Sunday, September 05, 2010

A brief interlude during unsettling times

It has been an unsettling couple of months at my place of employment. My company’s success is dependent on the construction industry which has been decimated by the recession. Last year, two separate rounds of pay-cuts, layoffs and expense reductions were implemented. I wrote about them here and here. Our company’s 2010 budget was prepared with the anticipation of Obama’s stimulus monies kicking in mid-year; just in time to pull us out of this recession. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Two months ago, after draining the company’s life insurance policies of all eligible borrowings I asked my boss, “What is plan B?” I thought he was holding back when he said, “There isn’t one.”

He wasn’t holding back. There wasn't a plan B. Instead I’ve had to endure two months of meetings in which every possible scenario has been tossed around. I never would have anticipated how political and dysfunctional this process would become. Managers and employees alike are pouting; pointing fingers, saying things like, “I’ll fire so & so if you get rid of Bob.” “I’ll get rid of Bob if you reduce Susie’s hours she can’t possibly have anything to do.” “I can’t reduce Susie’s hours she is a single mom” (plus she is my girlfriend)… Then there is Mary the receptionist who refuses to answer the phone when Susie is at her desk because she doesn’t think she has to and on and on and on….

Thursday, I was told I needed to eliminate a position in my department. I had until the Tuesday after Labor Day to decide who. I and my boss would be responsible for doing this person’s work. (While I was on vacation in early August our HR manager the FOB (friend of the boss) took my place in these meetings and I haven’t been invited back). I flat out refused. I offered to reduce everyone’s hours to 32, but no way am I eliminating another position. This is ridiculous all three of the employees in my department are busy. Despite sales being down, payroll checks still need to be issued, cash and sales need to be posted and bills need to be paid not to mention the hundreds of collection calls we need to respond to each week.

I started a job search…but I’m not too hopeful. My friend Jess says it will be impossible to find a new job in this economy. Last week, I sent out two resumes. One turned out to be a scam. The other is looking for someone with five years of public accounting experience which I don’t have, so I probably don’t have much of a chance. The other interesting jobs I’ve seen are for contract positions. Next week I’m meeting with a recruiter. Jess has advice on this as well, “Good Luck! I met with him years ago and the only thing he did for me was make me feel small. He said things like, “I see you don’t have this and I see you don’t have that.”

Friday morning I was up early feeling guilty for refusing to let an employee go. I started thinking maybe I should reconsider. Plus, I knew our HR manager was firing (not laying off actually firing) someone on Friday; a six year employee who has repeatedly been warned about his sloppy paperwork. He has a wife who doesn’t work; a one year old and a baby on the way. In addition, he incurred an enormous amount of medical debt when a daughter who didn’t make it was born premature two years ago. I couldn’t help thinking do they have to. I’m not familiar with this employee’s work, but I can’t imagine it is so terrible they have to fire him. And why didn’t he try to improve.

Then while driving in I heard this song on the radio: Michael Franti’s, “Sound of Sunshine” and for a moment, one brief moment, I experienced an interlude from all the drama. Enjoy:


  1. Wow, that sounds really terrible. I can't imagine being put in that kind of a position. Luckily for me I'm still too junior to have any sort of a managerial position other than over undergraduates.

    Good luck with the job search! I hope you find something great.

  2. A couple of thoughts.

    First, about the guy who was fired. If he has been warned repeatedly that he is not doing a part of his job... he has made a decision to NOT do that part of the job. As sad as it is to let someone go who has the sort of problems that he has, HE made the decision not to shape up.

    The reverse could be said about the receptionist. If she is not answering the phone at certain time, perhaps a serious talk is in order because SHE is CHOOSING not to do her job and perhaps making herself a candidate for layoff.

    And finally, looking can never hurt. If you don't like the recruiter - find another one. Are there women recruiters in your area. Sometimes you will find that one professional woman values the skills and experience of another professional woman, where unfortunately some men don't really value us.

    It is a terrible time to be looking for a job, but there are jobs out there and it sounds to me like you have the sorts of skills that are transferable. Good luck!!

  3. Nicole,
    I’ve thought about looking for a financial analyst or some other non-managerial job this go round, but my mentor Laura feels that would be a mistake plus most large companies won’t consider me for a financial analyst position with my managerial background. They will assume I’m overqualified plus there are hundreds of twenty and thirty-something’s applying for those same jobs.

    I think my company which is family owned has always been a little dysfunctional, but now that we’ve gone into survival mode the dysfunction has grown into a hellish nightmare. The problem is we are already as lean as we can go and any position that is eliminated completely will be felt throughout the organization. My boss is the one who decided I should eliminate someone. They were discussing eliminating the IT Manager’s position and giving those duties to my boss. He feels he is no longer qualified to perform IT, so he offered up an accounting person thinking it would be easier for him the CFO to work 60 hours a week posting cash than working on our server. I understand where he is coming from, but will posting cash really be a good use of his time.

    I truly believe if I find the right company, a management position will not be this bad.

  4. Webb,
    You are correct. Andy, the guy who was fired, most likely made it six years despite sloppy work because management did sympathize with his family situation. With upper management scrutinizing every position they could no longer give him a break. And really what was he thinking I still don’t understand why he didn’t try to improve.

    Mary is one of the employees they are fighting over. Half the team wants to eliminate a position and give her the additional work the other half wants to reduce her hours. I’ve talked to both her and her boss about her obsession with what Susie is doing, but it hasn’t helped. Mary doesn’t get it. By obsessing over Susie she is jeopardizing her own job.

    And lastly looking for a woman recruiter is a great idea. I met a gal at my professional organization last year that may be helpful. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. Good luck! It sounds like horrible situation in which to work. I agree that the gentleman who was fired most likely deserved to be fired. A manager has to make such decisions based on the work done, not on what is occurring at home. The receptionist sounds like a similar situation. She is being paid to do a job and needs to do it. This day and age is not a time to be slacking off because people are looking for reasons to save money.

    As for you, good luck with the job search!! I agree that you should not settle for a recruiter that treats you like dirt. Remember, you are hiring them to help you find a job. Any opinions they may have about your resume should be kept to himself or herself as they try to find you a job.