Politics aside, what happened to Jim Comey has made me take a hard look at the way that we fire people in our society.
We’ve all been in a situation, or we know someone, who has lost a job. It’s not fun, to say the least. It’s when we feel our most vulnerable and insecure. Unfortunately, in America, instead of thinking about how we might meet the emotional need of a terminated employee in that moment of vulnerability, we’ve come to embrace a corporate culture of efficiency where a person’s human dignity usually gets pushed aside.
Do you remember the frighteningly less than satirical movie Up in the Air (2009), where George Clooney is a professional-for-hire who flies around the country to fire people? Watching Clooney fire person after person with no emotion leaves most movie-goers wonder if our world has truly become so callous. Is total apathy and indifference toward another person the direction we are headed?
As a rabbi, I do believe that Judaism takes a position on whether there is a menschlick, derech eretz way, to let someone go from a job. Thankfully, I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve ever been let go of from a position: However, I have been on the other side. And while I suspect in those instances I was probably less than perfect, I’ve always tried to live by Hillel’s golden rule of “doing unto others as you would like done to you.”
In these instances, I’ve simply asked: “What would I want if I were losing my job?” The answer is always the same. I would want my boss to call me into his or her office to tell me rather than being sent a letter, an email, or a pink slip. I would also want to know what I had done wrong so that I would not replicate the same mistakes in the future. Above all, I would want my boss to remember that I was a human being.
I know that a campaign to restore human dignity at a moment of termination isn’t sexy. Human dignity is more emotionally taxing, and it is certainly not efficient. Yet now, thanks to Jim Comey, I hope our society can finally begin to have a dialogue about how we may bring dignity back to those who may need it most.