I came into work today at eight o'clock in the morning. The first shift actually begins at seven, and, typically by the time I arrive, the lab is already fully active--well, as active as it can be with business so slow of late. This morning, however, I came in surprised to find everyone just standing around looking nervous, instead of staring down their scopes as usual. As it turned out, nobody was working because management had put a freeze on business since the day began. I checked my interoffice e-mail and was greeted with a cryptic message instructing all staff to attend a mandatory meeting scheduled an hour from my arrival.
People all around me were tossing around theories as to what the meeting concerned, but, whatever the news was, it had to be bad for them to stop us working for a full two hours. As the moment arrived, the entire lab filled into one wing, while the president and CEO herself, whom I had never seen before in my nearly two years working there, took center stage to deliver the somber news.
The economic downturn had hit us hard and hit us fast. Just two months ago, we had been so swamped that management was considering instituting mandatory overtime. Now, there was so little work to go around that the company could no longer justify the expense of paying us all. Therefore, we would be seeing a 10 percent reduction in the workforce across all departments. Those being cut would be informed via e-mail, and work would not begin until the matter had been completely taken care of.
Half an hour passed while we all stared anxiously at our inboxes. I still had yet to receive any message, when one man stood up, put his jacket on, and headed out the door. A few others then rose and were met with hugs and tears. I clicked the "Send/Receive" button on my Outlook to make sure I wasn't missing something. Evidently, only those being laid off had been sent e-mails, and I was not among that 10 percent. This was maybe the worst possible outcome.
The truth was that I had already planned to get out of there after this year. It would have been quite a bonus actually to get out early and receive two free months fully-paid, with severance pay and unemployment after that.
Putting things in perspective, 10 percent translated to a relatively small number, and, cruel though it is to say so, I don't suppose they needed too complex a formula to determine who would go. Still, a part of me is baffled that they should have cut needy single mothers and virtual fixtures of five years' service, while choosing to invest in someone who has never volunteered for overtime, has never shown any real enthusiasm for the industry, and seemingly has no attachments whatsoever to the place. Now, I suppose I'm obligated to work through February, lest I come off as a self-centered ingrate. On the other hand, this is just the first round, and, while management hopes it's the last, things could get a lot worse before they get better.