This post has been in the works since last September. I just never completed it and hit publish…until today.
Have you ever seen Up in the Air? I remember when we saw that movie years ago. It’s a really good movie and I recall thinking it was so cruel, but I could sympathize with some of what had happened, though at the time I had never been laid off myself. (I could sympathize with the survivor’s guilt. Those left behind with the jobs.) And then last August happened.
I think some people are still surprised at HOW my layoff actually occurred.
It was a normal day. I had been tasked with pulling some web stats for a potential advertiser (a beer company who was looking to advertise in the market, but had no plans for a brewery in our area.) I had the reports starting and I had to run outside to grab something from my friend, Aileen, who had stopped by the office for a minute. When I had returned to my desk, I had a voicemail message from the Greenville HR person (keep in mind, I worked in Asheville. We didn’t have our own HR person, as that position was eliminated a few months prior.)
I didn’t think anything about it. Called her back and went upstairs to see her.
Have I mentioned that I had only briefly met Rene one time before? A few days before, she was in the newsroom, and I introduced myself, and asked her a question about Greenville. That was all.
So when I went into the HR office, Rene started chatting about how she didn’t know me well and she didn’t know how I was going to react to what she was about to tell me. Then she handed me a packet of paperwork. It still had not sunk in what was really happening.
As I was reading that effective immediately, my job was eliminated, she was telling me that she had just held an Operating Committee meeting and held the newsroom managers back, so they knew who was being let go – for scheduling purposes. It was at that moment that it dawned on me that she didn’t even know who my manager was. My supervisor didn’t work in the newsroom, even though I sat in the newsroom. The conversation, verbatim:
Me: Does my supervisor know I’m being laid off?
Rene: Who do you report to?
Rene: Oh, I didn’t realize that. No.
Me: Oh, don’t worry. I’ll let her know on my way out.
At that point, my only question was related to insurance. How long did my son and I have coverage. What were our options in 10 days when our insurance was cut? I took my papers, and headed to the first floor to tell Stacey.
When I made my way back to the newsroom, I found one person and asked him if he wanted my six-page document of passwords, because I had just been laid off and somebody needed this access. He and I escaped to another room where I tried hard not to break down. I was only somewhat successful.
I felt like I was holding it together as best I could. I texted my husband and my mom. My mom had a feeling the day before this that I needed to look for another job. It’s weird how things like that work out.
As I was packing a box, another reporter walked over and jokingly asked if I was leaving. I told him I’d just lost my job and he didn’t believe me at first. As more people realized what was going on, I told them that 5 people in the newsroom were losing their jobs that day. (And in the middle of all of this, another one of my friends was called up.)
In total, 8 of us lost our jobs that day.
We weren’t rushed out of the building or locked out that quickly. When I got home later that afternoon, I actually removed all of us (except one person – who I didn’t realize was being laid off) as Facebook managers, and then removed myself. Those left behind didn’t know to do all of that and it’s more than just a change of a password. In fact two weeks after the layoff, one person still had access. I, being a somewhat nice former employee, contacted the appropriate people to let them know they’d want to look into that.
It was – and still is – so surreal. I’m still friends with several people at the newspaper. I’m still friends with the people that lost their jobs that day. I don’t envy the people left behind.
I’m still angry with how it played out. A total stranger broke the news. I had been there two months shy of 15 years. We all deserved a little more. Every time I talked to Rene afterwards, she chatted like we were best friends. Telling me about her work day (WHO DOES THAT?) and telling me to have a great day or enjoy my weekend. I had just lost my job. In 10 days I wasn’t going to have insurance. You enjoy YOUR weekend, okay?
It’s been almost a year. And my former colleagues have recently been told they have to reapply for their jobs – more layoffs are coming. I started a new job 16 weeks after I lost my previous one. There was no severance pay (only unemployment and transitional pay, as long as you qualified for it.) The insurance was crap and I’m still receiving stuff from my policy that ended August 31, 2013. The insurance nightmare is another complicated, frustrating post.
It’s interesting how everything has worked out. I’m no longer a full-time online developer – and I’m doing something that I never thought I’d be doing in a million years. My new colleagues are amazing people and I feel relatively calm in my new job. I didn’t realize how stressful it was at the newspaper – always wondering if you were going to have a job the next month.
I still feel anxious. I’ve felt anxious for a couple of weeks every time I look at my Timehop app and see a post I did about the publisher suddenly retiring, or seeing things I had been doing in the weeks leading up to that day. (My son’s birthday was 10 days after the layoff, and I was doing a lot of party prep.) I had a sinking feeling when I had to park behind the newspaper building last weekend – it was the only free spot downtown. And I feel sick knowing that my friends are going through reapplication and possibly not being rehired.
It’s been interesting to hear where most of us ended up almost a year later. I’m glad things worked out (for me) the way they did. I guess I just wish I’d had a little more notice…or at least hadn’t had to break the news to my manager.