Ask Jack: Fired Coworkers, Just Say No, and Job of the Week

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Jack Silbert

The questions are pouring in fast and furious! (Apologies to Vin Diesel.) Our first query this week has been unfortunately common in the past 5+ years....

Do you have any tips for saying goodbye to someone who's packing up their stuff because they've been fired or laid off? When should you just stay away?

This is never an easy situation, and many people shy away from it, but that really seems like the wrong course of action to me. They're still human beings, after all. But instead of saying how sorry you feel, keep it positive. You'll miss having him around – share a specific memory. Or that you always appreciated her help with [fill in the blank]. If you're willing, say they can reach out to you if they need to talk, and that you'll keep an eye open for other openings. Or if you just can't handle it, stick to the old boilerplate: "Change can be a good thing. I'm sure you'll find something much better."

Here at Ask Jack, we love questions via Twitter; keep 'em coming! (hashtag #AskJack) @Davidsfr asks:

Should I use "Bartleby the Scrivener" as a work role model?

Our sassy tweeter is referring to the 1853 short story by Herman Melville, in which a man named Bartleby is hired as a scrivener: copying legal documents by hand at a law firm. But every time his boss asks him to do something, Bartleby simply replies, "I would prefer not to." While polite, I'm not sure that this behavior will put you on the fast track to an end-of-year bonus.

However, it does raise an interesting point. Some people will do simply anything the boss tells them to, whether out of fear, brownnosing, or blind respect for hierarchy. But many occupations have written job descriptions listing the specific tasks you're expected to complete. Get familiar with the description for your job and make sure you're not being taken advantage of. You can always go to human resources or a shop steward if there are discrepancies between the description and reality. Or if you're regularly handling responsibilities associated with the next position up, you may be able to make a very solid case for a promotion.

Last week's questions

Do you have a work-related question for Jack? Write it in the comments below (better answers to this week's questions are also welcome!) or tweet it @AOLJobs with the hashtag #AskJack.

Jack's Job of the Week

I will admit that I didn't find any job listings for "scrivener" on AOL Jobs. However, when I used the keywords "legal secretary," 2,309 openings popped up from coast-to-coast! Legal secretaries and paralegals are much in demand, and are just two of the thousands of open positions you can find on AOL Jobs. Do a search now; it's completely free!

I would prefer not to say goodbye, but I'll see you all again next week...
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