I said in my one-year anniversary post that I wanted to be more transparent in sharing my mistakes with finances (and life in general). With that said, I’m going to keep my promise and share my latest work misstep that could potentially impact my cash flow.

The last work week was a rough one. I made my second big snafu since starting the job over two months ago, but this one was worse because it involved money. Without divulging all the gory details, I’ll just say I used my company credit card to complete a task for who I thought was someone from upper management.

Words can’t describe the embarrassment I felt once I found out it was a scam. Thankfully it wasn’t a huge amount of money, but it was enough to warrant an anxiety-inducing week of forwarding emails, writing memos, and getting way more acquainted with the finance department than I ever wanted to.

Not surprisingly, this situation triggered thoughts of the last time I made an honest mistake after a few months on a new job and was terminated shortly after. I wrote about it on my personal blog years ago, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here.

The Cliff-notes version is that I was randomly selected to take a drug test. I worked from 6pm-12:30am back then, but I was tasked with going to the clinic at 9am the next day. I dragged myself out of bed to complete the test, only to find that the clinic was closed that morning.

I called the clinic several times to figure out what was going on, but no one answered. I went to work later that day and told my supervisor what happened, who gasped in horror. Being a newbie at the job, I didn’t realize what a big no-no it was to miss taking the drug test during a specific time window.

I went through a series of events similar to this recent incident, writing statements and explaining what happened to the HR manager. I was suspended the next day and told that I would learn whether I still had a job “pending investigation.”

The suspension happened on a Thursday and I spent the whole weekend stressing over what the outcome would be. Monday rolled around, and I still hadn’t heard back from anyone, so I called my supervisor for an update. She reluctantly broke the news that the decision had been made to terminate employment due to my “refusal” to take the drug test.

All of the frustration and hurt I felt then, came back to me during last week. Looking at the once-friendly faces of staff members who now just wanted the cold hard facts of my indiscretion, was sobering to say the least.

This incident reminded me that when it comes to a job, no one cares about your qualifications or dedication to the organization. There are rules and procedures to be adhered to, and if you step outside of those, your employer holds the power to end your livelihood in a matter of days—or less.

It reminded me that we are often so concerned with producing the best work, being the go-to employee, and networking with key people at our organization, that we think less about how to function when the worst-case scenario rears its ugly head.

In the job I was terminated from, I was one of the most accurate billers in the department. I was always on time and got along well with my co-workers. None of that mattered once I violated the company’s zero tolerance drug-testing policy. Does that mean I should have sucked at my job, so I would be less devastated when they decided to let me go? No, but I also shouldn’t have been so naïve to think I wasn’t expendable.

This is why I think it’s dangerous to advise industry professionals to be “so good at their jobs that it’s hard to replace them.” I think this puts an unfair burden on the individual to be some kind of corporate superhuman with little room for error. If you’re so good at your job and you’re still replaced, then what? Does this mean you weren’t worthy of the position in the first place, or that you should have anticipated some organizational need you had no clue about?

The concept that many of us find it hard to wrap our minds around, is that job security is essentially non-existent. The at-will employment clause that is still used in most states, is solid evidence of this. Employers know they have the upper hand in the job market and capitalize on it.

Knowing this, I finally have a more defined “why” for my desire to obtain financial independence. I want to be able to make mistakes without fear that it could cost me my job. I want to live less stressfully and not feel the need to walk on eggshells because I might violate a company policy. I want to have more control over my own destiny, rather than scrambling to pick up the pieces when/if I’m blindsided by a termination or company layoff.

I’m not sure what the outcome will be from the mistake I made last week. The consequences could be less severe than what I’m anticipating, which would be great. Still, this has been a necessary wakeup call for me to stay focused on pursuing financial independence—and less on staying at a job for X amount of years.


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