I was laid off for the first time today.
If I said I didn’t see it coming, I’d be lying. If I said that I was caught off-guard… I’d be telling the truth.
See, I’d been seeing signs that my company was doing not-so-amazingly for a while… little things like specific people being overworked, while others were going without projects. Quotes going out… and not a lot of orders coming in.
But when I was called in for a “quick chat” with my boss, I wasn’t expecting anything aside from questions about a new system skid that I’d been working on that morning. Instead, I saw the entire HR department file in behind me… and knew that this wasn’t going to be about a new system skid that I’d been working on that morning.
They said that the company was doing poorly, and that someone needed to be let go. And that, as the meeting foreshadowed, I was that someone. “Nothing against you”, they said, “But cuts had to be made somewhere. You’re a great guy, but your position just isn’t in the budget anymore”.
And then, they explained my severance, how everything would work, and that was it. I honestly didn’t hear much of it – I had the paperwork in hand, but I didn’t have anything to write notes down with anyways. Everything I needed, everything about the 2+ years I’d been there, was effectively housed in an envelope containing a severance letter, some healthcare information, and a check for my unused vacation days.
I was told that my (now former) boss would oversee me cleaning up my cube, and then I’d be walked to my car. I’d have a short time to say my goodbyes, but that I wouldn’t finish out the week, the day, or even the hour. My projects would be passed off to another department, and my position would disappear.
The goodbyes were quick, as was packing up my desk.
Turned out that I didn’t have many personal affects there… a few textbooks, a notebook, and my coffee cup among a few other random bits. Nothing to write home about, honestly.
The goodbyes took longer, and I honestly didn’t rush them much… I mean, I was free for the rest of the day. The only person who’s time I was wasting was my former employer, who of course followed me throughout the process. Everyone except the executives and one of the the guys in IT (who had blocked my server access as soon as the meeting started) were surprised, and that helped me a bit. Some of the engineers even laughed at the thought that they’d be taking over my projects… I had actually taken the helm on some of their projects in the previous weeks to ease their loads! The idea that they’d be taking those back, along with my other roles, didn’t excite them very much.
But it was a quick afternoon… I was in an almost zen-like trance the whole time, my brain shielding my mind from what had actually happened.
Of course, everything would hit me much harder over the next few days. I’d understand that I was out in the field again, and that unemployment insurance would be just enough to scrape by… or so it seemed at the time (the future will tell, on that one). All i could think about was the unfinished projects, my sudden financial vulnerability, and the fact that I was very glad that I hadn’t booked my flights for Spring Break just yet.