Posted by: LYF | June 10, 2011

I get fired and land a new job all within 24 hours – part 1

I’ve written about it before and I’m pretty sure it applies to most offices.  If you want to be successful (or keep your job) you have to internalize the culture around you.  It’s helpful if you like your environment, but that doesn’t always happen so sometimes you have to fake it.

By December 2010 faking it became really hard.  Almost impossible.  Fortunately, getting to that point took six months.  More than enough time to find a new job.  And by February 2011, I had a verbal offer.

Getting the offer was great.  But it put me in a very dangerous “what the fuck” mindset because I didn’t feel like running around on a hamster wheel – doing shit that didn’t make any sense – anymore.  I was fed up with gaming the system so I started playing things straight up by recording my real time.  If I finished a file budgeted for 10 hours in 5, I billed 5 not 10.

This is not a good thing to do.  It gives the impression you aren’t working because your utilization rate will be extremely low.  And from the partner level it means you’re missing your billable hours targets – aka not working – which is against company policy and unfair to the people who are “working.”  It actually screws you over a second time because you’ll end up juggling way too many files if you start requesting more work.

If you really want to change the game, be a leader and come up with a solution.  This is a lot more productive than finding ways to prove the system is broken.  Pointing out flaws is a waste of time and pisses people off.

Please don’t do what I did.  It’s dumb.  Sometimes you’ll be asked to do things that don’t make sense.  Where you will have to say, “yes this might be stupid, but I need to go along with it for the time being.”  These spots take a tremendous amount of patience and perspective to get through.  Especially when you know you are killing time.  I wish it was possible to avoid them altogether, but that’s naive.  Sometimes they won’t even be stupid.  You just won’t have enough perspective to see the value of what you’re doing.

I should have sucked it up for 2 more months, kept my head down and left on my on terms.

Like anything, this is a learning process.  I fucked up and I’m trying to take as much away from this situation as possible.  The above aside, things aren’t awful right now.  I’ll get to that in Part 2.


Responses

  1. So just to clarify. They canned you because your utilization rate was too low? Did they do this after noticing your low rate over a period of time or just because you started billing your true hours for a couple weeks?

  2. This was during busy season where we had a weekly minimum billable hours target. I was below for a few weeks. At first I received a warning. So to be more specific it was lack of billable hours, not utilization – which are two sides to the same coin.

    Then a week later when I still failed to hit the target I was let go.

  3. So did you just do this out of spite? I mean i totally agree with you billing your actual hours. But did you not look for more engagements?, or did you just want to get out of the firm. Either way i am not debating with you on your decision, just trying to understand your thought process.

    • Leading up to busy season I wasn’t getting enough work to meet my billable hours targets. This wasn’t as big a problem since we weren’t in busy season yet and we hadn’t received the standard emailing detailing the required increase in hours. But still, I was asking for more work because it sucks sitting around doing nothing.

      We got the “increase in hours” email sometime at the end of January or early February explaining hours would increase mid February. From mid February to March 3 I was requesting more work. And I did get a bit more, but it wasn’t quite enough. For example, I would receive files budgeted for about 40 hours of work, but I was finishing them in approx 30. Instead of billing 40, I chose to bill 30.

      The combination of not getting more files when I asked for them and finishing my work quickly, dropped my weekly billable hours and utilization rate a ton. And that was the reason I got for being let go. If I just billed 40 there wouldn’t have been a problem.

  4. Sounds like shenanigans to me. If there’s no work, and you finish all your work under budget, then why would you be penalized?

    It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong man.

    My firm has the same policies, but the partners’ understand there isn’t anything for us to do, so they’re not coming down on us.

    • I don’t think I have the full picture because the whole things still seems weird. But even if they were playing shenanigans, I could’ve played things better and quit on my own terms.

  5. Honestly, i know where you are coming from, but would it really hurt you so bad to just book the hours you were supposed to? I mean was it worth being fired just to make a point? Sorry, it appears to me that you wanted to leave the firm, which is fine, but getting fired for not booking hours just does not seem like the right way to have done it.

    Either way, not sure it matters since you got a new job. Congrats on that, and i hope you enjoy your new role.

    • Nope it definitely wasn’t worth it. Stupid and a little immature on my part.

      • The problem I see here is that “charging” and “billing” time is the same thing in your case. Smart firms deal with the time their staff charge on one stream, and then decide what to bill on the other side. Finishing files under budget shouldn’t be a reason to be punished – if anything, intelligent companies praise that!

        Sounds like their system couldn’t distinguish the difference and if anything, that sounds like a wrongful dismissal. I hope they packaged you out well!

  6. Silly – they say one thing and do another. I guess their point is, is if you’re not doing that much work, they don’t need you and can redistribute it to others.

    From your title, it sounds like you found a new job though, so yay! Hopefully not in a billable-hours type work anymore though? Because if you’re that fed up with it, it will be an issue at another firm anyway, unless they actually have enough real work for you.

  7. […] norm for the staff to bill more hours than they actually work on jobs. (See this post here from "Last Year's File" about how he got fired when he started billing his true hours.) I don't think that happens at our […]


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