June 24, 2016, was my last day of work. Laid off after a 19-year career.
Those 19 years were with the same company. Sort of.
It was owned by another company when I started and along the way was spun off in an IPO, bought a couple big name companies then spun those off and was finally gobbled up by someone else.
Someone else taking the company in a new direction. Without me.
It wasn’t a pleasant ending. The desired new culture came with a significant human cost. The initial round was the hardest. It was the first and it was the largest and it was immediate. People were told, “today is your day” with little opportunity to say goodbye and left the building.
It may seem odd under the circumstances, but there is a desire to make sure your work carries on without you. It doesn’t matter that leaving wasn’t your choice. The work was important to you and you get to say that out loud and have that validated when you train the next person. There is a level of cruelty to not allowing this part of the transition to take place.
We don’t need you and your work was not valued.
A punch and a blow.
We had all heard the rumors that our new owners were cutthroat. Rumors became reality that day and still don’t seem exaggerated.
That round didn’t include me. Neither did the next one. Or the one after that. I sensed it was coming though. The integration project I worked on was ending and the next project I was assigned didn’t seem to need me. Frankly, when the time came I had no work to transition.
I told my boss that I was ok with either path — continued employment or laid off. I wasn’t planning to leave the company by choice, but if it happened it happened. I was going to be ok either way.
One morning while I was getting ready for work I received a meeting request from HR. That’s when I knew. The meeting was scheduled for later that afternoon, but it was just a formality. I told my team when I arrived what was happening even though I hadn’t talked to HR yet.
It is hard to describe this. Not for lack of words. The emotions are hard. I worked for nearly a year under the threat of layoff. So did everyone else. It changes you. You tell yourself that you survived the latest round because you are needed or valued or spared for some other purpose. You distance yourself from it. It hits closest to home when it is a member of your team.
I saw it in their eyes. Relief. Not me. Not this time.
It was me and it was this time and I was glad. There were people in that room that really did not want to be laid off for their own reasons. I really didn’t want to stay. That’s what I had emphasized to my boss. If there was a choice between me and someone who wanted to stay, pick me. I was ready to move on.
A year later and I’m still ok. I haven’t found a job. Job hunting sucks. Unemployment benefits ended. There have been bad days. Those are the negatives.
The positives. I still have a large chunk of my severance money. I still have all of my emergency funds. I started reading again. I started writing. I’m learning and trying new things. I’m getting more time with my kids. I’m far less stressed. There have been more good days than bad ones.
Three things I know for sure:
- I’m living a better life.
- A job will come.
- Today I am ok.
So today it’s Happy Anniversary! as I continue to ease on down the road to the next chapter.