JBK405 on Sep 13th 2017 at 6:52:35 PM
Last Edited By:
JBK405 on Sep 18th 2017 at 4:06:02 PM
Page Type: trope
Being fired is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. Not only do they lose their livelihood, their circle of work friends, and their routine, but they have to deal with the fact that somebody looked them in the eye and said "You're not good enough". Or maybe even worse: Didn't look them in the eye, and just sent a dismissal letter or e-mail as though they weren't worth the personal appearance.
But it's not always easy on the person doing the firing, either. They need to be the one who looks the other person in the eye and says "You're not good enough", and then they need to live with the guilt afterwards. How do you just go back to your 9-to-5 job after you made the calculated decision that somebody wasn't worth keeping around?
Whether you're the fire-er or the fire-ee, it's a serious event, with long lasting repercussions.
Stories that focus on the person being fired can approach it in multiple different ways. If the character knows its coming, they can play up the fear and dread as the deadline approaches. In a comedy this can be the impetus to for a Zany Scheme to try and save their job, or perhaps a form of revenge against the company instead. If it is a surprise, it can serve as a Cruel Twist Ending to shock and dismay the audience. If the character is a main character in an ongoing story they will often have their job again the next week, but not always. Sometimes this leads to an entirely new story or arc. Occasionally the firing will be seen as a good thing, giving the character the impetus to pursue their dreams that they had been putting off.
Stories which focus on the person performing the firing don't have as much leeway, and instead have one predominant feature: Forcing the character to shoulder the responsibility of firing somebody. Normally this will be their very first firing, and will come after a recent promotion to highlight the burdens that come with the perks of management. It might also be somebody they were friends with, or had previously hired, to add emotional complexity. Normally they want desperately to be a Benevolent Boss, only to ultimately find that there is no way around the issue in the cut-and-dry world of dollars and cents.
If the person doing the firing is a supervillain or criminal of some kind, this might overlap with You Have Failed Me or You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. Related to Kicked Upstairs and Reassigned to Antarctica, where they try to get rid of somebody without firing them.
Keep in mind that this is not just for any incident where a person is fired in a story, but is about the way stories explore the lead-up and aftereffects on the people involved. Not related to Out of Job, Into the Plot, which is when a person fired at the start of a work (Or even before it) leads to an unconnected main plot.
- In 52, Clark Kent has lost his superpowers and is living a year as just a normal human. Unfortunately, this means that his work as a reporter is seriously lacking, as he isn't used to needing to go out and look for news. Perry White is on the verge of firing him, and in fact has his termination letter in his hand, when Clark is motivated to take a lesson from his wife's playbook and leaps out a window in order to attract the attention of the new hero Supernova for an interview.
- In the future of 2015 seen in Back to the Future Part II, Jennifer witnesses Marty being fired after he is shamed into participating in an illegal scam with Needles. This highlights just how much of a Future Loser Marty will become, and how much his life is ruined by the fact that Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!. She judges just how much the future has changed when, in Back to the Future Part III, the "You're Fired!" fax she brought back is erased.
- The main plot of Office Space is kicked off when Peter learns that Michael and Samir are going to be fired (And he's going to be promoted). It's particularly frustrating because Peter has recently been slacking off while Michael and Samir have been dutifully plugging away at their jobs, and there have been Outside Consultants interviewing all of the employees to see who is worth keeping. They decide to take preemptive revenge against the company by installing a computer virus to undetectably siphon off money from electronic transactions.
- In Max Barry's Company, Jones picks up a copy of the Omega Management System, the newest how-to guide for executives that everybody at Zephyr seems to own. As he flips through it he realizes that its chapters on firings contain no mention of how it impacts the person who is actually fired, and only talks about how hard it is to do the firing. When Jones eventually learns that Zephyr is actually just a case-study for the company which publishes the OMS and is recruited, he is horrified at the callous way they toy with the employees' lives for "research". When Zephyr is eventually "consolidated" (re: significantly downsized) Jones almost touches off a riot among the ex-employees with the simple consoling statement "You don't deserve this".
- Two episodes of The Bold Type deal with firings and layoffs at Scarlet:
- In "Three Girls in a Tub", Kat spends the episode trying to reign in a new employee who just can't seem to get a handle on running social media for a publication like Scarlet. When her posts keep opening up the magazine to potential legal difficulties and outraging celebrities, Kat ultimately realizes that she has to fire her for the good of the magazine. The situation is exacerbated because she was the very first person that Kat had hired as well.
- In "The End of the Beginning" there are layoff rumors swirling all around Steinem Publishing, which Kat knows to be true. Jane and Sutton both fear for their jobs and try to prove their worth to the company, while Kat has to deal with not giving them any information since she is in management. Despite sympathizing with their worries, Kat almost wishes that her own job was in jeopardy because it might motivate her to do something more with her life. Jane and Sutton's jobs are saved, but Jane ultimately decides to leave anyway when she gets a job offer from another magazine.
- In the Scrubs episode "My Life in Four Cameras", Dr. Cox confronts Dr. Kelso when Kelso announces that he will need to fire somebody due to budget cuts. When Dr. Cox says that he could lower the budget without firing anybody, Kelso gives him the chance to figure it out, but says that Cox will need to be the one to do the firing when it turns out to be impossible. Despite looking through the budget for hours, Cox realizes that there really is no alternative since the hospital simply doesn't have the money. He fires Kenny, the lunchroom attendant who earlier in the episode had said how much he enjoyed helping out the doctors who save people's lives.
- In The Office (US) episode "Halloween", Michael Scott absolutely bungles a firing because he can't decide who to fire. He procrastinates until the end of the month (Meaning it happens on Halloween) and he tries to pick the person that will be the least difficult to fire for him. He first decided to fire Creed Bratton, but during the firing Creed convinces him to instead fire Devon.
- The George Lopez Show: In "Profiles in Courage", George is tasked with firing a Muslim factory worker after his bosses find out he went to flight school (the fact that the factory is up for a government contract not helping matters).
- In Seinfeld, Elaine can't bring herself to fire somebody when she is running the Peterman magazine. The mailroom toughguy is so intimidating that every time she tries to fire him she chickens out and promotes him instead. This leads to all of her other senior staff quitting in indignation when he winds up over their heads.
- In WWE, especially during the Attitude Era, one of the most well-known kayfabe stories was about a wrestler being fired on the set, mostly by Mr. McMahon acting as the Big Bad (Especially with his famous "YOU'RE FIRED!"). This became so famous as part of the WWE kayfabe that it has its own Top10 at WWE.
- Family Guy: The first episode has Peter getting fired from his toy factory job after he falls asleep due to a hangover and inadvertently allows dangerous "toys" to slip into the market. Not wanting Lois to find out and blame him, he decides to sign up for welfare and keep her in the dark about it.
- House of Mouse: In "Gone Goofy", the club goes over-budget and requires one person to be fired, and it has to be someone who is lazy and unproductive. Goofy naturally fits the mold, but the others, barring Donald, don't have the heart to fire their friend. As Donald tries to give Goofy a (literal) pink slip, Mickey decides to fire himself and make Goofy the new host.
- The Simpsons:
- In "Homer's Odyssey", Homer gets fired from the power plant and, after failing to find another job, his life goes into a downward spiral. After attempting suicide, he soon decides to become a safety advocate.
- The 100th episode deals with Bart's antics causing Principal Skinner to get fired.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In "Karate Choppers", SpongeBob is told not to do karate at work or risk getting fired. He is then attacked by Sandy, who refuses to believe his pleas to stop, only for Mr. Krabs to appear and make good on his threat. This causes SpongeBob to cry a river, but Sandy, realizing her friend wasn't kidding, convinces Mr. Krabs to give him another chance.
- In "Bossy Boots", Pearl gets a summer job at the Krusty Krab and makes radical changes to the theme and decor. Mr. Krabs disapproves of the changes, but he can't bring himself to fire his daughter, so he has SpongeBob do it instead. It turns out Pearl actually wants to be fired, so the two stage a dramatic "firing" for Krabs to hear.
- In "SpongeBob, You're Fired", SpongeBob gets fired from the Krusty Krab as a cost-cutting measure. After a falling into a rut, he attempts to find jobs at other restaurants, but he is fired from them just as quickly because all he can make is krabby patties.
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