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.