Surviving a layoff and living to tell about it

It was an interesting experience, but one I don’t care to repeat. I went to work one day only to find I no longer had a job. The business unit I worked for focused on the creation and operation of business-to-business digital marketplaces. With the recent downturn in Internet-based technologies and the economic slowdown, business had dropped and corporate management had to make some cuts. And unfortunately, I was one of those cuts.

I can’t complain too much in the way of finances. The severance package was very generous and, sensing something bad was coming, a few weeks earlier I had sent my resume to some recruiters and was in the process of scheduling interviews.

However, even though there was no true financial pain, there was a great deal of ego pain. Previously, I had always been one of the survivors. Even though the workload increased, my ego had been stroked by the thought that I was valuable and the company couldn’t get along without me. This time, however, I realized that I was no longer valuable and the company felt it could do very well without me. Strike one to the old ego.

Strike two to my ego came after I left the severance meeting and realized that I was no longer in control – someone else had made decisions about crucial aspects of my life. Someone had decided that I needed to find another job, find new insurance, that my stock options would never vest, that I needed to go home early and never come back. Instead of being the one directing others, I was now being directed, and the direction was out.

And strike three to the ego – perhaps the worst one of all – came with the awareness that others had known about this decision before I did and steps had already been taken to quickly move me off the premises. During the severance meeting my phone was disconnected, my user ID deleted and my security access taken away. My final paycheck had been printed and was handed to me. A personalized severance package had been prepared and was presented to me. After the meeting, a stack of boxes was waiting at my desk so I could pack my belongings. Corporate human resources personnel had been flown in and were on-site to collect corporate credit cards, security badges and laptops. It was a thoroughly planned process.

Even though everyone – including human resources – went out of his way to be accommodating and helpful, I still felt de-personalized. I was no longer a valued employee, no longer a member of management, and no longer one of the team. Call it severanced, terminated, downsized or laid off, the result is the same. I was an ex-employee and no longer belonged there.

Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to find another job, and once again I am gainfully employed. My ego has been stroked, I am a member of a team, and I am once again valued.

I survived being laid off. I just hope I never have to do it again.

Yoke is an IS manager in Denver. He can be reached at [email protected].

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