Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just Get Out

The rumors were true. Yesterday, there was a layoff at my company. Rumors were floating that there would be a 10-20% reduction in force, but it was only 5%. It’s easy to think, “Only 5%, that’s really not a big deal.” Try telling that to the 5% that no longer have jobs.

There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to who got let go. Every department and every location were impacted. My office lost two engineers and some in our sales organization were impacted too.

What bothered me was watching it come about. We’ve been hearing rumors for weeks, and it makes me question the level of confidentiality kept by those making the decisions. Given that our office is thousands of miles from the corporate headquarters, I think it’s interesting that even we heard rumblings for quite some time.

We knew it was coming but that didn’t make it easier to take. One of my coworkers heard about it on Tuesday and came to me to see if I had heard the same rumors. I told him that I did and we discussed it at length. We agreed that no one is really safe when stuff like this happens. I thought that he was safer than me, because he had been laid off before… what company would hit the same person twice? I started to think he might be in danger when he emailed to say that his boss just sent an invitation for a meeting at 11 am on The Big Day. 11 am is usually what time things happen in this office.

The atmosphere was tough on Wednesday morning. It was apparent that everyone knew. I really didn’t know what to think when the work day had really started and still there was no one sitting with me on the Sales side of the office. What the fuck? Where are you people? At 10:45 I wished my buddy luck. At 11:20 he came to my office to let me know that he had been let go.

From my office I could see that a manager was stationed outside his office. He was closely monitored while he packed up his office. He was not allowed to touch his computer or telephone… no further access to company assets. He and his belongings were marched to the door. And that was that.

The Business Section of my little brain understands the concept of doing things that way. I understand that people get pissed off and could start sending rants via email. They could download the super-secret code they were working on and send it off to competitors. They could make quick changes to whatever they were working on and ruin thousands of lines of code. I get it. I really do.

The human side of me doesn’t understand why terminated employees need to be treated that way. They weren’t let go because they did a bad job, they weren’t “fired.” The officers of the company wanted to “eliminate positions to optimize our company for growth.”

My friend called me when he got home. He told me it went down like this: just before he dialed in to the call with his boss, the only manager on site in our office yesterday came to get him. They went into another office and the phone was already conferenced in to his boss in France. He was released from duty and basically told to put his shit in a box and get out. No time to say goodbye to anyone, no time to go through anything personal that might have been on his computer, no time for a breather.

I should mention that this (former) coworker and I have a funny relationship. We’ve essentially worked together for nine years, minus the few years the last time he got laid off. He’s nosey and OCD to the point that he drove me batshit crazy. However, he’s a funny guy and every morning when he hears me arrive, he comes over to say good morning. Today I missed that. Software engineers aren’t typically a social bunch, so it was fun to have someone to dish with before anyone else came in. He and I were mirrors politically and we had the same views on personal finance as well. I will miss his stories and the way he’d get all embarrassed if he said something slightly risqué. He’d then go to his office and send me a written apology.

Today we were treated to an all-employee call led by our CEO. It lasted ten minutes and he either seemed to be reading from a script or the call was pre-recorded. In any case, he restated the business purpose of the reduction in force… to make us stronger in the end. And oh yeah, GREAT NEWS, they have funded 100% of our bonuses and they’ll be paid in the next month.

You know what? I would have happily given up my bonus to save a job… And I believe every one of the 5% that were let go would have foregone them too. Even though they’ve been let go, part of their severance package included their annual bonus.

I do not agree with one iota of the “Occupy” scene that’s been so played out in the media. Anyone that is unhappy with their paycheck can work a little harder or enter another field. We are our choices. I also think that we all have a right to do with our earnings what we please. As a human being who is compassionate towards others, it would have been my choice to do without the bonus and even take a pay cut if it meant that jobs would be saved. Perhaps the CEOs and other decision makers should poll their workforce before eliminating positions.

Ice Princess 

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