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Burning questions

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I’ll cut to the highlight now, for those wondering: I’m safe at work. The layoffs are done in our group, and I was not among them.

It’s really easy to be critical of the whole process and the fact that no one really needed to be laid off. The company is making a profit, and the only reason they decided to eliminate 4-5% of their workforce is to “position themselves” to be competitive in the future. This makes sense, as much as you want it not to.

But in the end, of the nearly 100 people under my manager, 8 positions were cut, which, by simple math, tells you that the support end of IT got it’s butt handed to it big time.

Honestly, I’ve gotten used to it after being in the business for so long: we don’t earn money for companies. We just cost money and offer no easily demonstrable return on their investment…Except for the hours of constant uptime and productivity that nearly everyone in the company enjoys as a result of what we do. Oh yeah…Wait…

But it was one hell of a day: begun with an announcement that the departmental layoffs had begun and that there would be a final announcement later. Then, mid-morning, in the midst of the wind and horizontal rain outside, the fire alarm went off.

Heads bobbed over the cube walls, looking to one another as if to say “why now,” except in not the same pleasant way. But we dutifully made our way to the exits, most of us without jackets or umbrellas. Much of the conversation to the door was the same: “who’d plan a fire drill during a rain storm?”

It became clearer when we met at the appointed (and suprisingly well-marked rallying points in the parking lot): this wasn’t a drill. Something–or someone–had tripped the fire alarm.

I was very wet, so I slipped into the car. It was conveniently parked just feet from the rallying point, so technically, I was still with the group. A couple of coworkers joined me. And then we heard the sirens approaching from the distance.

A couple of fire trucks arrived and the firemen investigated the scene and apparently found nothing meriting their response. The all-clear sounded and we returned to whatever the rest of the workday was about to offer. In the end, it turned out that the heavy rain had made its way down a pipe or shaft from the roof into a wiring closet, where it shorted out one of the phone systems in the building, causing a small smoky fire that was quickly extinguished.

There’s a group of 40 people in the building still on that older phone system. Or I should say there WERE 40 people on that older system. One gets the sense that they’ll be getting upgraded like the rest of us as a result of this.

By mid-afternoon, when the “all clear” e-mail went out, the rumor mill had been in full force, and most of us who cared knew pretty well the extent of the cuts across different IT groups. Some were shocks: some were the kind of pleasant surprise that you feel guilty for smiling sheepishly at in your cube. There are some people leaving at the end of this week who volunteered to either retire or leave the company, and in one case, I’m very sorry to see her go, not only because I’ve worked with her frequently over the last three years, but also because she really truly wasn’t treated right, and because she’s the kind of worker every company should have.

Suddenly, it’s into fiscal year-end at the end of the week, and a sudden reminder to do performance evaluations and a note that we’re still on track for profit-sharing payments…Ugh. I’m not up to that today.

The stress of surviving isn’t as bad as the rest of the stress, but it’s still hard.

Thanks to all of you for the thoughts and wishes for me during this time. I appreciate them.

See you tomorrow.