Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Five Signs Layoffs are Coming

Thursday, 19 days to go

It occurred to me while writing yesterday's post that I must have been blind not to see this coming. I will enumerate here the signs that should have been clear but were not:

  • All of sudden your boss wants to quantify your workload. "How many (clients, vendors, widgets) do you see a week?"
  • There is a immediate need to "back-up" all the computers in your office, or worse, just yours.
  • Your company gives seminars on foreclosure, "doing more with less," etc. My personal favorite was our credit union openly offering loans when they had previously been very stingy.
  • Unexplained workers with tape measures show up in your cubicle and talk about you in the third person, while you're sitting there. Hello...... I can hear you!
  • Your email doesn't work one morning and the IT department calls it a "hiccup"...
I know, I know...there's a river in Egypt called "denial" and I'm drowning in it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked at Home

Wednesday, 20 days to go

I know they say hindsight is 20/20. But, I really should have seen this coming. My employer was about as subtle as a Mack truck. About a month before the layoffs commenced, my company had a series of seminars on "Living Well in a Bad Economy." Most of them were about foreclosure help, retirement investment strategies, stress management, etc. One of them was "Lowering Your Foods Costs" and my co-workers and I thought that would be an interesting seminar to attend. OK, OK - they provided food samples and we wanted a free lunch. Ah, memories. The good 'ole days, when we wanted a free lunch was just because we were lazy.

The woman who gave the seminar was used to an audience of indigent women with large families that had never learned to cook or shop for food. I believe as part of a welfare/food stamp program. She explained this and modified her presentation for the 50 or so fairly kitchen savvy, upwardly mobile (or so we thought) women in front of her, who were now ardently eyeing the food samples. She also explained that she was a chef by profession but her sous chef was not available that day so she brought her 84 year old mother to help. Her Mother, she explained had raised she and her siblings during the Great Depression. Mom responded with an eye roll that would make any teenager envious. And it was on.

This demonstration was supposed teach us to be self-reliant and save money. To not be dependant on what the supermarket (and the "man") provided. She proceeded to show us things like butchering a whole chicken yourself, making everything from scratch (anything pre-packaged was "vile"), baking your own bread. Admittedly, a lot of this was lost on us - I personally drew the line at making my own pancake syrup - but not on Mom. Every time her daughter said, "Bread costs too much" or "money is hard to come by, why waste it" her Mom would say something under her breath, but just loud enough for those of us the front row to hear. She made her opinion of the current economic crisis quite clear.

The chef would say, "Times are tough and they are going to get tougher" and her Mom would suck her teeth and whisper, "this ain't nothin." She looked at us with the disdain that only someone who had been there could. At one point in the presentation, the chef explained that she had ruined the dessert (the lemon bars) and threw them away only to find the current offering of "lemon balls" on a serving plate. The fact that Mom had dug them out of the trash was not lost on us. But she looked at us smiling that sweet octogenarian smile , and whispered, "too good for you all I suppose." You and me sister, you and me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Beginning of the End

Tuesday, 21 days to go

I still have not gotten the call for the "slam dunk" job in my same job title. I email my favorite person in HR about this and she informs me that "there was already an offer on the table for that position. I guess I didn't get back to you."

I will now relay the rest of the conversation as I experienced it in my head:

What came out of my mouth: "Uh, uh."
What was in My head: "WTF?"

Mouth: "You did get back to me. You called me and specifically told me there was no offer and the department head would be calling me. Remember the part where I said, 'that's great news'?'"
Head: "Are %$&#ing kidding me, you idiot?"

Mouth:"What happened?"
Head: "Fix this you cretin!"

HR person: "The department head didn't know there was an offer outstanding."

Mouth: "Wow, that's not good."
Head: "How, by all that's holy did that happen? I am surrounded by incompetence! No, I'm surrounded by idiots - who have jobs! OMG, are you irritated that I'm angry? How dare you! YOU DON"T GET TO BE IRRITATED! I, on the other hand, I get to be catatonic!"

Now, the length of that last inner voice might be the reason people say I'm a little distracted these days with a vacant look in my eyes. I don't know, could be.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Supermarkets are Evil

Saturday and Sunday

Determined not to repeat my previous supermarket meltdown, I pull into the parking lot, square off, and hike up the waistband on my sweatpants. I can do this. I pass through the sliding glass door and down the first aisle. I don't know what is is but something happens to me when confronted with thousands of retail reminders of my cash flow (or soon to be lack thereof). Then I go into this strange stream of consciousness thought mode. "Wow, pork chops are on sale. Probably won't be able to stock up as much as I would like. Crackers, I should get crackers. Generic crackers. What do I get when I can't afford generic crackers? Panko bread crumbs? Maybe I can just mix them in with the margarine, spoon it out and call it a day." Before I realize it I'm hyperventilating and my heart is pounding, and by the look of the mother across the aisle, I'm scaring small children.

I leave the cart mid-aisle, grab the paper and go through the checkout line with my sunglasses on. Like that is going to deflect the bad vibes from the canned goods. Foil...what about tin foil....OMG! I'm that woman!

Layoff Chic

Monday, 22 days to go

I was doing a little web surfing last night since it would appear my brain has decided that I no longer need sleep. I was checking out the HSW blogs as I listened to a few pod casts(see post "Where's an Eight Year Old When you Need One" below) and I ran across the site for Steampunk. If you don't know what this is I strongly encourage you to check it out - it's really fascinating. There's a link in my favorite sites list. It occurred to me that out of necessity I might need some layoff punk, nay, Layoff Chic items!

These would be items that I need to keep up with corporate America but can no longer afford. Therefore, I may have to make it myself. If Martha Stewart can do it, so I can. She's my hero.

Here goes:

The Layoff Chic Cell Phone with Accessories:

A. Layoff Chic Cellphone comes standard with universal cord and cord keeper, comfort earpiece (I'm not an animal!)

B. Organic stylus to tap out Morse Code...why you ask? Hello? Blackberry?

C. Twitter/IM enabled..Oh they'll reply all right.

D. Wall mount

Feel free to submit your own!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Blame Game

Thursday, 26 days to go

Here's another facet of being laid off. I have now gotten used to people being overly sympathic, secretly relieved, cutting me off in mid-sentence, and even avoiding me in the hall (it might be catching?). What I wasn't prepared for was what happens when you are forced to work your full 30 days and you are DWW (see post below about Dead Woman Walking). I guess people feel that since you are neither fish nor fowl, dead or alive, animal, vegetable or mineral you are fair game. I have been blamed for saying things when I wasn't within a country mile of the conversation.

Now, believe me, my feet are well acquainted with my mouth. However, on those rare occasions where I have over-stepped my bounds (and gotten caught) I have owned up it and sheepishly apologized. These two incidents were complete fabrications. Is it easier to blame someone who is going to be gone shortly? Does it somehow make more sense because I'm laid off? It seems to me that the perception is I have no recourse or rights, that I'm a constant reminder of the failed economy, that decisions that can ruin your life are made by others with no more of a thought process than throwing a dart at a dart board? Breathe.......

All of the above may be some of the reasons for their actions, but it doesn't make them reasonable. It would seem that there are no limits to how much humilation I must endure. Because clearly, I have no feelings, nor am I entitled to any. I am expected to I train my replacement, hand over all my passwords and codes, and generally watch all my hard work go right down the toilet...with a smile on my face because that's the "professional" thing to do.

"But everyone really likes you!"

"Wow, you did it that way?"

"Can I have your _______(chair, stapler, wireless mouse)?"


Where's an Eight Year Old When You Need One?

Wednesday, 27 days to go

Today I have decided to clean out my computer files and one of the things I need to tackle are my iPod files on iTunes. I'm fairly proficient with removing files to thumb drives but I'll admit, as much as I love my iPod it completely baffles me. To top it off, I am addicted to podcasts and not being able to keep up with my favorites will probably send me over the edge right now. In particular, I love the How Stuff Works podcasts and Chuck, Josh, Molly, Sarah & Katie are my own little oasis in the midst of my life crisis. And it's free! God bless Apple and Al Gore for inventing the internet...but I digress.

I try valiantly to back up my library and it doesn't work. I'm beginning to get worried. I try another method and it won't cooperate either. The only time I've had a problem with my iPod I was at the airport and I noticed a head bopping tween across the aisle with a nano like mine. I showed him my frozen screen, and clearly from the panicked look on my face and mono-syllabic grunting and pointing he could see I was in trouble. With one roll of his eyes and that dreaded "Tsk-huh" sound he pressed something and all was right with the world. He handed it back to me, all the while never removing his earbuds or making eye contact. Brat.

I begin to wonder where I could again find such an expert to perform the task at hand without being arrested for kidnapping or child endangerment. This is not the time to answer "yes" to that "have you every been convicted of a felony?" question on applications. When I get home I download iTunes on, my home laptop and without ever logging in or entering a password - miracle of miracles - there is my whole library! But how did it know? I muse that like the light in the fridge, I will just trust that it goes off when I shut the door. And I'm good with that.

There is a God, and clearly, she listens to podcasts.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Zen of the Layoff

Tuesday, 28 Days to go

I have become quite philosophical about this now. Since there are 5 stages of grief, I have created the 5 stages of Layoff:

1. Astonishment
2. Fear
3. Anger
4. See #3
5. See #4

For the others around me it's quite different. As I encounter people in the hallway, at meetings - and the true cradle of power - the ladies' restroom, I elicit a predictable response. Some cry and hug me. Some shake their fists and are angry for me, but I get the feeling that they are secretly relieved it's not them. I completely understand this because I used to think it too. There were a certain number of positions that needed to be cut and we all knew this. So, each time I heard of someone being laid off I subconsciously breathed a sigh of relief. As that Ten-Commandments-Firstborn-Fog rolled through each building we all counted it's victims, and counted ourselves lucky.

I have observed another response which is really disconcerting. Twice now when I have mentioned my deep seated fear of having to call my mortgage company and other creditors, two different co-workers have cut me off in mid-sentence and changed the subject. It's as if I have spoken "that which will not be named" i.e. losing your house and possessions. The first time this happened I was a little shocked as I considered this person a caring, compassionate human being. The second time it happened I was less obliging to stop the description of the downward spiral of my life based on this idiotic decision. I don't know, I may have gone a little far, conjuring up the image of that urchin in Les Miserables. In rags.


On the street.


Note: You 'll have to forgive all my movies references, but I'm trying to get the most from my Netflix subscription before I have to cancel it next week...

Dead Woman Walking

Monday, 29 days to go

My first day on the job as an "indefinitely laid off" employee was not fun. I'm going to call it DWW (Dead Woman Walking). I had to physically go to the HR office because they wouldn't return my phone calls on Black Friday. I met with a nice enough person who told me how preferential rehire is supposed to work. I tried to wrap my head around the fact that there were positions open at my same job level, but mine was being cut due to the budget. She said this as if it were like the ability to time travel in an Austin Powers movie and I would just have to go with it. You see, only certain departments are being cut and others...well, not so much. As I now understand it, while we are one big company, we function like small countries and apparently I had been working the last few years in the equivalent of Kyrgyzstan.

This human resources professional - for which the only description I can muster is 'beige' - tells me that IF there is a job at my same level they HAVE to hire me. This is where you should conjure up the sound of marimba "plinks" as I blinked my eyes in disbelief. OK, I'll admit it, it was sarcasm. But whatever it was, I don't exactly call this a recipe for success. I envisioned myself in an interview room full of disinterested people with bad body language at a table that just keeps getting longer and longer... Sort of makes the term 'preferential rehire' oxymoronic.

When I voiced my concern about this the Beige One said, "Oh, I certainly hope people have gotten over the stigma of an employee being laid off by now." Yeah, me too.

Reality Check vs Pay Check

Saturday, 9/12

After the fog of an entire bottle of Two-Buck-Chuck lifted (I felt that was the most appropriate beverage under the circumstances) I decided that the best thing to do was to clear out my office. At least I could spare myself the humiliation of parading through the building with multiple boxes overflowing with Christmas decorations and my hidden stash of SlimFast. Unbelievably, my husband and I filled my SUV to the roof. Note to self: I would like to be never more than one box away from leaving any job at any time.

Sunday, 9/13

I went to the supermarket for my usual Sunday morning paper and sundries purchase. I remembered that California Lottery Ad where the person is standing in front of the cheese case and mumbles to himself that he "can totally afford all this cheese." I begin to realize that if I don't get a job in the next 10 days I won't have a paycheck next month. I look around me and it hits me that I will not be able to afford the cheapest thing in any of these aisles. I begin to look around. Generic soup? Ramen noodles? Does gum have any food value? My heart starts to race and all I can hear is blood rushing in my ears. This must be how Tony Soprano felt when he had a panic attack.

I used to joke about my retirement savings. That I would be surviving on dry cat food in my golden years. That if I could just save a little more, I could life the high life on the canned stuff. Good times. Now, I'm looking sideways at the cat. I get in the check out line and answer the obligatory "paper or plastic" question I begin to think about the paper. Then cardboard. Then cardboard boxes and how I would soon living in one except I would eventually need to turn it in for the recycling money so I'm going to be roaming the streets boxless....I start to cry and the box boy asks, "Maam, did you really want plastic?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Got Laid Off

Friday, 9/11 2PM

I'm sitting at my desk editing a huge scientific document that might as well be written in Greek, eating an apple because I worked through lunch, when my supervisor walks in and shuts the door behind her. I look up over my reading glasses, with my finger still on my computer screen so I can keep my place and she says, "I am here because I have to serve you with a layoff notice." Now she might have said "I have to send you to Mars to get the mail" or "I have to leave now because the mother ship has come back for me" for all the sense it made. I absolutely could not comprehend anything she was saying to me. The fact is, I don't remember much of anything she said in the ensuing ten minutes.

And so begins my odyssey into the world of the laid off. The down-sized. The Lepers of the working world.

I hope you'll travel the road with me...there's no GPS for this trip.