Sunday, 3 June 2012

How it feels to be made redundant

As they were taking you on, good times were rolling. Returns were high, risks were underestimated, salaries and bonuses were enviable. Then the housing bubble in the United States burst and fallouts flied even to Poland. The industry faced a slowdown and felt the pressure to economise. To make things worse, just before the outbreak of the crisis your company was about to fully merge with another one. Unfortunately, due to Competition watchdog’s objection, the takeover was only partly brought off, the buyer picked the best divisions and rest was put up for sale. It soon found a new owner; the sucker was ready to pay over the odds for the piece of shit which used to be one of the leading and most reputable players on the market.

The new owner introduced its principles and began to turn the business around, despite really adverse market conditions. Faced with the choice either to shape up and keep your mouth shut, or to ship out and begin to look for a new job, on the market flooded with supply of similarly profiled professionals. You soldiered on and they appreciated your effort. Soon you got promoted and received a pay rise, while over 10% of the staff were laid off during the first wave of employment restructuring. Then ensued the second wave of lay-offs. Several people around were fired, but this was not your problem. You held down the job and performed well, so you did not need to be afraid.

As the economic recovery begin to fade and sovereign crisis in Europe loomed more perilous, your company, despite everything, announced expansion plans. The whole market learnt who was going to be the growth leader, competitors looked with some disdain on your company and slowly began to downsize to retain profitability during economic slowdown.

Reality check came a few months later. There have been some mistakes regarding the strategy made, but executives found the scapegoats in those who had been fired some time earlier. Review of recent performance figures proved the growth strategy fizzled out (unless you define growth as shrinking). Time to bite the bullet has come…

Hearsay over the third wave of cutbacks had been heard long before, but the press release saying this would happen and unveiling details of the plan was issued during the trading session. Shares of you company soared at the news of cost-cutting plan, but retreated to pre-news level by the end of the day. After all investors and speculators know this boat is bound to sink.

Following the lay-off announcement and recent 10 PLN pay rises, motivation among the staff fell dramatically. Nobody felt what they were doing was making sense, the company was going nowhere. Instead, everyone began to fret over the imminent job loss and make fun of the under-performing business.

In a message to employees the executives promised people will be notified in advance of their redundancy, treated with dignity and will receive the proper support and a generous severance package.

As time went by, only the very last promise has not been gone back on. How your fateful day looked depended on your position.

If you were a rank and file, head of your department took you to a room where you also met your HR manager. They told to sit back and handed you an envelope containing all documents linked to job contract termination. They informed they were too many of you in the team and you were selected to continue your career outside this organisation. You could either agree on a conditions proposed by the company or leave with no severance package. So you agreed obediently and got informed by when you can still work and hand your duties over to another employee and sign up for a course “how to write a CV successfully” (you had not been on the market for over 10 years so you did not know or have forgotten how to do it).

If you were a manager, you the invitation for a meeting when they were giving you notice looked similar. Severance package also did, but managers were given a very short deadline by which they had to pack their stuff and go away. Usually it takes two days to close their duties and say goodbye to your colleagues, then you can take your due days off and are requested not to come to work at all. You are still paid and are not allowed to take up a new job with a competitor, but your employer clearly tells you they do not want to see your face any longer. Slap on the face slightly worse than 10 PLN pay rise.

You colleagues seem to sympathise with you, but deep down they are happy it is you, not them. After all they are no irreplaceable people, those who stay on will have it much worse since now. The company has to grow anyway, only labour force harnessed to propel the growth will be less numerous. This is not the tragedy, they will have to work even longer and harder, in other words, more efficiently. Touch luck…

While you are gone you realise you are out on the limb – nobody needs you, market is full of professionals like you, fired by other companies in the industry. Your severance package will help you scrape along and keep paying off your mortgage for a few months or even a year, if you decrease your standard of living. What then – who cares… Maybe on the occasion of the next wave of lay-offs, set to come next year, somebody will mention you and wonder how you are doing.

To make it clear, I have not been fired and I have been told I will not lose the job under restructuring programme this year. But next year opportunities may unfold, with a more generous severance package…

Any similarities between real companies and event are totally accidental. The story is an absolutely fictitious figment of my imagination…

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