Thursday, February 19, 2009

Story 1: "Am I Losing My Job Right Now?"

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.”

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