So We Meet Again - Suzanne Park Page 0,2

“This was not an easy decision to make, as you can imagine. Although we’re still profitable, our firm is cutting back on hiring this year and reducing head count, but also reallocating budgets to IT spending and overseas virtual support. We’ve just emailed you all details about the severance packages and will remain on the call to answer any questions you might have. The remainder of the afternoon, you can pack your things and stop by HR to pick up hard copies of your exit packets. We’ll unmute you now so you can ask questions.”

An angry chorus of analysts and associates talked on top of one another. I managed to squeeze in a question uninterrupted: “But how did performance reviews factor in this decision?” Up to this point, mine were all positive. Glowing, in fact. With good reviews came nice bonuses, which I received. None of this made sense. Our midpoint quarterly perf review check-ins were due soon and I didn’t expect anything other than high marks.

Jodi of HR cleared her throat and mass muted everyone again. “Those who were chosen for termination fell into three categories. One, performance. A number of you on this call have been on probation for months and unfortunately, the time has come to part ways.” Many of the meeting participants wagged their fingers at their screens, shook their heads, or silently screamed, then blacked out their videos and logged out. The rectangles of remaining people shuffled on the screen to form a more intimate group of eight people.

“The second cause of termination was due to incriminating behavior or egregious spending under review by Human Resources. All of these cases were deemed negligent and warranted termination. Consider the severance a gift.” Six employees rolled their eyes and although I was no lip-reader, most of their rebuttals were profanities. They blacked out their screens and left the meeting, just as the poor performers did.

This left me, alone with stone-cold Jodi of HR.

She looked straight at her webcam like she was peering into my workaholic soul. “And you, Jessica Kim, are the other bucket.”

I gulped as she pulled out a single paper from a red folder and placed it in front of her on the table.

“According to our records, you had a good run here. Great work on the Perkins Media and Dixon Communications deals. Those were well-earned bonuses.” Those were my career-making, big-fish-big-pond deals.

She adjusted her glasses before speaking. “But this year, we almost lost Montgomery, one of our biggest clients.” Yes, Ryan Montgomery, the adulterer twice my age who belittled me in a meeting in front of my peers and got too handsy at an after-work function with another junior banker. I knew #MeToo Montgomery. All the women at Hamilton Cooper did. “Your reviews over the years have been consistent. You’re very analytical and don’t make many mistakes. MDs and VPs love having you on their teams because you’re heads down and get your job done. But you’re at a turning point now. We needed to decide how promotable you were.”

Were? She allowed me to unmute myself. “But those are mostly positive things. I had big wins. I don’t understand.”

She laced her fingers together and rested her hands on the paper. “In order to move up from associate to VP, we need to see leadership potential. Someone who can drum up new deals. Wine and dine clients. You’re a great follower.” A long pause. “But you’re not a leader.”

YOU’RE not a leader.

You’re NOT a leader.

You’re not A LEADER.

The world went silent. Those four words were sledgehammer hits to the knees, crippling me into anguish and silence. Had I even gotten any leadership opportunities with the grunt work avalanche I’d been buried in the last few years? After all of my eighty-plus-hour weeks, all the secrets I kept—from marital affairs to botched financials I had to fix—and all the sick-to-my-stomach things I witnessed, they were letting me go.


I had to look strong in front of Jodi on the Zoom call. Because that’s what a leader would do.

But you’re not a leader, Jessica Kim. If you were a leader, you would still have a job.

A faint buzz from Jodi’s desk distracted her. She glanced down at her phone, her jowls resting on her neck as she furrowed her brow with a look of concern, showing more emotion toward her iPhone than she had with me in the last few minutes. “I have to run to a meeting, but feel free to speak with your team lead, Wyatt,