The Unbearable Banishment: black thursday

Friday, November 21, 2008

black thursday

Last Friday afternoon at Benevolent Dictators, Inc., they called an emergency all-departmental meeting. It was announced that the Head of Asset Management had been let go. He’s about five or six levels above me, so it’s clear that a lofty title cannot protect you against a catastrophic economic meltdown. It was also announced that another round of layoffs would take place sometime this week. So we all had that to think about over the weekend. Consequently, I have not slept a full night since then. It has occupied every other thought in my head for almost a week. I hold a grandmaster black belt in obsessing.

Yesterday morning they let many of my colleagues go. Many. The 9th floor at Benevolent Dictators, Inc. has been gutted. Someone would get a phone call, walk to Human Resources, be escorted back to their desk by someone from Human Resources, gather up their belongings and be escorted out of the building. It was one of the most callous spectacles I’ve ever witnessed. Those people in Human Resources have ice water in their veins. This went on all morning. I lost some good friends. I have never seen so much crying in all my life. This is the fourth round of layoffs in the past 18 months and this one was the most heartbreaking. People—some with young children—are being thrown out onto a dead job market just before the holidays.

I, somehow, managed to survive again. Sometimes, it’s good to be a small fish in a big pond. Tonight I am going out with Nurse H for a series of stiff drinks. I will toast my fallen colleagues and my splendid luck.

* * *

Last Saturday I got a terrible haircut. One of the worst ever. I keep waiting for it to fill out but I still look utterly ridiculous. And I’m going to Ohio next week to see my mom for Thanksgiving! What terrible timing!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a while (as a person banished from the city to DC, blah!), and just felt the need to comment on this one.

I know that it can seem harsh for HR to do what they have to, but I've witnessed it from the other side. My roommate is in HR for a fairly large company here and has had to take part in several rounds of layoffs herself. Believe me, it is NOT easy on them. Every night she would come home in near tears, knowing that she did what she had to do on behalf of her company, even though she did not agree with it at all. How do you tell someone that has worked at a company for 20+ years that they no longer have a job there?

Being perceived as "the enemy" has definitely taken its toll on her. The real irony though is that 50% of her job is recruiting. Try laying someone off that you hired only 6 months prior... It isn't fair for anyone.

November 21, 2008 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Duly noted. The knee-jerk reaction has always been to shoot the messenger. (Wow! I just used two clichés in one sentence! That’s just lazy.) You should know that nobody at work placed any blame, or gave any grief, to any of the HR reps. They, clearly, derived no pleasure from what they were doing.

November 21, 2008 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Digital Fortress said...

I hope you make it through these troubling economic times unscathed. There hasn't been anybody let go or layed off here yet...but work has gotten a lot slower and I can't help but wonder if it's only a matter of time.

I am guessing your mom will probably still dote on you bad haircut and all, but I suppose you can always wear a hat if you are feeling self-conscience.

November 21, 2008 at 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes! That's brutal. Glad to hear you survived another round but that really sucks for all your coworkers.

November 21, 2008 at 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, that sounds bad. Sorry's never anything less than awkward when a work friend of yours tells you they've just been axed. There's that awkward mix of grief and embarrassment, particularly when one basically has to say, either in expression or "well, hope you land on your feet, now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to my relative state of security."

At the last job I had, they wen through and systematically wiped out about a dozen and a half personnel because they were older and possibly going to tap into the company's profit sharing plan. Something like that, basically a reaction to the post 9/11-recession (which was rough on the Pac NW). I always remember one of my co-workers packing up like 25 years of photos, mementos, and the look on her face said everything: I'm only 55, what am I going to do now?

Rusty nails are a reliable cup of poison in times like these. When in doubt, toss 'em back like a longshoreman. Everyone I've spoken with has said the next year is going to be rough.

Keep dodging the bullet, amigo,

November 21, 2008 at 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Yeah, layoffs can be tough. Layoffs before the holidays can be especially tough.

But sometimes, getting laid off can provide the impetus for a person to go in a direction in life that they've only dreamed about before.

It can mean the opening of new frontiers.

When I was younger, much younger than now, I used to obsess and worry about being laid off. Older now, I've managed to develop an idea of what I'm worth and, even though I'm only performing at a small percentage of what I once did or am capable of, I don't sweat it.

In fact, a lay-off - with severance and the kind of options my employer has as parting gifts - would be almost welcome these days. Because I'm currently too lazy and too comfortable to initiate the change myself.

Americans pride themselves on their self-reliant, rugged individualistic ideals (at least that's what we hear all the time) so it's time for some to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When going gets tough, the tough get going.

How's that for a comment full of cliches?

November 21, 2008 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Nurse H said...

In my 16 years in that industry, I dodged many bullets and falling much so that I felt I was meant to stay and endure what was always a miserable existence for me. As you know, I finally found the balls to leave on my own and I have never been happier. I'm glad I'm not in the middle of the s*it storm but equally glad that you have emerged unscathed. Looking forward to cocktails tonight!

November 21, 2008 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

digital: The financial industry is the backbone of New York City and we are getting clobbered. About the haircut; I have the vanity of a 12-year old girl.

pop: You have no idea how relieved I am.

sonny: You hit it right on the head. I felt awful while they were walking out, but I was having a little party inside my head that it wasn’t me. This time.

rob: During the June layoffs, people who were let go had that sense of possibility and can-do liberation. Things are strikingly different now. There’s NO WORK out there.

nurse H: line ‘em up and get ready for some major league bitchin’.

November 21, 2008 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger mjp said...

To add to what "anonymous said:

November 21, 2008 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

mjp: Yikes! I hope everyone who reads these comments clicks over to that post. I wish I knew who Anonymous was so I could send it to him/her.

November 21, 2008 at 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've "retired" two employees personally, and fired one for cause... unpleasant beyond words.

here's to some relatively quick recovery and rebalancing - as rob said, there's hope that in at least a few of these cases, it's a forced "freedom" to pursue true personal joy, rather than life trapped in a 9-5 prison...

hair grows. good luck with mom. let me know if you want to connect over the holidays... i'm in dayton. not going anywhere interesting...

November 21, 2008 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger ~E said...

"I hold a grandmaster black belt in obsessing"

Do you really?!?!

I'm actually holding firm at Brown Belt status...but I've been told it's super easy to advance to Black once I have kids and get married.

November 21, 2008 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger ~E said...

P.S. your mom will love you no matter how horrendous you look. She has to! It's in her contract.

November 21, 2008 at 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your mom will probably think your new haircut is the best yet

November 22, 2008 at 6:14 AM  

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