At about 4PM today, I was sitting at my desk at work, working on a large document that I’m writing,when my boss popped his head into my office and asked me, "Are you going home early today?"
"What’s Early?" I asked.
"Before 5PM?" he responded.
"No, I should still be here."
"Okay. I’ve got a meeting for the next hour, but then I need to talk to you for a little bit."
Then he withdrew. And I started freaking freaking out.
I don’t know about most companies, but at Microsoft, when your boss schedules a 1-on-1 meeting for 5PM on a Friday afternoon, that meant one thing, and one thing only: You were being "let go." Or, to put it in true Micro-speak, you were "leaving to pursue other opportunities."
Why was I being fired, I thought? We’re hiring people like crazy. I just had a 1-on-1 with my boss four days ago and he said I was doing a good job. I didn’t look at porn at work. I never brought the dead hookers in my trunk into the office. Shouldn’t they at least give me a warning first that I hadn’t been up to snuff? How was I going to pay rent. Rent? How was I going to get the money to move my stuff back down to Utah so I could move back in with my parents while I tried to find some crappy job with a multi-level marketing scheme or credit card call center? Because without a job, there was no way I was going to be able to pay rent, so I was certainly going to have to move in with my parents.
So, for the next hour, I sat in my office, unsure whether to cry, call my mommy, or delete the database for the entire system, because if I was going down, they were going down with me, dammit, all the while staring at my computer screen and not getting any work done at all.
When 5PM rolled around, my boss popped back in and said, "Do you have a minute now?" I said that I did and I followed him, not to his office, but to a hidden little out-of-the-way conference room where, I was certain, nobody would be able to hear the stream of profanity that was sure to stream forth from my mouth at any moment. He closed the door, beckoned for me to sit down, and sat down in the chair across from me.
‘This is it,’ I though. I’m ready.
"Well, it’s time for bonuses. And since you were only here for three weeks before the end of the fiscal year, your bonus is pretty small."
What? I wasn’t being fired? I made a mental note to go and remove the ticking timebomb left on the server’s main drive.
At the end of our little meeting, I looked at my boss and said, "You know, when you wanted to have a meeting at 5PM on a Friday, I thought I was being fired."
He looked startled for a moment, then said with a laugh, "Huh. I hadn’t even thought of that."
(PS – I would never ACTUALLY do any damage to the servers even if I had been unceremoniously fired. It just makes for better dramatic tension in storytelling.)