Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
My soon to be former employer is a relatively small college. Last week was my annual review. I generally get very good reviews. I'm a web designer/developer and do my job well. I seldom take days off and put in quite a bit of time off the clock. All of my training I do is on my own time. They definitely get their moneys worth. This review was the best I've had in my over 10 years of employment with the institution. According to the review I'm a model employee with very few slight negatives. During the review I learned that the website would probably be outsourced this summer. It took some digging to learn this but it didn't take long to realize this had been in the planning stages for some time and I had been completely in the dark. My boss tried to explain I wasn't being let go and that he didn't want to lose me which directly contradicted the fact that my job was being outsourced. So I asked, if this is true then exactly what is it that I'm going to do? Sit in an office with nothing to do and sponge off the taxpayers? Not for me. There was no clear answer to this. It was evident that I really wasn't supposed to have connected the dots so quickly. They of course can't let me go right now because at this moment in time they need me.
There is a silver lining. Over the past several years I have done freelance projects with several companies in the area. I have never lost a client (knock wood) and most of my clients have referred me to their friends and business associates. I've built a fairly large network of contacts and references. Friday I took a vacation day so I could meet with two prospective clients about problems they had to solve. Both meetings went extremely well and it hit home that I enjoyed the diversity of different employers. There are many that need my skills and knowledge however they probably can't afford to hire someone full time. I don't really need health insurance as my wife works in the health care industry and has excellent benefits. Retirement is an issue, I'll have to start taking care of that myself. When I broke the news to my wife and kids it went pretty well. I explained my plan B (plan A being finding another full time employer). I explained the one thing that bugged me was that I have accumulated quite a bit of vacation time over the years. It was then that my wife reminded me that most of my vacation days were spent working so how could plan B be any worse in that respect?
It's a scary prospect change, but you have to keep in mind the scary thing is the transition and adapting to the new normal.
When I return to work tomorrow it's going to be strange. I don't think I was supposed to know that my demise was coming soon. In fact I know I wasn't, it just slipped out. I'm not sure how to behave except not to plan any projects. I am pretty sure some of my coworkers were aware of this before me so that is going to make things awkward. Do I tell my assistant because her fate will undoubtedly be the same as mine? And what about motivation? I've always been highly motivated however now I've adapted to the reality and my motivation is focused on what I'm going to do next. Do I owe it to my employer to stick around long enough to keep the boat afloat until someone else takes over? Or have the rules changed?
One thing for sure, I'm fortunate to have a backup plan in place before the pink slip arrives. I'm past the panic stage and have time to refine my plan, sell the house and rent for awhile, we've talked about selling the house before and getting something smaller. So in a way this is all liberating even though it's going to suck for awhile.
I was sitting in my car staring blankly at the big windows of one of the Directors’ office. Could this actually be it? I was laid off and unemployed!
My car was parked in the front row. That’s where you could park when you came in early, or on time. Others have to park out in the parking lot. I had made it a habit to be on time, if not only for my own benefit but also because my parents raised us to be prompt, and give an employer their money’s worth. I guess I won’t be parking here anymore.
It all began 8 years ago. It was almost eight years ago that I joined the company’s Data Network Team. It was interesting back then in that there were only five of us on the team. Now there is over 10 locally, not including those who worked in our offshore office. It seemed like many local jobs were moving offshore. We had been told that.
Over the years I had honed my skills and taken the company’s offer of offsite training, and had become better at what I did. There was a short period in 2005 when I left for another position, but that company was sold four months after I started, and the new owners talked about closing that division. So I was asked back to my old job.
In the past couple years I had been put in an ‘acting group lead’ role covering a few critical processes in the company. That lasted up until mid 2008. Our team had three different managers in the last four years. The latest manager is good at what he does, but he came on board being required to be productive and come with answers to issues that have been needing attention. I saw it as not spending enough time with the team to build relationships, which I think are vitally important.
In early 2008 the primary customer our site served, told our company they were going to back down on some of their major projects and hold off until some things stabilized. With the lack of special project work that created, many of us on the team found ways to be proactively creative and find things to do.
In mid 2008 all of us on our team were called into the manager’s office for a one on one. It was at that time that I expressed my desire to go back to being technical rather than being in a team lead type of role. A month later, I found myself in a different role with new expectations and new projects. But, with the financial issues coming to the surface in our economy, the company locked down the budgets. That essentially provided me with nothing to do in the way of projects.
At the end of 2008, the rumor mill spit out some notices that there were going to be layoffs. Since the company hired a lot of contractors, it was believed that letting the contractors go would supply enough downsizing that no full time employees would be let go. As I talked to long time co-workers over the fall and early winter, it seemed like all was well. Contractors were released, and a few people laid off but not many, and tension eased a little.
Our entire IT team made it through the Christmas holidays without being hit. But bonuses are paid on the last paycheck of January which lead to a new wave of concern. Just before bonus time would seem like a logical time to lay people off, and the company took advantage of it once again.
On Friday January 9, a close friend told me that the next week would bring some layoffs. As I pondered this over the weekend, I justified to myself the fact that I was immune to a layoff. But just in case, that Sunday I went through my laptop and deleted some of my personal things and took off some personal contact information.
Monday morning was normal. I worked through the morning, but did question another local manager and asked if anyone was getting the axe that week. He said that in that day, some people will be getting laid off and the systems team would be hit with one layoff.
I went for lunch, came back and got coffee. Around 1:30 I received a call from my manager who asked me to come to the IT Director’s office. At that moment my heart sank becuse that was unusual. The next 30 minutes would prove to be a life changing time for me. I was told that my layoff was because my position was being eliminated, and they were all sorry. The HR representative said her piece, and I was given the opportunity to take my things at that time which I took them up on.
As I look back on that day, I’m excited about new challenges and opportunities ahead of me. Maybe it was time to leave the company and stretch my wings. Anyway it’s a good time to get a new perspective on life, and spend some quality time with the family.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Yesterday morning I got into the cab of Issa Hawmdah, a charming older cabbie who spoke English with a heavy accent, peppered with the phrase "bless your heart." Grey haired, glasses, wearing a windbreaker - he looked like the kind of gentle grandfather who'd pick you up from school and take you to get ice cream.
He told me about how he works seven days a week from 5AM to 10AM, but that afterward he likes to drive his own car, far out of the city to The Russian River or Carmel. He said that it's hard to work seven days a week, but that he was thankful for being able to earn his living and get out to see nature too. He said that some days he is busy, but that other days he's not; but a lack of customers doesn't frustrate him - "I just take it easy and see what comes to me. It all happens for a reason. If I am busy I am happy because I make money, but if not, I just see where I go and try to avoid accidents and tickets. I am always thankful for the customers I get. It is the kharma - I will get what I need, and if I don't it will come another way. It goes into storage for now."
I agreed, but mentioned that I heard times were tough for cabbies since so many people were losing their jobs. This was when he gave me this dose of wisdom:
"I hear people are losing their jobs and they are sad. I know they are sad, but they should not be. Every time in the past that I have lost a job it has always made me happy, there was always something better. Something better always came along. They should know that there is something better coming to them, it always comes. Don't get me wrong, I send out a prayer for people who have lost their jobs - that they will find work and healing and be happy. And, because I know that this prayer will come back to me too."
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Though I have not recently been laid off (was once, 11 years ago), I was hoping “Being Pink” might want a story from “the other side” – I am HR.
I know HR people get a bad rep the majority of time. We have to deal with “issues” and “conflicts” and work out benefits, 401k, harassment, and assorted other problems. HR also has to carry out the dreaded process of laying-off good employees. Over the past 10 years, and 3 companies in my career, I have administered 5 layoffs. They are never easy; actually the entire process has made me emotionally and physically ill on more than one occasion. But, that is all I am going to say about how I feel. This site is about you, and for you, I just want to give you a quick glimpse into the other side.
The layoff process starts “at the top” – business decisions are made, departments, jobs, and numbers are reduced. These are all done in the hopes of saving a company, keeping them up and running for as long as possible. In the state of the current economy many employees have become astutely aware of the tell tale signs of an impending layoff; closed doors, private meetings, and late nights for those that usually hit the door at 5:01. There is a lot of negotiating between managers and those reigning in the budget. They fight hard for their teams, and they have to make hard decisions. This part is never easy.
When “D-day” arrives, as many call it, managers have been coached, provided packets of information and given a schedule of when they will terminate their employees. I have witnessed managers’ breakdown emotionally before it is even time to meet with their employee, so it is even harder to predict how an employee will react when they receive their pink slip. The emotions will range from anger, sadness, disbelief, and so much more. Many are stunned, and blind-sided that they are being let go that they do not know how to react. Responses may come later, and now, there are a variety of outlets in which to purge these emotions. You are not alone in any of the feelings you have, it may just seem that way for awhile.
When you meet with your HR Representative to go over the details of your termination packet it is an overwhelming amount of information. The hire process in reverse involves just as much paperwork. I sincerely hope that each of you was treated with the utmost respect during this process. You should have been given an appropriate amount of time to collect your things, and left the building without feeling shame or disrespect.
The stories you have shared with “Being Pink” and her followers have hopefully allowed you to process your situation and helped you to move on to bigger and better things!
In the current issue of the fabulous online magazine FLYP, there is a segment entitled "Unemployment 1, America 0". FLYP put together a beautifully animated set of pages with eye-catching drawings and interesting factoids. A few pages in, you'll find a page called "Free Falling" with a number of interviews posted. Yours truly is listed under the audio section...
Along with Being Pink, Norm from Jobless and Less and Matt from Unemployment Haiku Weekly are also featured.
FLYP Magazine: "Unemployment 1, America 0"
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Hopefully, some of you new visitors will send us your layoff stories too! This blog is driven by all of you, it's your stories, your experiences, your happy endings that are the magic. There is definitely hope and optimism in being laid off and your stories are the proof!
Please check out the rules at the right and send us an email of your story!
Monday, March 9, 2009
I must say, it is indeed exciting to wake up and find an email from the Wall Street Journal in your inbox. Thrill me! As a well-seasoned blogger I'm used to getting random emails from people, but this one definitely made my morning coffee taste especially delicious.
Ms. Dizik's article talks about how many different layoffees are using blogging to network, find new jobs, or to simply vent. Other Buddy Blogs are also mentioned, like Jobless and Less, 405 Club, and Miss Pink Slip...Congrats gang!
Read the full article online: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123663711376676437.html
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Just how did Terrell Owens get to be such an entitled jackass, and how are the mighty fallen? I'm sure it would make an excellent story. I wonder if he'd submit to my lil' ol' blog?
Does anyone know how to get in touch with The T.O.?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
This site is full of humor, resources, and other projects that encourage you to share your stories...oh, and they sell some hilarious t-shirts too! Go check it out...
The 405 Club
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Unemployment Haiku Weekly
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
By: Pink Lady, San Francisco, CA
Soon after my layoff I went to the doctor for my yearly checkup. I only have COBRA for a few weeks, so why not get it over with? When I filled my doctor in the latest news, she considered for a moment and then told me this story...
"You know, back in the days of the dot-com bubble, about eight years ago I guess, I had a lot of patients coming to me with stomach issues. I mean, a lot of patients... It seemed like I was diagnosing IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) at least three or four times a day, and refering others for more internal exams for possible ulcers.
Then, the bubble burst and the layoffs started to happen. All at once, the IBS and other issues seemed to fade away. It was all the stress and craziness going on in that economy that had created all of these stomach issues, and once it was over, all of that was gone.
I even had one of these patients tell me that she thought getting laid off was the best thing for her health. I remember her saying to me: 'I think getting laid off has actually saved me from myself.' "
Monday, February 23, 2009
Letters to Your Former Employer
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Two and a half years ago when I interviewed for my former position as Executive Assistant at a chemical company, my interview premise was "when the recession comes I want to be in a stable company, that won't be imminently affected". So they were affected, but only their cash flow due to their extended credit line, as banks faltered. As the years went by, I grew tired of the personalities: the chauvinism, the egos, the power plays, the paranoia, the overstressed CEO who had recently started to turn a bright shade of red on a daily basis, and Jekyll and Hyde.
It must have shown. I knew too much to be fired outright. But, I didn't have time to look for another job since I was engaged in physical therapy daily due to an injury I had sustained. I knew I would have to eventually be laid off so I begun to speak with HR about lack of work and the Executives being extremely self sufficient. I wanted out of the bad karma that was now making every day at work torture.
So that day came in a vengeful way: I was laid off my first day back at work after a 3 week vacation, stating my position was being eliminated. Was I asking for it by deciding to take the 3 week vacation, the answer is yes. The good news... the vacation brought about an engagement ring, so nothing could have been sweeter than being laid off, just in time.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Yes, you read that title correctly. When this came up in my search results I couldn't believe it - I thought it must surely be a joke. Alas, too true. The product description states that this app is meant to help the user "1) how to prepare if you hear the proverbial footsteps outside your door; (2) how to handle the "pink-slip moment" if it happens to you; and (3) how to pick up the pieces afterwards. We hope you'll find these strategies helpful to have at the ready -- but never actually needed!"
Great. Download this app so you can live in fear with a daily reminder of impending doom. I've heard of some bad ideas but this is ridiculous! Oh, and did I mention you have to pay for it?
Friday, February 20, 2009
And for Being Pink, that's rule #1!
Miss Pink Slip*
Little Miss Pink Slip
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By: Kate Logan Fulford, Portland, OR
My layoff was not recent…this was back in 2001. Right before 9/11 changed everything.
My marketing career was thriving. I was making great money in the “new economy” and spending the majority of it on San Francisco rent, shoes and clothes. Oh yeah, and drinks too! I was having a ball – driving my brand new convertible around town, wearing colorful scarves and gigantic sunglasses.
However, my job as a Project Manager for Sapient was getting a little old. I had been called in to “train” technical PMs in London on how to manage creatives (my specialty). Instead – it was an ugly rescue mission that – like Michael Jackson – had us working day and night. When I came back - I knew I needed a change. So I created a wonderful job for myself in the Learning & Development dept as a “Team Guru”. I was the only person in the department who had actually worked on a project – so I felt I was really adding value. Though I sometimes felt inadequate amongst my academic, Phd-type colleagues.
A couple months into my job, happy as a clam and learning like mad, I decided to move into a larger (more expensive!) apartment. As I was preparing to sign the lease – my supervisor felt the need to express her concern about pending layoffs. She had heard that our department would be affected.
I freaked out. Holy Crap! What would I do? One part of my brain was kicking myself for switching to a “disposable” department. The other was just worried about how I would make ends meet. How would I pay rent? My car payment? What if I couldn’t go shopping???
I had a whole week to fret with this insider info.
By the end of the week, I had so made peace with the potential outcome – that I began to worry about what would happen if I was NOT laid off! Why? Because I had already felt the sweet taste of the freedom to reinvent myself. I realized I could do anything. I could go back to school. I could work in a new field, as I had just made a significant change. I could even start my own business - something I had always wanted to do.
And while I can’t recall the exact details of that HR meeting – I think I was trying my hardest to suppress a smile. While I had an incredible experience with the company – and would miss my friends and colleagues – I had already decided that I would no longer be a victim of layoff– because I was going to open my own boutique. It was time to put all those shopping skills to good use.
Many of you know that boutique to be ooma – in North Beach. I’ve since sold the business, had a baby, and moved to Portland – where I’m researching where I’ll open my next boutique….
We knew it was coming, but I never thought it would be me. Let me reiterate that, I NEVER in a million years thought it would be me. In the retail industry, layoffs were inevitable. But I had been with the company for almost 5 years and my fellow employees and I always joked "they don't pay me enough to lay me off." Apparently they do.
With the closing of several warehouses and call centers, the rumors started that the corporate office would be next. But somehow I thought our little brand (though it loses money for the company each year) would be impervious to the layoffs. We just seemed to do our own little thing and I thought they would never hit us.
But the rumors kept flying. And more doors were closing for meetings. HR threw an all-day "team-building meeting" which obviously turned out to be a "here's how we're going to layoff 20% of the workforce meeting." That meeting took place right outside my office. Who knew?
People started to take their personal items home over the course of two weeks. I thought that was so silly. Why would you prepare yourself like that? People started buying as much stuff as they could with their discounts assuming they would be laid off and would lose their corporate discount card. Not me...I just never thought it would happen to me!
So the big day finally came and needless to say, no one got any work done. My boss had been feeling like he was going to be laid off. He was at peace with it. I was not! The only reason why I had taken this job was because of him, and I couldn't imagine working there without him. My mom was in town and I was heading out to lunch with her (again, why did I need to stick around- I wasn't planning on getting laid off, remember?). She came in to the office and said hi to my boss and he even told her he thought his days were numbered....ugh, it was killing me.
So I get back from lunch and the slaughter began. First my designer...but I could rationalize he'd been with the company for 10 years (a big salary risk I assumed) and we were planning to move to more offline developments anyway. The an hour later, a buyer on my team gets hit (she was one of the big spenders taking advantage of her discount in weeks prior), then my boss. Ugh, the agony. Watching him pack up his office. I cried, but he assured me it was a good thing. Time for change. He assured me we would talk soon. Ugh. I called my husband in tears- "how can this be happening? I only took this job because of my boss...how will I manage without him? How am I the most senior person left on this team?!" Apparently that seniority wasn't going to last much longer.
My phone rang and I saw my VP's name come across the caller ID. I answered calmly "My turn?" I walked to his office with my head held high, assuming he was going to explain to me what kind of restructuring was taking place and what my role in that would be. Even seeing him in his office with an HR rep didn't tip me off that my career there was about to end. But alas, within moments he explained to me my position was being eliminated and walked me through the pages and pages of paperwork that I was going to have to sign in the next few days/weeks. Needless to say, I couldn't process any of it. I was five months pregnant and just lost my job and my maternity leave! In the "care package" was some information about the job placement company they were working with to help us in this transitional period. I laughed "Yeah, 'cause there are a ton of people out there dying to hire a five month pregnant chick." My sarcasm was not well received by the guy who had to layoff 50 people on his 40th birthday, nor the HR chick.
So off I went, escorted by HR, to my office to pack up my things. My assistant came with me to help and lament. With HR looming, I asked my assistant to follow up with someone upstairs about having some signage made for one of our collections and HR said "really, you don't need to worry about that." Come to find out, the chick who would have made those signs had been laid off too!
The phone rang and it was my boss:
"Hey, I told you we'd talk soon!"
"I just got laid off."
"Shut up! Seriously?"
"Yeah, HR is in my office right now, can I call you back?"
On my way home that day, I called my husband "Love, I just got laid off," I explained, kind of laughing. He said "Let me get this straight, you called me 20 minutes ago in tears because your boss got laid off, now you call me laughing to explain you got laid off?"
Shock works in funny ways, doesn't it?
But every story has a happy ending, and mine is no different. Now I get to focus on growing a baby, lunching with the ladies, and traveling the country to see friends and family before the baby arrives. So I lost my income? What can you do about it? Blog, I guess....
By: Pink Lady, San Francisco, CA
We knew it was coming. EVERYONE knew it was coming. My office that was always full of fun, hard work, and creativity had been sullen since about Thanksgiving. Office doors that usually stood wide open for impromptu meetings, discussions, and ideas, were closed. It’s amazing what closed doors will do for air-flow; all the vibrancy soon dissipated leaving quietude and sacred privacy in its place. It wasn’t that no one was home, they were there, we knew they were there, but they were talking about us. Talking behind closed doors so no one would know, but we all knew.
I did not think it would be me though. So much so that superstitiously I thought that it would be bad luck to start bringing home my personal books and files. Why would I do that? They can’t fire me – I’m the only one who does my job for two whole brands! Letting me go would be foolish, obviously, and anyone could see that.
My boss was rapacious and vivacious. Her bubbly approachability belied a cutthroat ambition that would rear up in some unsavory ways in meetings with other brands and business partners. The carefully stylish wardrobe, expensive shoes, and weekly manicures were an effective disguise. No, the grooming was not always perfect, but you got the picture anyways. Her conference calls were shouted over the phone, and team members were summoned with yells from her office down the hall. The voice usually arrived ahead of the person and if it didn’t, it snuck upon you in a grating jump up your spine. To package such a loud, affected youthfulness in such expensive sophistication was annoying at best and cloying always.
The moment I saw my boss’ name pop up on the caller ID screen of my phone I knew. Why would she call me and ask me to come to her office when usually a bellow was sufficient?
I walked down the hallway to her office door. Turning the corner I saw my boss standing at close range with an HR generalist standing next to her. They were both standing, waiting for me expectantly. It was completely unnatural. I looked at both of them suspiciously from the hallway…
“Am I losing my job right now?” I asked incredulously. This was met by shrieks of nervous chatter: “Come in! Sit down! Come in! Sit down!”
My arm was suddenly being guided forward and I was placed in the open chair – the chair I had sat in so many times for meetings, discussions, and reviews. I think if they could have tied me into the chair they would have. There seemed to be a great importance involved in getting me into the chair. I was in the chair, the door was shut, and I was surrounded.
My boss went into her corporate-approved, state-mandated spiel about how this was a necessary workforce reduction, etc, and that she had been forced to reduce staffing to 2003 levels. I knew this was bullshit – neither one of my brands were even in existence in 2003, so if that were true then everyone would be gone.
Her speech was so rehearsed and monotonous you could barely distinguish one word from the next. I realized then that this was why she was in a meeting all day the day before: to learn how to fire me from my job. For a few moments I looked up from the documents in front of me to look in her face. Her eyes were dead focused on me, watching me, and they were completely dilated black. “My God,” I thought, “She’s a Stepford Wife!”
Since the eyes were too much to take, I looked back down to the documents and began following her finger across the text, only to notice how desperately she needed a manicure. Her nails were overgrown and yellowing. In that moment I realized that this one thing would be what I’d remember the most about the meeting, and with no little schadenfreude I thought how horrified she would be to know that.
Almost as soon as it started, the meeting was over. My former boss offered to call me a cab, then she offered it again a few minutes later. She followed me out to my desk with an empty box saying that she’d pack up my things and send them to me. The thought of my boss going through my desk made me want to throw up, but I let it go. I requested that she be sure to send my plant along too, she agreed, and offered again to call me a taxi.
“No thanks. I think I’ll walk.”
"I just got laid off..." That was the text I sent to one of my close friends when I invited her to come and meet me for a vodka at eleven a.m. on a Wednesday; she had responded to the invitation with more than a little shock and concern at this uncharacteristic martini lunch, but those five words were all I needed to say. All at once, friends did show up to drink with me in the middle of the working day, to dry tears, laugh, encourage, and share their own layoff stories.
More than those that came the bar were those sending messages via phone calls, emails, texts, Twitter tweets, and comments on my blog. Friends near and far were calling me with words of support, love, and laughter - there was always the odd in-joke, snappy zinger against old employers, and the relieved chuckle that bubbled up even as emotions were raw. It was everyone else's stories that were making the difference to me.
That evening I was spent. I returned home worn out with emotion, a little bit tipsy, and craving macaroni and cheese. But even as I curled up on my own couch I started to think about the stories I'd heard. They were good stories, and every single one of them had a great ending. The person that had been laid off went on to bigger and better things for themselves, had learned their self-worth, and become closer to their own professional ideal in some way. Some went on to other companies, some got re-hired at the companies that had laid them off in the first place, and some had eschewed the whole traditional "working world" for academia, art, or entrepreneurship and were all the more happier.
Over the past weeks I've been trying to think of a way to gather these stories together in one place. The layoff stories. Not just from the employee's point of view, but also the manager, the HR person, the business partner, and especially those that weren't laid off - the survivors. Everyone has a take and they're all interesting, insightful, shocking, and redemptive all at once.
This collection of stories about "Being Pink" will de-mystify an increasingly common event in our time, while they will show that life does indeed move on, usually in a far better way than that old job would allow!
Do you have a story to tell? Please email us: beingpinkblog.at.gmail.com