Friday, October 28, 2005

Happy Layoff Anniversary to Me

Two years ago today, I was fired from my job as a technical writer at a small software company. I’d been there for a year and a half, but I had no illusions about job security. That lay-off was my third one in four years. While I might have thought I’d broken the curse when I passed my one year anniversary, I wasn’t really surprised when I was laid off on 28 October 2003. My only surprise is that it didn’t happen in November, my nemesis month when it comes to lay-offs, deaths and bad luck.

Being a veteran of lay-offs, I was able to laugh and joke through the exit interview. Lay-off #3 was a different beast than Lay-off #2, where I burst into tears talking to the so-called outplacement co-ordinator, a contractor who ostensibly was supposed to ease my transition into the job search market although in reality I think her chief function was to assess my mental state and determine if I was going to trash the network or lead an angry mob on a riot through the cubicle farm.

With lay-offs, how people take it is due, in large part, to how the company treats the event. At Company #3, the CEO was a very decent, honest guy who really didn’t want to have to lay people off. He had a couple of meetings with the entire company, to explain the situation and the possible courses of action. Everyone knew that lay-offs were imminent and when they happened, they happened in a humane manner.

At Company #2, the lay-offs were a stealth attack. It was the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday and the HR department carefully orchestrated the event. The “safe” people were whisked away to a meeting so that they wouldn’t have to confront the fallen. The individual lay-offs were carefully scheduled and supervised so that the lay-off-ees couldn’t congregate. The HR person who did my lay-off wouldn’t tell me who else was laid off, she would only give me a percentage of the overall work force. It wasn’t until I got home that I found out most of my group had been axed.

Lay=off #2 was a lay-off by sniper. While the company may have felt it was protecting itself, its remaining employees and the confidentiality of the laid-off employees, the whole process was really just a gigantic institutionalized slap in the face.

Lay-off #3 marked the end (at least thus far) of my permanent regular employment. Since then, I’ve worked on a freelance or a contract basis. It’s not such a bad life, although the erratic and unpredictable income aspect of it can be a little unsettling, especially now that Peter is also pursuing the be-your-own-boss good life.

I think I could get used to contract work though. Sure, I’m going to have to figure out a way to make my own provisions for a pension and health insurance. But I like the flexibility. I like the idea of working for a couple of months in a cubicle farm and then working for a couple of months on my own novels and articles. I like to think of myself as a slightly higher-tech and better-paid version of an itinerant farm labourer.

In the 21st century, job security doesn’t exist. Working as a contractor keeps me from falling into a sense of complacency. I’ll never get too comfortable but I’ll also never have to see the Layoff Fairy in the doorway of my cubicle either.


At 29 October 2005 at 02:37, Blogger Career Guy said...

The Lay Off Fairy? Does he look like the rotund, cigar chomping guy who does the voice over for the Mitsubishi radio commercials?


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