The company I work for has been threatening layoffs for the past year. We've been very fortunate not to go through any while many other companies in our business have. I've been preparing that whole time for the worst, knowing that my bosses have had plenty of problems with my work over the past few years even if I seem to be doing better. I've thought about how I'd react, where I'd look for work, whether I'd go back to school, whether I'd move home and even how I'd break the news here. If it was going to happen, I was not going to be caught with my pants down.
Word came Tuesday that the layoffs were beginning. A few people I'd worked with briefly lost their jobs, and that was upsetting enough. We thought the layoffs would be done by the end of the day, but because I work for such a large company with offices in many far-flung areas it took an extra day for bosses to reach all the people affected. On Wednesday afternoon I got a phone call from my boss, who said he was looking for my other boss to hold a conference call with me. I was in sheer terror in the hour or so it took boss one to find boss two.
As it turned out, I was not getting laid off. My job title was changing a smidge, which without getting into details, was a good thing and something I'd been wanting for a while. It was something that they'd been dangling over my head with the charge of 'do better work and you'll get this better job title.' It didn't really mean a change in responsibilities or extra money, just a source of pride and a more logical chain of command to report to. I was thrilled.
And then yesterday afternoon, boss one showed up in town, sent me home for the day and laid off my officemate. My only officemate. The boss sat there while officemate cleaned off his desk and the 20 years worth of stuff that had accumulated on it.
It's hard to convey just how big of a deal this is without the context of what I do, but it's a big f'ing deal. If the company bosses wanted to punctuate their layoffs with an exclamation point!, they did it. Officemate is the best at what he does. He has knowledge no one else has. He does the work of many people. Losing him means a glaring hole in the work my company provides. Never in my wildest thoughts of who all might be in danger of losing their job did I think that the company would ever get rid of my officemate.
I've lost my therapist, confidant and right hand. There are days during my slower season when he's the only person I see or talk to for eight hours on end. During my busy times, he helps me with my work. I try to help him with his, but usually have a hard time of understanding what he works with on a daily basis. And despite being a technology-savvy person, I can't ever work our phone system and always manage to break the fax machine. He always fixes it. He drove me crazy from time to time, but was still always the type of person I'd prefer to be confined with in a windowless office.
Not to mention this means a huge, huge change for my responsibilities -- one that I never saw coming. I am now a one-man band, left to do the work of about three or four people. I can barely keep my head above water as it is, and I certainly never wanted these additional responsibilities. I don't want to complain because, yeah, I have a job and I should be grateful. I'm grateful for the income for sure, but sometimes I resent it for what I and my colleagues across the country have to put up with to earn it.
I'm absolutely devastated for him. In not wanting to compare it to a death, I'll say it feels like a breakup. Like THE breakup. It ended without warning and has left a gaping hole. I'm sad, I'm angry, I'm lost. But like THE breakup, I'm amazed at the outpouring of support from friends and coworkers -- and I wasn't even the one who got laid off. He's the one that needs the support.
And since I always feel the need to make a point, my point is this: life can turn on an instant. And it will never turn the way you expect it to or plan for.