public until 8 or 8:30, and she can afford to sit and do her make-up because she quite literally doesn’t have any work to do other than warming the seat.

        You could argue that her position is a business inefficiency and her position should be restructured to include more work and given to someone who can do that work if she can’t, but that’s on the company, not the admin.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I’m also wondering how much the assistant is being compensated. When wages are low, you can’t expect employees to be jumping to fill their time.

  2. Ted Mosby*

    Why would you ever want someone you just fired training someone you just hired? They’re going to have a terrible attitude and impression of the company. Reasonable or not, and it doesn’t really matter, LW thinks the boss is a micromanager who fires people on a whim. That’s not who you want representing your company to a new employer. Initial impressions about company culture can last a long time.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      I agree. This doesn’t make sense at all. If you really think your recent hire isn’t a good fit for the role, why are they suddenly the right person to train the replacement?

      It may not be relevant but I wonder who trained the OP? Because the office sounds a bit weird or lacking in something.

      1. JessaB*

        That’s the first thing I thought. If you’re firing maybe for attendance or something that’s one thing, but if you don’t think the person can do the work, why on earth would you want them to actually train someone new? Wouldn’t they just pass on the issues you fired them for?

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah this employer is terrible. Sounds like they don’t do any coaching or give feedback just a sudden “we don’t like you anymore oh and by the way go train this new person that’s replacing you” so tacky. If she’s such a horrible employee why would they even ask or trust her to do this? Very dysfunctional.

      3. JustALurker*

        I once had this very thing happen to me I was told that I “wasn’t a good fit” that “tomorrow I could start training my replacement.” When I asked the same question you are asking now “Why would you want someone you are firing to train their replacement?” I was told that it wasn’t “personal” I replied that it wasn’t “logical” either. My manager went on to tell me that my work was the most accurate in her department, but I wasn’t fast enough. That made sense and I could accept it, but I still packed my things and left the same day. I had been looking for a new position, because I agreed it really wasn’t a good fit. I left because I had been trying to decide if I was going to take an offer I received the day before, so it worked out, but I really just don’t get the reasoning behind having someone you fire train their replacement, it is just weird.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I don’t suppose it occurred to them that there’s a correlation between accuracy and taking your time with things?

    2. alter_ego*

      Plus, if she wasn’t good enough at her job to keep on, why would she be qualified to train anyone else?

      (Not that I think she wasn’t good at her job, just that the manager who fired her clearly thought so)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. It’s enough of a disconnect that, combined with the replacement being immediately at hand, gives me a knee-jerk guess of nepotism. LW is actually fine at the job, but Cousin Jane suddenly needs a job, so out LW goes.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I can just see the “training”:

      “Every day, we are supposed to go into Cersei’s email and delete everything in her inbox, then empty her trash. She HATES it when her email is cluttered…and the only thing she hates more than that is questioning her preferences, so don’t ask her why! Man, she almost fired me when I brought it up…”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Haha “and ignore all these incoming orders. Someone remote takes care of that” “don’t forget to park in the presidents spot. He really gets a kick out of that”.

    4. Joseph*

      Exactly. Even if you leave out the attitude, there’s still the issue of why you want a just-fired employee doing your training.

      Also relevant that LW said they were there four months. I can’t imagine LW acquired so much irreplaceable knowledge in four months that there isn’t someone else who could do the training. Four months! It’s not like you’re replacing an employee with decades of experience who knows all the stuff that was never written down.

      1. college employee*

        And if I was the new employee, I would have to wonder why I was being trained by someone who was 1) still fairly new to the job and 2) fired from the same job. It definitely would not leave me with a favorable impression of my new workplace.

    5. Barney Stinson*

      My first job out of school fit this mold. Manager found me, then whipped around and told the current incumbent she was being fired, and if she didn’t train me she’d lose a good reference.

      So I was trained by a person who Manager thought was inept. I was a total noob, just out of school, and that was not good. At all. Made no sense, prepped me horribly, awfulawfulawful.

      LW is lucky they’re getting out now, if that’s the management sense guiding the company.

  3. Turtle Candle*


    Once long ago I had a job where, if all of my work was done (the mail had been sent, the things that needed filing had been filed, the phone wasn’t ringing and there were no outgoing calls to be made) I had permission to sit and read a novel while I waited for the next task. I used to get a lot of snide, “Gee, it must be nice to be able to read fantasy books while on the clock!” comments. (And while it’s possible to express that in a pleasant and non-snide way, trust me when I say this was not that.)

    The thing that the commenters didn’t see was that while, yes, I could read novels at my desk (assuming my other tasks were completed) and they could not, my job was far more rigid than theirs in other ways–for example, the flip side of “you get to sit there and read a novel” is “you have to sit there whether or not you have anything to do, and you can read a book to pass the time if you want,” whereas the other workers could take a long lunch, come in and leave at flexible times, arrange their workload so that they could take off at noon on Fridays, etc. And while there were some weeks where I could make a really big dent in my reading of the Jhereg series, there were other weeks where it was a constant scramble from the moment I clocked in to the moment I left, and I could never predict which would be witch–nor could I do things at a less hectic pace, because I wasn’t permitted OT.

    I have no idea if the makeup-putting-on assistant has similar invisible tradeoffs, but the experience really taught me to stop looking at these things as a question of “fairness” and to only really consider them if they impact my job (just as my coworkers would have been justified in complaining if I had been reading the novel instead of getting their mailing handled promptly). Otherwise I just tell myself, well, different roles come with different assumptions, and that’s okay. It’s certainly a big help to my blood pressure.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Hi fellow Jhereg fan!

      Long before xkcd made the famous compiling strip ( https://xkcd.com/303/ ), I worked in a tiny software company that got started when an office product wholesaler discovered that to sell a 5c pencil you have to buy a 4c pencil, but to sell a $10K software product you just buy a $10 floppy.

      Having come from a place where all the employees were warehouse workers who were expected to be constantly busy, the concept of “the computer is compiling, I can’t do anything till it’s done” didn’t sink in to him – and it being the mid-80s on minicomputers (which aren’t as mini as you kids think – it’s the next one down from mainframes!) compiling took a while. But reading reference manuals was OK – yeah, that’s as useful as reading a dictionary. So I went for the old high school trick of putting a book inside the reference manual cover.

      1. bkh*

        Jhereg represent, yo! Perhaps I should change my tag to Loiosh.

        And it really, often, is a case of eyes on your own work.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This has been every receptionist job I had, except I was expected to be busy all the time. At my current job, when I was still going to school, I had permission to do homework when I had nothing to do.

  4. Bee Eye LL*

    Op 1 – I was in a similar position where I was a contract worker hired to do web development for a branch office of a large international corporation. After @ 4 months I started doing tech support and was going to be permanently hired on after completing 6 months under the temp agency I was hired through. During this time, the parent company got into some kind of huge stock merger with another company and it caused the stock price to take a dip. The company’s solution was to get rid of all temporary contractors.

    My boss decided that for my final two weeks there, she wanted me to teach her how to make websites. She wanted to know how to use Frontpage and Dreamweaver and Photoshop and know all the ins and outs of HTML, graphic design, web design, and so on. It was insulting and ridiculous. After two days of her literally leaning over my shoulder asking question after question and actually complaining “this is too hard” or “this is way more complicated than it ought to be” (in early 2000’s tech) I finally decided on the third day to go off for lunch and never come back.

    I regretted walking off like that, but I couldn’t take it any more.

    1. Petronella*

      Absolutely, and it’s sad that someone would worry for even one minute that they owed the employer ANYTHING in this case. I know, I know, the ubiquitous fear of a bad reference, the possibility of disqualifying oneself from unemployment insurance for “refusing work,” but still, this is just a degrading thing for an employer to demand of someone.

  5. Bob*

    I was in a similar situation once when I was contracting during the recession. The struggling company would tell me on the last day of the month if my contract was extended the next month. Clearly they were waiting for my projects to get far enough along so they could cut me loose. Sometimes I would walk in on the 31st and my badge would be disabled. Security would call my manager (who worked in another state) who would say she forgot to extend me so they could extend my badge another 30 days. So I found another job, waited until the last day of the month and then declined the contract extension. My manager told me they were going to extend me again and I simply said “no thanks”. You could have heard a pin drop.

    1. Artemesia*

      Mike drop!!!!! It fills my heart with joy to read this. This is exactly what businesses that treat employees like this need to have happen.

  6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Yes, if you can afford to leave immediately, do so.

    This reminds me of a parallel. A guy comes home in the middle of the day and finds his wife in flagrante delecto with another guy.

    He goes to collect his clothes and stuff, and leave. The wife says “HOLD ON, let’s talk this out.”

    She then goes on to say she’d like her husband to stay for awhile, but to do anything to help make her new lover more comfy as she prepares to toss him out. But can he leave his bathrobe behind, and can he continue to make dinner until wifey wants him out the door for good?

    HELL NO AND GO. The boss made a choice. She has to sleep with it. Give her a flea collar and get out of there. Quickly. It’s OK to hold your nose on the way out.

  7. VX34*

    The only way I could imagine an involuntary round of “train your replacement” might go well is if the person was gently told they weren’t cutting it, but the company wants you to stay long enough to train someone, like 60 days maybe, keep getting paid, keep the benefits, and go on interviews now with a good reference from us…

    If that scenario sounds laughably implausible, I submit it is no worse than what the author is experiencing.

    If an employee is deemed to be a poor enough fit for a role that they can be unprofessionally and summarily terminated…how exactly is that employee good enough to train anyone, on anything, in your organization?

  8. Beancounter in Texas*

    I swear I must have written this in my sleep, excepts my boss didn’t hire someone before firing me. Micromanaging boss who doesn’t realize that it takes time to actually do tasks. I swear she checked off tasks as done in her head when she assigned them to me. No matter what I did, everything was wrong, even when she sat at my desk and step-by-step told me what to do, a few weeks later it would be wrong, but I wouldn’t remember that fact until after the disparaging remarks because I was too stressed to have a functioning memory.

    OP, I quit the day before your letter was posted. I was losing sleep, couldn’t remember anything from one hour to the next, and I would bawl as though my husband just died if I found a mistake, because I was afraid to tell her to get instructions on how she wanted it fixed, and I was scared to try and fix it myself to have the customer complain to her. I was super anxious when my boss was in the room and I realized that this will never change. So I did the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever done and quit without notice. Do you know what? I don’t think she cared. She said “okay” and returned to her work as if I had informed her it was raining outside.

    I WISH I had been fired first, so I could collect unemployment while I figure out my next step. Take that as a small blessing and leave.

  9. John*

    Can your boss fire you for not training new temp employee. I feel like my company is gunna try and force me out. Since ive been here there has never been a temp employee…

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