Sunday, November 09, 2008


Okay, so technically I was laid off or perhaps downsized, but fired has a nice hard ring to it, doesn't it?

I came in to work on Wednesday all fired up about the election results. It was pretty much anyone could talk about all morning--we were all in great moods. Around 10:30, my phone rang. It was an internal number, and the caller ID showed a name I didn't recognize. When I answered, it was my boss. "I'm downstairs in HR. Can you come down please? I need to talk to you."

I hung up the phone, stood up. Turned to my officemates and said, "Holy shit. I think I'm about to get fired." They stared back at me in blank horror.

Downstairs, an HR lackey (holding a list of names) ushered me into an office where my boss and an HR rep were waiting. My boss burst into tears as she told me they had to eliminate my position. Then she basically fled the room. The HR rep took great pains to assure me that this all had nothing to do with me, that it was a matter of company-wide cost-cutting, bad economy, nothing personal, they just looked at departments that could be trimmed, salaries that were larger than others, etc. She went over my severance package and told me that I could continue to come into the office until Friday, that I could go home now and give myself a chance to collect myself before coming back the next day to pack up my things. I told her that no, all things considered I would rather get it all over with and not come back.

I'd like to say that I was dignified and rational about the whole thing, but I'm afraid I was not. I cried. I believe I said things like "How could this happen?" and "But I have a BABY!"

I went back upstairs and started organizing my things for my assistant to box up and send home later. Meanwhile, a staff meeting was called to explain what had happened. In all, a quarter of my department was eliminated. I was the most senior person let go.

I can't really talk about the specifics of the financial woes of my industry--I just tried to come up with something using the zoo analogy, but even that seemed too revealing. Suffice to say that we all knew staffing cuts were coming. My officemates and I had even speculated as to who might get the axe. But we never expected the cuts to be so deep, or to come so soon--or frankly, to include me. Not to brag, but I have been told repeatedly how valuable I am to my employer, how talented, how they couldn't function without me. After I sent out a mass email announcing my last day, I got dozens of horrified calls and emails from colleagues who said, essentially, "If they're letting YOU go then things must be REALLY bad."

And this has been the valuable lesson I've learned from all this: That at the end of the day, in corporate America, in a terrible economy, no one is safe. The only thing that matters is the numbers. No matter how good you are at your job, no matter how well-liked, if it is cheaper to keep someone else on instead, you will be sacrificed. If your salary, though still laughably low for someone of your experience level who is also supporting a family of three in one of the most expensive cities in the world, is large enough that firing you will help someone meet a dollar target, good-bye.

I'll be fine. My severance package, while not extravagant, is decent enough, and I've already gotten offers for contract/freelance work. My husband can go back to work to help make up the difference. We'll need to tighten our belts some more, but we've got savings. We don't have a mortgage. We're not paying for private school. Our health insurance will be paid for through the end of February. We'll manage. And I'll get to spend more time with Bat Girl (who, unfortunately, is being kind of a toddler asshole right now, but never mind that).

I understand why this all had to happen, but I'm still angry and bitter. I feel betrayed. I hope that, as many people have said to me, this all ends up being a blessing in disguise, leading me to bigger and better things. But right now I'm just pissed.


Blogger Erin said...

I am so, so sorry--I can completely understand how you feel betrayed. And it truly sucks that they decided to fire such an important person in their company simply because of what you're paid. In the long run, that may come back to bite them. (May I say that I'm feeling angry enough on your behalf to hope that is true?) I'm glad you'll be OK, but it definitely sucks.

The toddler asshole time is short, thankfully. I hope BatGirl's is almost over so that you can have lots of fun with her at home.

4:18 PM  
Blogger BrooklynGirl said...

It sucks. I'd be pissed too--in fact, I was pissed when I got laid off back in the day (pre-baby, so less scary times).

I think the experience forever changed the way I felt about working. I used to believe in the "great good" of the company, that the work we were all doing mattered in some way. When I was laid off, I resented every night I'd stayed late, every Saturday I'd come in for a few hours (or a whole day), every time I checked my work email from home before I went to bed.

Anyway, I hope you can enjoy the severance package and the extra time with Bat Girl.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Eva said...

I've had to fire people and it sucks and I am appalled at how your boss handled things.

The whole thing blows. So very sorry. So stressful! I guess Obama doesn't mean magical unicorns all around, after all. Best wishes.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous statia said...

You have every right to be pissed, shitty economy or not. That's a big fucking deal, especially when you were the one supporting your family.

And what is it about the toddler assholes lately? Mine is being a ripe one. I've had to yell at him a billion times today.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Rachel Inbar said...

Getting fired did lead me to bigger and better things AND more time with my family... I've been without a 'regular' job for over 4 years now and it's not easy, but has definite advantages.

It still sounds as if you're taking it well :-)

5:09 AM  
Blogger MoMo said...

I know how you feel--and it sucks big time. As you said, it doesn't matter how valuable you are, at the end of the day the bottom line is what matters most. I know, I was on the other side and knew who was getting axed weeks before it was public. And you know how bad it is when you start letting go of people that are at the top of their game!

Oh the toddler asshole thing...we are in the same club. Sometimes, all I can do is yell...which i know is not the correct solution.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Watson said...

I am so sorry Electric Lady!

How stressful. I hope this does lead to bigger and better things, you have every right to be pissed and feel betrayed. (But I'm happy to see you also have a good, positive attitude about it.)

Take care!

4:04 PM  
Blogger caramama said...

I'm so very sorry about your getting laid off. That just absolutely sucks. I'd be pissed off also, too.

I'm glad you can see a bright side at least (minus the toddler assholiness, which surely won't last). I always try to believe that things happen for a reason, and I hope that there is some good that comes out of it.

11:58 AM  
Blogger OneTiredEma said...

Ucccchhhh. So sorry.

I have a friend in the financial services industry who entire department (of 7) was told to reapply for 2 or 3 spots. They're still going to work through the end of the year--although, as you can imagine, nobody's exactly inspired--if it doesn't work out they have pretty nice severance through the end of Feb. But still it's sucky--he's good at his job and kind of pissed about the whole situation.

10:26 PM  
Blogger sara said...

I'm so sorry - I hope things turn around soon.


9:04 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

So sorry to hear about this. The same thing happened to my husband about a month ago. He came back from lunch and they said you no longer work here. We've eliminated your position.

I hope things all work out for the best.

1:59 PM  
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2:04 PM  
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7:45 PM  
Blogger kbreints said...

Holy Carp-- sorry to hear this. Hope you are back to posting soon!

1:53 PM  
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