~Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yeah, I'm okay. I'm still here

The rumor of layoffs had been circulating for about a month. I'd get a phone call from my friend in IT and he'd whisper any new information in hushed tones. We exchanged anything we knew about secret meetings in which all the managers suspiciously had the same time blocked off their Outlook calendars. More than once, he called to tell me it was happening tomorrow, when in reality it never did.

But the last time he called, I had the feeling. This was it.

At 7 a.m. the next morning, I sat at my desk reading the morning news and any e-mail. A new e-mail from Mike popped on my screen, with a link to MSN Money. It detailed the company's third quarter outcome and announced plans to lay off 20% of the staff. I was stunned that I had to read it off the Internet before my manager said anything to us personally.

Within the hour the sheriff's department showed up. They guarded the exits and paced the hallways. The communication between Mike and me ceased. We were too busy focusing on ourselves and most likely just sitting in fear. I looked at my calendar, searching for signs that they planned to keep me. I had a training in the morning, but no meetings scheduled after that. I had no meetings scheduled for the rest of the week, nor the rest of the month. As if fate heard me sigh, at that moment I received a meeting request for that afternoon. I sighed again, this time with relief, and accepted it. Then I looked over the other members in the meeting and saw that it was my boss, my boss's boss, and my boss's boss's boss. My imagination told me it was the meeting where they would let me go. I frowned and sank in my swivel chair.

My boss came to get me for the training we had scheduled, as we walked to his car I knew I couldn't keep my anxiety in anymore. "Am I being fired?!" I blurted.

"No, you're safe," he laughed. "Unless I'm being misled, most of our department is safe. He listed off the particular people, and I noticed he didn't include everyone, but I kept that thought to myself. He started the car and pulled down the road, past IT's building.

Finally at ease and relaxed for the first time in weeks, I opened up, "Well it's pretty scary that they bring the police in to fire people."

"Yeah, they like to be official about this kind of stuff," he explained. This wasn't his first mass layoff experience at the company. "They go through the buildings and finish up by lunch. After lunch we'll have a departmental meeting where they announce who was let go and how we'll proceed."

I chewed on my lip and thought of the press release from the Internet. It said that the most of the employees being let go were people who didn't interact with the customers. I don't interact with any customers, neither does Mike in IT. Although I knew I was safe, I was still worried for him.

After the hour-long training, my boss and I exited the main building. It just happened to be raining that day, harder than it had in months. I zipped up my raincoat and pulled the hoodie strings tight. It was such a miserable day. Ahead of me, an older woman was walking through the parking lot with a single cardboard box. I didn't think anything of it until I saw the collage of her gray tabby poking out the opened top. There must have been six different pictures of her cat in various impromptu moments. I studied the woman's face: it was stone cold with red-rimmed eyes. I swatted my boss with my training materials.

"Oh, I didn't even notice," he whispered.

I buckled the seat belt in his car, and then turned around to inspect the front door. Three more people followed out, rolling their oversized briefcases behind them. "We're so far away from everyone else, I bet they're going to do our building last," I supposed.

"No," he corrected. "They're already done with our building."

I came back to my desk with the news that our small team of five was one person lighter. 20% lighter. Our department of 40 was 6 people lighter in total. I was told we were lucky to lose so few people. Entire operations shut down in other states. It was 10:30 a.m. and the local newspaper already picked up on the layoffs and covered it on their home page.

Mike sent me an e-mail titled "MY TEAM IS SAFE," but it detailed how he witnessed groups of 15 and 20 going into conference rooms and afterwards only 2-3 people would go back to their desks. I picked up the phone and called him, "How are they doing this, like American Idol? If I read your name, take a step forward. The rest of you can go."

"I don't know, but I nearly had a heart attack when one of the head boss's secretary came over with a clipboard and declared, "You're not supposed to be here anymore! Apparently we're moving cubicles, but the way she said it, I thought they lied and were letting us go."

That morning, there was a lot of walking up and down the hallway outside my cubicle. I couldn't decipher if it was people nervously pacing, people rushing to the bathroom to gossip, or people carrying their things to their cars. I was afraid to leave my desk.

We took an early and long lunch. We really didn't have a whole lot to say to each other, but we couldn't stand being in the office anymore. The environment was eerily silent as the remainders reflected on what just happened. I wish they had let us go home early after the uncomfortable afternoon meeting where they read the list of people fired. They should have let us regroup and come in fresh the next morning, but instead we sat at our desks. No one worked as personal calls were made: Yeah, I'm okay. I'm still here. I think the bosses knew we weren't working, but as long as we pretended to, it was good enough for the afternoon.

At home, Scott jumped up and down when he heard I made it through unscathed. Because we're one income family, we couldn't have made it if I had gotten laid off. But I couldn't share his jubilance. Inwardly I was relieved, but I couldn't be happy. It was such a miserable, long, oppressive day that I just wanted it to be over. "I'll be happy tomorrow," I told him, "But for now, I'm going to bed."

13 comments:

ifmusicbe said...

I'm not sure jumping up and down is the best thing for Scott but i'm doing it for you too babes x

gl0rious said...

i am so glad you are safe and although its horrible its good you are not affected by it adversely.

hope the recovery is going well. xxx

Diane Mandy said...

I've experienced a similar thing. It's a weird mixture of relief and guilt. Either way, I am so so happy you made it through!

J said...

So glad to hear that you didn't have to experience a lay off. I am doing my happy dance for you!

Amber said...

I can't imagine how mixed you must be feeling.

It's been one helluva last few months for you.

I'm so glad that things are slowly getting sorted out, one thing at a time. Even if the process is still painful and stressful.

Keep your chin up, sweetie. Everything really is going to be just fine -- things have a way of working themselves out.

Count your blessings and hug your loved ones. Tomorrow, everything will look a lot brighter!

KennethSF said...

Oh boy! This reads like an episode from the history of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror--the mob randomly selected the aristocrats, condemned them, swiftly got them through a mock trial, then off they went to the guillotine.

I'm glad to hear you're a survivor.

Peach said...

shitty times, but indeed good you survived, even though it doesn't feel good to sit there through it... keep hanging on lovely girl... good times are a'coming xxx

AmyD said...

Oh man, what a stomach-wrenching situation!! I'm so glad you are safe, as well as your department (for the most part). Still, this is SCARY SHIT. Your story is just one of thousands, and it's not going to get any better. Makes me want to quit my job, sell the house, build a hut, and shield me and mine away from the world...

Hope Scott is feeling more himself! I liked reading that he was jumping up and down. That's gotta mean something, right? :o)

kristin said...

You know what scares me the most, I think? That people are being laid off left and right, and no one around seems to be hiring. So what are they supposed to do? My brother's company has no work but his boss just paid for his education so that's almost his only job security. That and he just bought a house and a diamond for his fiance.

Lpeg said...

I'm not sure if it's better when you know you're getting laid off, or when it's completely out of the blue.

But still - I can't imagine working for a company where you would get laid off like that. That's insane. Then again, I've never worked for a large corporation before, so I have no idea....

Glad you are safe. For now. Honestly... I'm not sure how much longer we'll be around.. and we're down to 2!

SuvvyGirl said...

Hey Lady! Glad to hear you didn't get sacked. Hope Scott is healing up and your health is looking up too!!

Colleen Snell said...

This is the meeting I'm dreading - and expecting to happen soon - unless they shut us down altogether. The not knowing is worse, I think.

dont eat the token said...

Intense.

I'm so glad your position was secure, and you can still make a living there!

 

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