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J D Smith

J D Smith
Birthday
December 20
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Married and in the heartland of the USA with little to say and nothing to say it with.

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MAY 9, 2012 6:30PM

Who's Hurt Next?

Rate: 11 Flag

 

“I’m just getting around and making sure that everybody here knows I’ll take a job; any job here. A demotion is fine if I can just find a way to stick.”

April tried to say this with a smile on her face, like it was a weather report and a tad bit of rain was in the forecast. She spoke with an air of confidence, as if attitude alone might well make all the difference in whether or not her last day with the company was actually Friday.

Attractive and always a very positive person, she seemed an unlikely target to get stuck in the crosshairs of corporate cost cutting. I admit she was not a people person, but it was hard not to like her anyway. There was something endearing about her that was hard to ignore. It may have been that she never backed down from a challenge; she never quit. Her work stood out from her peers. She was always trendy in dress and worked hard to be tasteful at the same time. She played fair with all her peers.

Yet here she was nearly out of days and so close to being unemployed. It seemed so strange to me to think that she could have been chosen. You don’t think of April and think of “let her go” in the same breath. It had a strange “Twilight Zone” feel to it, as if not quite real.

 

   Sadly, this is a conversation I hear all too often where I work, and this was hitting pretty close to home for me. I’ve known April for literally 20 years with two different companies. While we were never close friends, we shared a common denominator in trying to survive and stay employed while not moving out of town to do it. We’d made it this far, but we could see that for at least one of us, the trail had ended.  

April is not the last.

Over time, “one person here and one friend there” continue to make the rounds of their networking companions in the company, seeking hope in an environment where hope is scarce. You can almost see it in the faces; the false smiles and the avoidance of eye contact; the brave fronts put on about how “all is ok and that options really are available,”…even when we all know they are slim at best.  

Because there is no easily discernible pattern to the layoffs, the working environment has become something akin to a death march. One never knows when they will see somebody they care about carrying cardboard boxes with their family pictures and other remembrances of a job that simply evaporated one day. There was nobody to get mad at; nobody to blame. They was blameless random numbers in the cost cutting strategy.  

“Honestly, JD. I would gladly accept any offer. Can you make sure everybody hears that? And can you keep an eye out for me after I leave here Friday? Tell everybody I love them and that I will be back.”

 

This last part was spoken first with a slightly defiant lift of the chin, and then the tears start gushing; hers and mine. It felt like somebody talking about the number of days they have left to live, and looking to you to save their life. There was nothing I could say to offer hope of a job here, and we both knew it, but I offer that false hope anyway and tell her that surely something will pop up, and that she is so good at what she does, and that the whole company knows it.

And then I offer almost the expected “I just don’t get why they are doing this to you.” 

 

Of course, we both know why. The face of recession had hit and (for some businesses) started to lift, but was not letting up in OUR business. It strangles each of us who work there each and every day, cutting off the air and making us stupid with worry. We both also knew that I may be next. The big R knows no friends, just victims. 

 

She looks me right in the eye, tears still welling down her face, and smiles a brave smile.

“You remember all the things we’ve been through together? You remember the time at the old company that we blasted each other in a meeting, and still felt like we could grab beers afterwards?”

I said I did.

“I wish we could do that again someday. I wish we could just trade punch after punch in a meeting, and then laugh about it over beers at the Velvet Dog afterwards.”

 

Well crap! 

There was no stopping the tears for either of us this time. It is as if a dam burst, and we both let the water flow.

 

 

 They were tears about April of course, but there was something deeper here too. There were tears for a profound loss of the basic core of who we thought ourselves to be. We were valuable; we mattered; we hung in there through all the mergers and layoffs and mini-recessions of the past, and still we worked and survived. Now, there was no foundation to stand on; nothing that we could share and know that we were truly ok, and we were both scared.  

 

A final hug; an unexpected kiss on the cheek that really was about us and not networking, and she walked off to do it again with another friend in the company.

 I prayed for a miracle.

Come that Friday, there was no miracle.

I suspect she walked out for good; head held high and smiling on the outside. She emails from time to time, hoping I have some news, and letting me know how tough it is to even get an interview in her job hunt. I share tidbits with her from inside the company, knowing that the odds are non-existent.

 I also know that I may be doing all the same things at any time. There is no escaping that thought, as those of us who are still hanging on wrangle with the guilt of being glad it was not us.  

Where I work, there were and will be many like April, and sadly, many more April showers in the form of tears.

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Into the feed.
I miss April.
Tough times, JD. I am sorry.
"She emails from time to time, hoping I have some news, and letting me know how tough it is to even get an interview in her job hunt."

~nodding~ Same here. Last night, I spent three hours taking some tests in hope in getting an "Assistant" position. "Are you cheerful?"

ON THE INSIDE!!!

":(

Rated!!!
Katie...there are times I think we are going down...not so sure.

Tink : April is up against it...and I know you are too. Sorry for all the pain.
I hope not, JD ... I hope not.
I bet you do miss her....an excellent piece on the working world today...it can be so heart wrenching, it's like they take a piece of your history from you.....Good job JD ---
MH : Thanks friend. Yeah...it can be tough...but of course...at least I still work. Many on this site want to but can't.
Looking for a job is humiliating enough; looking for a job where there are no jobs is unimaginable suffering. Hail greedy capitalism. What a powerful piece, J D; so relevant. R
You write so well of things that are not so...well...well.
Thoth : Greedy yes...but survival too. Not all companies do, and it is certainly NOT always about greed.

mhold : How I have missed you here, my friend.
It's not just a job she's losing; it's also a big part of her identity. Yet, sometimes, just sometimes, this sort of crisis can provoke a totally unexpected outcome. I hope that will be case with your co-worker.
oh god this was painful to read, jd. i am sorry for april and sorry for you. in some small small way, my mixed bag of efforts and lack of success (GOD i love that sentence!) make this time of recession easier for me. actually, i think we are in a depression, whether they admit it or not, or figured out a newfangled way to cook the books or not, but the thing i am meaning to say is, *I* can say i struggle cause i made a whole ton of poor choices.

all the people out there who made GREAT choices and did all the right things and they are STILL in my boat? i would find that infinitely more galling.

i am sorry for april. and hope your job holds.

and thank you for making such a vivid statement about this new reality.
So sorry for April. What is even worse is that this is just one of many, many, many such stories out there in this new land, wrought hard by the Great Recession.
Hugs to you. And to April.
John : "Identity" is exactly it. We ALL probably define ourselves at least a little bit by the job we have.

dj : Thanks so much! It is tough, and she is struggling now.

Mary : "The Great Recession" is a very apt title.

midwest muse : Back at you, my friend.
Sad told tale of the woe everyone is coming to know so well JD.
Everybody's hurt.
Mission : So true!
Very sad, JD. I'm sorry. :(
UB : Thanks so much!