The next week it was almost time to pack for Mayo and I had still not found a way to keep my job. I was starting to lose hope. I rubbed my eyes which were bleary from staring at my computer screen frantically studying the University policy manual. I got up and began to walk across campus to attend a mandatory training session. As the program manager for my Center I “managed people” so I was required to take quite a few training sessions for various day to day protocols. I had already taken the class on how to evacuate the building in case of a fire, which rooms were safe during a tornado, what to do if there was a shooting etc. Then there was training on sexual harassment, diversity, employee evaluation, and other standard policies that all workplaces have. Today I was extremely interested in the topic to be covered though because we were talking about the interview process, disciplinary action, and last but not least, termination policies. The woman teaching the class worked in the unemployment office and I was dying to hear what she had to say about hiring and firing.
I grabbed some lukewarm coffee from the thermos at the front of the room, signed in so I would get credit for the class, and made my way over to a friend from IRB who was also navigating the “people management” degree. We both observed that this lady had brought a basket with green peppermints. So far all of the instructors had brought baskets of confection with them and we liked to psychoanalyze what their choice of refined sugar said about them. The woman named Beatrice who had taught the class on sexual harassment and was, you guessed it, in her late 70s, had brought Werther’s butterscotch candy. The kind with the gold foil that your grandmother always had hiding in the bottom of her purse.
The gentleman who taught our class on diversity had brought an assortment bag of Jolly Ranchers. All different flavors. We thought the symbolism was a little obvious.
This lady had brought green peppermints. Peppermint was a traditional choice but the spearmint definitely gave it an edge. Her outfit was similar. Plain black business suit but she had a fairly extravagant broach on one lapel in the shape of an apple. It was encrusted with jewels and had that forbidden fruit quality to it as it stood out on her plain black jacket, glittering in the light as she walked across the room to pass out papers. Huh, I thought, she even looks like Snow White. She had short dark hair and a sing song voice that was cheerful but again, there was something a little darker hiding behind it. I imagined her whistling while she worked at stamping DENIED on unemployment claim forms.
She quieted us down and began going over the correct protocols for the interview process and how to accurately report a disciplinary infarction. Finally we arrived at the juicy part of the class, termination. The university has a form that the employee actually fills out and then signs before termination happens. As I said earlier if you choose to fill out this form and leave the university of your own accord you are ineligible for unemployment BUT you are still eligible to re-apply for other positions in the future. If however you are asked to leave the university or as I like to call it “canned” you are eligible for compensation but it’s the end of the road my friend. You can never come back and work at the university again.
My mind started buzzing. Weighing the pros and cons of having unemployment benefits while I was in the hospital against the fact that my professional area was the university setting and if I was terminated I would never be able to return.
I was brought back from my frenzied thoughts when the power point slide changed at the front of the room to timeline highlighting that no employee is eligible for unemployment unless they have been on the job for 10 weeks. I quickly counted on my fingers how long I had been here and this week (which I would only work half of and then leave again) would make 9.
Damn. Foiled again.
“This is why” Snow White prompted, “it is important to address any problems with performance in the first ten weeks of employment. If an employee is not going to work out it is important for them to move on before the university is obligated to compensate them.” I swallowed what was now iced coffee because the air-conditioner was on full blast in that room and looked up at Snow White. I raised my hand and used my own sing song voice (mine also had an edge in it that afternoon) “I’m so sorry, it sounded like you said we should make sure if we are going to fire someone to do it in the first ten weeks of employment so the university doesn’t have to pay for it.”
“That is just if there are immediate issues that you find to be a problem with the employee. We encourage you not to sit on your laurels but to go ahead and take care of it. It does not benefit the employee or the university if a position placement is not going to work to draw out the process. Think of this as a relationship with a bad boyfriend. Better if there is a clean break and that you do it sooner rather than later.” She smiled down at me indulgently from her “I’m past my 90 day probationary period” ivory tower. I realized this woman wasn’t Snow White she was the Evil Queen and we weren’t a band of merry dwarves she was training we were the Huntsmen.
I didn’t even raise my hand this time; I simply asked “define immediate issues”
“Hmmm, well failure to follow basic protocols. Things like tardiness, trouble with attendance, blatant disregard for university rules.”
“Trouble with attendance. Like, for example, if an employee is struck with a sudden illness and can’t come to work and is still in their 90 day probationary period?”
How ’bout them apples?