I must have played out "that meeting" a thousand times in my head over the last year.
How will they tell me? What will it feel like? How will I respond?
I knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time. When you're a project manager for a team of software developers and your company's software products are in demand, your job is extremely valuable. This is because software development is a messy business and there needs to be one captain of the ship to interface with the customers, manage the development team, track the projects and make sure the products are being delivered on spec, bug-free, on time and on budget.
However, when no one is ordering up new software and your software team members are sitting on their hands... well, a project manager isn't as necessary. And this is where we were for nearly a year. So I didn't think it would come as a huge surprise when I was finally handed my pink slip.
Still... I was surprised.
In late December I was invited to a meeting with my boss for January 4th. This didn't seem unusual at all since we had meetings every quarter to discuss the previous quarter and what we would do to improve things for the next one. And it also wasn't unusual for him to ask me to bring my laptop since we always worked on spreadsheets and exchanged employee review documents during these meetings as well. However, one thing I had started doing prior to the last several meetings was backing up the contents of my laptop to a personal external hard drive JUST IN CASE I was asked to... you know, give it back.
So there I was on January 4th, walking into my boss's office with my laptop in hand, ready to discuss my ideas for how I would keep the ship afloat for another quarter. And there he was, sitting across the table with... well, other plans. Thankfully, the process went very quickly. After a few minutes of small talk, I unzipped my laptop bag and placed it on the table. The conversation went like this:
Me: Hey, where should I plug this in?
Boss: Yeah... Jeff. Uh, that won't actually be necessary. There's not going to be a planning meeting this morning.
Boss: I'm really sorry man. I wish I could make this work, but there's just nothing more I can do here. I feel really bad about this.
Me: I see.
And that was it. I pretty much just sat there in silence for about a minute while I tried to register what had just happened as a million unfamiliar emotions ran through my head.
Is this for real?
Did I really just get let go?
What is that feeling in my stomach?
What will I do now?
Am I going to cry?
Why do I feel relieved?
Twenty minutes later, after turning over my laptop and signing some paperwork, I was walking out the door for the last time, getting in my car and driving home to an empty house where I would spend the next hour or so just staring out the window watching the squirrels run up and down the trees, not really thinking about anything.
Blank. Stunned. Confused. Tired.