I was lucky to have kept my job for as long as I did. I should have known, however, that as soon as the guilty plea was entered, the court documents would be posted online, and it wouldn’t be long before someone at work found them.
Two weeks after I pled guilty, I was seated at my desk when I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. I turned to see my boss standing behind me. “Can I see you for a minute?”
I stood quietly and followed him through a maze of cubicles towards the HR department. My heart was pounding, and I felt lightheaded. Fearing the embarrassment that lie ahead, I considered stopping him and simply offering to leave. Before I could make the suggestion, he turned and said, “Some news has come to my attention, and I’ve been asked to take action.”
I was surprised by the sympathy in his voice. I was expecting maybe anger or disgust.
We continued walking until we ended up outside a conference room. “Take care of yourself,” he said, and he put his hand on my shoulder and nudged me towards the door.
Seated in the conference room were three female HR managers and a man in a suit fiddling with a Blackberry. My boss closed the door behind me and left. One of the women offered me a seat, and so the conversation began.
“Something has come to our attention that has made the company uncomfortable, so I have to inform you that today will be your last day here.” There was no mention of what exactly had come to their attention—it was obvious.
They gave me the choice to resign, which I accepted, and I was informed that I’d be paid severance and whatever PTO hours I had accrued. I figured the man in the suit was only there in the event that things turned ugly, because he left after I agreed to resign.
While I signed the necessary paperwork, one of the HR managers left to go clean out my desk. She returned with a box of some computer cords, legal pads, and a half-eaten bag of goldfish crackers. My coworkers had always teased me about my sparse work area. The truth was I had slowly begun taking a few items home with me every day in preparation of this moment.
I asked one of the women if I could say goodbye to my boss, but she said it was company policy that I be escorted out of the building. “It’s just easier that way,” she said.
That night after breaking the news to my parents, I gave my boss a call.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am,” he said. “Nobody had any idea. You acted as if nothing was wrong.”
I told him briefly about the events that had unfolded over the past year including the interview with the FBI. It turned out that HR knew the FBI had come to the office, but nobody knew why and figured it must not have been important because I seemed unbothered.
The reality was that every day that followed was absolute hell. Work was the only thing that helped keep my mind off things, and I was grateful for it.
Before we hung up, my boss told me how much he had enjoyed working with me and that I was incredibly talented and would be missed. I had to bite my lip to stop from crying.