Saturday, December 5, 2009

December 5 -My One Year Anniversary of Being Laid Off

Wow, it's hard to believe it's been one year since that fateful day, December 5, 2008 that I was laid off.  With so many hundreds of thousands of jobs shed over the last two years, I am surprised that no one has come up with a catchphrase to "mark" this traumatic moment in one's life.

After seeing Up in the Air (go see it, BTW and my review is to come later), I decided to write this post. I think back on that day and still can't get over how it was handled. I sort of  didn't expect to be laid off because I actually worked in a group that made money but then when the CEO announced the actual number of people who would be laid off impending layoffs,  I knew that it was likely to happen.

And of course, true to form in the company culture, not one reassuring word (not that I expected one or any word for that matter after the announcement from the group's leadership.

Luckily or unluckily,  a colleague had inside information that December 5 would be the day they told people. So I arrived on a Friday, with my Trader Joe bags ready to pack up my stuff. And lo and behold at 9:30, I got an e-mail asking me to meet in the conference room with head of the group. Wow, they send in the big guns for this one. I pretty much spent the next hour packing my stuff up and not answering emails. What's point right?

I walked into the conference room on my floor (WTF? so everyone has to know) and the group SVP and HR were waiting for me, never a good sign. It was the standard line that had been saying all morning, "you know the company isn't doing well (no shit sherlock, CNBC. Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc had only been predicting impending doom everyday for weeks), we need to make these cuts. blah, blah and just like in the movie Up in the Air, they push the severance package towards you. "It's all there for you regarding your severance".  In fairness, they did lay out the terms of the severance but no matter how prepared you are, you just never have the right questions because your brain is on overtime.

Of course, they tell you that you can leave and take the rest of the day off because unlike other companies, they don't just throw you out, they expect you to come back, turn over all your files, finish your work and review with your manager all your outstanding projects. The official last day would be December 13, 2008 (this is one of those WTF did no one look at the calendar moments.) It's hard to say what I said after that as I just wanted to leave because what else is there to say.

I went back to my office and had what I would call a 5 minute, "I cried albeit ever so briefly, I am sick to my stomach, what I am going to do?, I can't believe this is happening moment." I mean for weeks, I had been stressed out about this happening, waking up in the middle of the night worried, working long hours/weekends to prove my value so I wouldn't be one of the unlucky ones and now here we are and it's finally over.

Of course, my manager pops in with his disingenuous,  "I'm sorry" face/voice. Yeah, right. Not many people I wish ill will but... (as the old adage goes, if you can't something nice...) Again, what I am supposed to say. "Yes, I am going to leave now, there is no reason to stay the rest of the day." As I sat there sending IMs to people quickly before I left,  I had the odd thought that I would just work home for the rest of the week to avoid having to deal with people but oh no, my manager  IMs me that it would be best if I come in to finish/wrap-up. "Eff U," I think, so typical.

So an hour after being told I was being laid off, I trudged out with my Trader Joe backs and headed for the subway.  As I sat there, I wondered what the hell am I going to do?

But as I walked up the subway stairs to the street, I realized that the sun was shining and yes, even in New York City, I felt the fresh air against my skin and breathed in a sigh of relieve and at that moment  I knew that I was in a better place mentally that I had been in the past six months.

The best part of the story and probably is indicative of the company culture is that in the subsequent week, I never heard from my manager's manager or the head of our group. No, good luck, no I am sorry. Nothing. Nada Not even acknowledging my perfunctory, "it's been great working here" e-mail. That I am more angry about than being let go. That is just plain heartless.

Happy Anniversary to Me!!


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