Thursday, February 04, 2010

Laid Off - How it all went down

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.

Me: *silence*

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.

Relieved.

28 comments:

Mom Thumb said...

That whole process just sucks. When Randy was plant manager and Koch acquired a company in southern OK, he had to lay people off. Right before Christmas. They knew it was coming and they all had the same feelings you did. It was almost ten years ago and it still bothers Randy. My recommendation is to NOT go see "Up in the Air." Good luck on your job search, sorry I missed you on the radio yesterday.

Ed said...

Man, I've got that hollow feeling in my stomach just reading this. I don't think there's anything you can ever do to prepare for that.

April said...

I'm so sorry, Jeff.

Dave2 said...

Another sobering reminder of what could happen to any of us at any moment. Here's hoping you find a new challenge in the workplace soon!

Maureen said...

Aw hell Jeff, that sucks. Even though you knew it could happen, it still must have been like a bomb dropping.

It is happening far too much these days. I do hope you find something in your area soon! Do you think you'll have to commute to Minneapolis?

Sandy said...

I don't even know what to say Jeff, except that Kurt and I are pretty much in the same situation right now. His team has not sold the servers that they predicted they would, and people are jumping ship.

Thankfully, Kurt found part time work with an off-shift position, so that should keep us safe for awhile. But it stinks.

We will keep our eyes open and ears to the ground for you.

Jaffer said...

I've been laid off and quit my job a few times - without having a future plan.

I know exactly what you mean by feeling 'relieved' and say 'Wow ! Did that really happen ?'

Good Luck Jeff !

Jeff said...

mom thumb - Unfortunately, I don't think there's any good way to let someone go. At least my company waited until Christmas was over. So there's that.

ed - Nope, other than keeping your skills sharp and your resume up to date.

april - Thanks. I bet it's REALLY bad out there in LA!

dave2 - Thanks Dave. I'm actually going down to Mpls tomorrow to meet with a placement firm, so hopefully that will help.

maureen - Most likely I will have to consider work in Mpls, but if the job is in the immediate downtown area I could take the new train from here - which I wouldn't actually mind.

sandy - Thank you. And I will keep you and Kurt in my thoughts as well. Hang in there!!!
Oh!... and I applied with IBM this morning. Let me know if Kurt has an internal referral program and I will send him the job number.

VE said...

Do you find it strange that we are a week apart in age, that we both have long running blogs, that we both were software project managers, and that we were both laid off in the same year after having worked in our companies for a long time? Why if I didn't know that I can't play a musical instrument I'd swear you were a parallel universe anomily of myself! Scary...well...for you that is...

My layoff went down late in the day and everybody in the department knew layoffs were coming and that they were targeting middle and senior managers with lots of tenure. They did it by scheduling appointments with everyone that would be laid off. My appointment wasn't until 3:00pm so I got to watch every single person laid off as they went into a coference room with HR and then back out with their severance packet. Let's just say it was a long, long day.

Jenn Thorson said...

And with the way it's worded, too, you probably were wondering whether you were inferring the right bad news or not.

"Surely what he's implying and not saying directly ISN'T what I THINK he is....?!"

You poor fellow. Hope it gets better from here.

dbb said...

As the CEO of a very small manufacturing company (there are only 6 of us left) I know that the next cut will be when the business shuts its door. Hours have already been reduced, and our fiscal year ends this month. Down 100k in sales, it doesn't look good.... I know it's coming and it doesn't make me feel any better.
In fact, it downright scares me.

Jeff said...

jaffer - It was my first time, after 18 years in the business. There was no way I was prepared for that one!

ve - Hmmm, the similarities are strange indeed. Plus, we're both goofballs! What are the odds?
So... did the whole "misery loves company" thing help at all with your lay off?

jenn - Actually, there wasn't much doubt what he was getting at. Still... I'm sure I looked a little stunned right after he dropped the bomb.

dbb - Wow, I'm really sorry to hear that. Unfortunately I know exactly what you're experiencing. I wish you the best of luck.

Idaho Dad said...

What a horrible moment, and yet it must've been a heavy weight lifted, finally knowing one way or the other.

But tell us, didn't you secretly want to overturn his desk, launch your laptop out the window, and then dance across the office stark naked singing "Take This Job And Shove It"?

JD at I Do Things said...

As I've said before, I'm so sorry, Jeff.

It's interesting that you listed "relief" as one of the many emotions going thru your head. I imagine there was some relief in finally knowing -- in finally having the axe fall, so to speak.

I know you'll come back from this stronger than ever.

Unfinished Rambler said...

Jeff, unfortunately, it's becoming a common story nowadays. That's also the fortunate news, because the next place doesn't blame you if you're laid off or fired. They know that it happens to everyone lately.

Best of luck in your search. It sounds like you already have some good "feelers" out there.

Bill said...

Would it be an opportune time to compete with your former employer? You already have a start with Virus Stompers

Jeff said...

idaho dad - Yes. Well everything except the naked part that is.

jd - After worrying about being laid off every day for 6 months, there was a sense of relief. I would literally worry every weekend that the next Monday morning was going to be my last. Now I at least have control over what happens to me next.

unfinished rambler - You're absolutely right. Being laid off right now does not count as a black mark on your resume.

bill - No worries about competing with them. Their customers aren't buying anything. That's how I got here in the first place!

Michelle said...

Yeah... that doesn't sound like fun. I think no matter how much we expect something bad to happen, we never REALLY expect it to happen to us somehow.

And ummm you were on the radio?

Heather said...

It really stinks.

Elizabeth said...

I know when my husband got laid off from a state job that he had years ago, he felt relief too. It was scary and upsetting, but he was finally relieved of all the anxiety for wondering when it was going to happen. Good luck on the job search, I hope you find a great job soon!
:)

Kathy said...

Like Ed, it gave me a hollow feeling just reading this. I know for one thing, I would cry and they'd have to take me away on a gurney.

But you're way stronger than me and I'm convinced you will find a job that's made for you, and SOON.

I went to that radio site yesterday and wanted to hear you during your five-minute spiel, but I couldn't find it. If you have a link, please share. Hey, if I'm putting up a video of my big fat head, the least I could get is hearing your voice.

Jeff said...

michelle - Yes, a local radio station had me on the other day for an "interview" where they told the world I had lost my job and how everyone should hire me. I was their first guest on this new feature and it was a lot of fun.

heather - Yes, that's putting it mildly.

elizabeth - Thanks. Need any project managers up there? I might be persuaded to go North, to Alaska. Sorry, couldn't resist.

kathy - Maybe I should have cried. If for no other reason than to make them feel bad. I don't think the radio station has my interview posted to listen to. But that would be cool. I'd like to hear it!

Roger said...

I was amazed at how relieved I felt when I got laid off. Then I was surprised how much I enjoyed my "vacation" of six months. Then I got three job offers, and thought that was pretty cool too.

My point? Things happen for a reason, and although it is hard to see it, there is a plan for you and you will come out stronger and better in the end.

I also think that you might have missed out on a golden opportunity to strip off your clothes and flip over a table while singing "Take this job and shove it!" like Idaho Dad said.

Imagine if you had it all video taped as well... We're talking viral superstar! The possibilities would have been endless. We're talking running the UN in no time, for sure. :)

Seriously though, I am keeping you and your family in my prayers.

Mooselet said...

I applaud your honest and raw post about what happened, as sorry as I am it happened to you. You're handling it remarkably well and I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that something comes up soon.

mom said...

It's been proven MANY times---God amswers prayers----and I'm praying!!!

Jeff said...

roger - Thanks for your prayers Roger. I too believe a better situation will come out of all this in the end. I was seriously stressed out over the last year, so that wasn't good at all.

mooselet - I'm handling it well because it's the only choice that makes sense. I am doing my very best to try to find new work and that's all I can do. I am lucky because Charli has a good job with benefits and I'm receiving unemployment, so that takes a lot of the stress off of me to bring home all the bacon. Plus, I'm very optimistic something great will come my way.

mom - I know you are... and THANKS!

Gary said...

Good luck in your job hunt, I almost know what you feel like, I sold my company to a much larger one three years ago and then last April they told me they were closing us down, fortunately I have been re-employed by them in a different post for half the salary, but its something I suppose, hey it almost pays the mortgage every month, almost.

And now for an ignorant and probably downright rude question - as an employee do you have any statutory right to notice and redundancy pay, you make it sound like it was "thanks and goodbye" ?

(its not like that here)

Watson410 said...

I gotta say, my reaction was almost exactly like yours. Especially the "Why do I feel relieved?". I guess its that even if you don't "know" it's coming you still feel it and when that shoe finally dropped, the stress did at least temporarily.

Good luck and know that I'm batting for you.