Dodging Bullets Like Keanu Reeves

I like where I work, overall. I respect and like the CEO of my company, and I have almost no problems with any of my co-workers. Other than the typically dim-witted and short-sighted middle-managers, I really couldn’t pick a better bunch of people to work with… which is why some of this bothers me so much.

This month marks my fourth year at this company; an internet company which primarily serves the automotive industry. The first two years were great – I nearly doubled my salary thanks to several raises, and I went from a position in our Production department to a more challenging (and satisfying) position as a Designer. The company quadrupled its employees in that time, moved into a new building, and expanded its clientele and its product offerings. Things were better than good, they were bloody great.

About a year and a half ago, the company announced its first layoffs… a lot of them. Coupled with that, those who remained all took a pay cut. Several people I knew pretty well were laid off, people who I respected, talented people who were good workers. Many of them had been there almost as long as I had. I remember telling my wife, after it had happened, that I felt like I had dodged a bullet, but that dodging it meant that it hit my friend. I didn’t even know how I dodged it. I didn’t like the feeling I was left with, even though I was glad to still have a job.

There have been other, smaller, layoffs since. A few people here, a few people there. Sometimes people I knew, usually not. The climate of the company changed that day, from a fun place to work to a “corporate” office.

Then, just over two months ago, I’m taken into a room by my bosses and told that my position in Design had been eliminated. The bottom dropped out of my stomach dropped out as I realized what they were saying: I was out of a job. Sort of. It wasn’t a performance issue, it was an issue of too little new business coming in and me being the most expendable member of the team. It was in issue of headcount. I could even agree with it, framed that way. <y jobs on the team were always sort of on the fringe of the mainstream work. Turns out, however, that nobody there wanted to lose me, even if my position was gone. Even the CEO was asking after me (I told you I liked him). They were able to offer me a new position, doing essentially what I used to do when I first worked there, with only a minor cut in pay. Or I could leave the company with a substantial severance package. Having watched many of my friends search fruitlessly for jobs for several months, I decided not to try my luck in the unstable job market and took the position. Slightly wounded, but still standing.

A couple weeks later, in one of the most short-sighted decisions I’ve ever seen there, two other Designers were let go. They were both more talented and more critical than I was. Their loss affects the department, the company, and the pool of available talent at our little company. And worse, they were friends of mine. Another bullet narrowly dodged.

My new position is supposed to be one of the most secure in the company… we’ll always need people to maintain websites, right? Think again. Today, along with several others throughout the company, one of my new co-workers, the one who sits in the cubicle right across from mine, was laid off. Despite the fact that I was by far the newest in the department, he was let go and at the end of the day, I remain. I’m still not sure how that happened. I looked over his cubicle (most of his stuff still arrayed over the sesk and walls), and my heart was breaking. He has kids like I do. He was a good worker. Another shot fired, somehow missing me, somehow hitting someone else.

I hate this. I’m glad I still have a job, especially in this job market and economy, but I hate this. I hate seeing hardworking friends and colleagues driven out of work, just because the company can’t afford to keep them employed any more. I hate hearing, over and over, “This time it’s over,” and “That’s the last of it,” when there’s always more on the horizon. I hate the fucking internet companies that squandered their money on stupid ideas, and wrecked the market for good companies with good leadership; companies that shouldn’t just be surviving, but thriving. I hate Enron and WorldCom for tanking consumer trust. I hate seeing empty desks where people I know used to sit, I hate trying to call or e-mail someone only to find out they were let go weeks ago. I hate the secretive, underhanded way that layoffs tend to happen, with no warning and no communication as to why. I still feel that this company is going to be one of the ones that survives the internet bubble, but at a terrible cost.

I hate feeling like I’m in World War I, waiting in a trench as a hailstorm of bullets flies overhead and takes out my fellows all around me. I can’t help but feel that, if bullets keep flying, there’s going to be a time when all my luck runs out and I’ll be fatally hit. Selfishly, I hate that feeling.

Not much of a rant, I know… more of a lament for the early days of my time at this company, before the bullets started to fly.

It seems obvious to me that you are underestimating yourself. You didn’t dodge anything, they chose to not shoot at you. Your management seems able to say “this person stays” even if the position they are in doesn’t. They chose you because they believe you are the cream of the crop.

That said, it still does suck. I was brought into my department as they were laying someone off. Rather weird situation, and thankfully I didn’t personally know the guy so it didn’t affect me so much.

I know the feeling well. Big corporation. Lot’s of layoffs. Somehow I’ve been spared by them all so far, when far better workers than me have been hit. Dodged one today in fact.

This may seem geeky, but there’s a card from the game Magic: The Gathering that has a perfect picture for how I feel about it. Since the official website is blocked from work, here’s the best pic I can find. (It’s the one on the bottom, not the two goblins on the top.)

I want to get a poster of that one made and put it up in my office.

Thanks for the confidence-booster, Cheesesteak. It is appreciated, and my friends here have said pretty much the same thing. I guess it’s just hard for me to swallow when those I feel are the cream of the crop are let go. But I do appreciate the sentiment.

Thanks pretty close to what happened to me, except I was given about a month to get to know the guy who was let go yesterday. I’m also concerned that other members of the team (all of whom have been here longer than I, and who knew the other guy well) will resent the fact that “the new guy” (me) wasn’t laid off instead. It’s a strange feeling… I’ve been at the company for four years, but am still new in my department. I’m not sure where I stand, I guess.

gonzoron, geeky or not, that’s an incredibly fitting image for how I’m feeling lately. If you get a poster made, let me know… I want one too.

Shit. Shit-shit-shit.

“Collapsing Borders” indeed… I just learned that part of yesterday’s layoff included four layoffs in Design and one in Production. All people I knew and had worked with often, most of whom I also consider friends. One of them is even a woman who’s in her sixth month of pregnancy! Is nobody safe?

The pregnant woman baffles me the most… not just because she’s pregnant, but because she is essentially the organizational hub of one of our most prominent outward-facing products: the website designs that many of our customers use for their sites. She took charge of that team about two years ago, and she made a slipshod, poorly-organized effort into a tight team with excellent organization. In a sea of changing positions and shifting roles, she’s been a fucking rock for two years. Always friendly, always willing to help, and always on top of things, she made that team what it is. And what do they do? They dump her. She’s taking it remarkably well (I’m not surprised), but it’s clear that she’s as shocked as I am.

Yeah, let’s just shoot ourselves in the face with a sawed-off 12-gauge, shall we? Good fucking call, assholes.

I’m not just confused anymore, now I’m pissed. Not only are they making stupid decisions in their layoffs, but they’re handling it in a very clandestine way. Another co-worker described it as the “tap-you-on-the-shoulder” method… they walk up behind you, quietly tap you on the shoulder. You’re out. Nobody else knows until it’s too damn late. At least our first layoffs were all above-board, and we were told why they were happening as they happened. That round of layoffs was far from enjoyable, but it was preferable to this cloak-and-dagger shit, where anything we learn is through the grapevine, and no communication is coming to us from On High.

This shit is pissing me off now. It might be time to get serious about looking for another job… just to be ready. They might want to keep me, but if this is how they’re going to treat stable, talented, hardworking employees, I don’t know if I want to stay.


I’ve got a similar story… check this one out:
For reasons that are complicated, I’m based in the US, but unofficially part of a France-based team. Last year, my team is wrapping up a project and ready to move onto another one. The UK team is working on a big project and could use our help, so everyone assumes that the French team will be brought in to assist.

I get a call on a Wednesday, telling me that the UK team is being laid off on Friday, and I need to be in England Monday to spend a week with them taking over their project. (Due to UK labor (labour?) laws they had to stay for a week after being notified.)

In this case, I did know the guys personally since I’d worked with them before. Very uncomfortable situation. Here comes this young, inexperienced American with his French friends to take our jobs away. (No one actually said that, but I can imagine soemthing like it went through their minds. The UK and French teams occaisionally had some friction, as did the UK and US teams)

Ugh… the whole situation is sickening. I was glad to still have a job of course, but felt real guilty about taking it away from good people.

In other news, I found out the the collapsing borders artist has a website, where you can order prints, but it’s pricey ($20 for an 8x10). There’s no way you could make a poster from scanning the card, it’s just too small to blow up well. Oh well…

Get out now. The company sounds like it’s in a death spiral. They’re running out of cash and they can’t make payroll so they lay people off, making it that much harder to do the work that will bring cash in in the first place.

Call a recruiter today. It’ll be easier to find another job if you’re still working at your current one than if you wait to be laid off.

Dude, start looking for a new job and start looking hard. The company is bleeding employees left and right, and you need to be prepared in case you finally get tapped on the shoulder, or in case you have the luxury of expressing your solidarity with your former colleagues by leaving the company that treats them so badly.

When you’re ready, you won’t have to.

Avalonian, four years ago, I was laid off in the 5th round of layoffs. I worked in a manufacturing plant, and I saw presses being taken off the plant floor. Ironically, I knew the date of every layoff except my own, and it was eerie walking around on those days, wondering who you wouldn’t see. After about the third round, in addition to my usual data entry and coding work, I was responsible for inspecting incoming coils of copper and inspecting any which showed defects mid-run. I also remember running into the plant manager late in the afternoon of the first layoff and hearing him say, “I was looking for you!” Since all the layoffs had taken place during the first hour of the shift, I was pretty sure I was safe, so I looked at him and said, “That’s a hell of a thing to say to a person.” It turned out he just wanted some help with a spreadsheet or something. Anyway, I’ve been where you are, with the bullets whistling all round and seeing good people lose their jobs.

I agree with other people who say it looks like the company’s in trouble, but I’m afraid the IT market isn’t so hot these days either. Good luck, and keep your head down!:wink:


Avalonian- for some reason I almost think you might work for the same company I used to work for (Big E in a blue circle? Founded by a former large eared politician?).

If this is the case, I have just a little bit of advice for you… run as fast as you can, and make sure you’re resume is up to date.

The company I used to work for (assuming it’s not the same one as you are working for now) used to really care about it’s people. But now the human factor is being ignored in the quest to make a profit… normally something I would just accept, but they are doing some things that are downright dirty.

It’s possible that you are still around because you are making less than the people who were axed. When I was let go, I was considered by many to be one of the most well trained people in my area, and vital to the success of the group. I was cut, leaving behind a lot of half trained people.

They’ve paid for it, and are continuing to pay for it, but it’s still pretty upsetting to see happen.

Good luck.