I was fired from my first job. I was 16, and I worked as a receptionist at my dance studio. I would check tiny ballerinas in for class, collect tuition from parents, and occasionally sell a leotard or a pair of tights. It was a great job for a high school student, since I would only really have to work as one class ended and another started; in between, I could do my homework.
One Saturday, I noticed that one student owed for a few classes. I spoke with her mom and let her know that studio policy dictated that the classes had to be paid for before her daughter could participate any further. The conversation was preventing her daughter from joining class on time, so the teacher, Miss Stephanie, came out to the front desk to see what the delay was. When I told her the deal, Miss Stephanie, who was a grown-up, said that we’d make an exception.
Well. When the owner of the studio (a strict former Rockette and my dance teacher) found out that a student was able to attend class against policy, she was furious. She said that she spoke to Miss Stephanie, and Miss Stephanie said that she had no idea about the payment issue and that I just let the girl head right into class.
That was a bald-faced lie.
But I decided not to fight it, because I knew it would just be a she-said/she-said case, and Miss Stephanie was not only an adult, but she was a teacher—much harder to come by than a receptionist. Also, and here’s the kicker: Miss Stephanie and I were in the same dance class. And I don’t mean to boast too much here, but I was the best in the class. It couldn’t have been pleasant being shown up by a 16 year-old week after week. 😆 I wanted to keep the peace.
I remember thinking it was sad that Miss Stephanie couldn’t own up to her mistake, and I vowed never to do the same. We all make mistakes and occasionally make the wrong judgment call—and that’s okay! Just the other week, I caught a mistake that I had made and immediately called my boss to share what I did and ask for guidance. She was completely understanding and focused on finding a solution. I think she respected that I owned up to the mistake as soon as I discovered it and also recognized that I was more upset with myself than she was, so no lecture was needed.
I’ve said it before: it’s so nice—and so important—to have the support and safety to make mistakes at work.
Thinking back to Miss Stephanie, maybe that’s what was missing. One of us was going to get fired for the mistake, and it wasn’t going to be her.