Leadership story series: #1 - "I thought I was getting fired three months into my first job!"


Eric Jacobson

A compelling story from Eric Jacobson about getting tough feedback three months into his first job out of college. Today Eric uses this story to help young managers realize early feedback is a gift and not a curse.

Eric is a popular blogger on management and leadership topics. He can be found here »


Three months into my first job out of college my boss brings me into the company cafeteria and tells me things just aren’t working out. He states a few things he likes about my work. Then, he details a longer list of what he doesn’t like.

I’m surprised. Worried I’ll lose my first real job. And, scared. I wonder, how will I tell my parents I’ve been fired from my first job.

Then, he closes by explaining to me that he believes I have the core skills to do a good job and to deliver on the things he needs me to achieve. And, that’s why he says he is taking the time to tell me why and how I need to do things differently – rather than just let me go. He says, “I’m taking the time to tell you this because I care about you and want to see you succeed, even though it would be easier just to tell you things aren’t working out and to let you go.”

After absorbing the initial shock of the conversation, I return to work the next day and start tackling the items my boss wants me to improve. Within weeks, he notices a difference. Three years later he hates to see me go when I resign to grow into a new opportunity.

Because he took the time to deliver the tough conversation to me, I had the opportunity to make a change, and ultimately I became one of his strongest team members.

Decades later, I continue to share this story with any employee I also believe in but who needs to do something differently to be better at his job. I tell him, as my boss told me; even though this is a tough conversation it’s more valuable for you and me to tell you what I honestly feel than to just let you go without providing you an opportunity to improve, particularly because I believe you have the ability to succeed.

My hope, too, is that my challenged employe is inspired to make a change by hearing my first-job-out-of-college story and how a similar tough conversation allowed me the opportunity to change and succeed.

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