It is a lovely summer Sunday afternoon on the street where we live. Sunny, just warm enough, birdsong heard through open windows, a gentle breeze making its presence known in the movement of the tree leaves. Weekend chores and errands done. Baseball on the MLB channel, Dodgers at Pirates.
Tomorrow is Monday. For the second time in five years, I have no job to go to.
The position description described it as a 60 to 90 day temp gig. The economy was still in the deep trough created in 2008. Few businesses were hiring temps, fewer still were hiring at all, for anything. Those open positions I’d been discussing with recruiters had disappeared, unfilled. Recruiters I’d been talking to didn’t want to know me anymore.
As if to test my newly adopted humility, my “dignity-be-damned” attitude that nothing would be beneath me in the lousy economy, I was asked if in their opinion I turned out not to be a good fit, would I stay until someone more suitable could be found.
Without the ability to reprise my performance at the Fortune 500, without the promise of advancement, recognition or better assignments, without even the ability to do what I consider to be my best work, I had to look for other reasons to show up every day.
I kept showing up at this company with its seriously devalued stock and quarterly losses, known to be on a business form of life-support. And every morning I expected to be called into an office, to receive their thanks for my work, followed by the news that my temp gig was over. That’s what I expected. Every day.
A year passed and the day finally came when I was called into an office. But instead of being shown the door, an offer letter was pushed across the desk for my signature. This for a job which I never would have considered, would have rejected out of hand at any other point in my career.
I signed without hesitation.
In five years, I’ve answered to three people. The first guy got caught in one of the reductions in force, one of the first of many I observed in my time there. The second caught the interest of the Boeing Company. Young and in the best part of her career, she jumped at the chance to try her stuff in a much bigger arena. The third was a guy who drew short straw and got stuck with our workgroup, which had been passed around to several reluctant finance managers. I liked him from the first meeting. He and I talked easily. I liked the way he thought. He was open to what I brought to the conversation. In return, I told him I was there to do whatever he needed me to do, for as long as he needed me to do it.
The “as long as” part turned out to have an expiration date of July 31, 2015. The only surprise was that it hadn’t happened sooner.
For every one of these five years, I’d watched people file out, carrying their cardboard boxes. Individuals and sometimes entire work groups. Inexplicably, I had remained. Each appearance of the RIF monster passed me by. But each time, as expenses were curtailed and headcount reduced, the business did not improve. Expenses were cut again. More people left.
Two years ago I told my boss that when headcount in our little group came into scope for reduction, as I knew it eventually must, he should talk to me first. He did.
I had a hand in ending my own job.
He and I talked this out many times, candidly, impassionately, simply as another tactical matter, another business initiative, actions needed in support of business conditions. No different from terminating a service provider as an expense avoidance measure.
I’ve never been in the position to influence a decision which would end my employment, not without resigning. It would have happened with or without my participation. Having a hand in the design of it was helpful to my boss and allowed me to control certain aspects of it. The timing for me was good, the terms of separation agreeable.
I left a few of my personal business cards at my desk, for anyone who might wish to contact me.
This one was over.