They Laid Off 28 Employees From My Company (or How Your Job Is Not Safe)

You were meant to do great things in this world. Go out there and start doing it. If you never take the risk and jump, you’ll never know what it means to fully live. To fully experience a life worth living for.

Last month, I, along with everyone else, came into the office to find a company voicemail from the President and CEO announcing that just the previous day, the decision to lay off 28 folks was made. And not only was it made, it was executed immediately. In that, those 28 employees were given the pink slip and the following boot the exact same day.

No warning. No announcement. No nothing.

Just a few boxes to pack their stuff in and a standard severance package. Maybe a very brief and generic thank-you-for-everything.

This is yet another validation of the dire state we are in. The state of uncertainty, of how there is no such thing as a “safe and stable” job, and how we have relied on others (be it in corporations or people) for the assurance of our own happiness, comfort, and safety.

Let it be known, if you do not know already, that for the vast majority of folks who work in corporations, I know how you feel.

I know what it feels like to wake up bone-tired after not enough hours of sleep, with puffy bags under your eyes that no amount of washing or make up will cover up.

I know what it feels like to commute through rush hour traffic for sometimes up to 2 hours or more each way. Looking around at the sea of stormy faces in oversized SUVs, downing an extra large Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and wondering why the hell we are doing this to ourselves. Or while on the train, trying to stave off incredible drowsiness but finally lapsing into a miniature coma that only your muscle memory hey!-this-is-your-stop knows when to startle you awake.

I know what it feels like to rush into the office with a minute to spare, knowing that if you don’t turn on your computer right now and your boss walks by, that you’ll get a non-verbal assault that is his glare and a mental note that you were late to work – yet again. This will, of course, adversely affect your performance review and add more ammo to why you are unreliable as an employee. Never mind the countless hours you log in from home at night and on the weekends.

I know what it feels like to be forced to go to yet another pointless meeting, one in which you do not need to be in, let alone has no impact upon your capacity to do your job better or add positive value and contribution to this world. Another hour, two hours, half a day, or a whole day wasted. I’ve been to these meetings. Hundreds of them. Months of my life gone as a result, with nothing lasting to show for it.

I know what it feels like to be micro-managed to death, that you are not trusted as a capable, mature, responsible, and intelligent human being. That you, for a reason unbeknownst to you, need to be watched like a hawk, for fear that you’ll abuse your lunch hour and go for an extra 4 minutes longer than you should have. Or the reports you create on a weekly basis are inaccurate, full of mistakes and need to be quadruple-checked before being sent to a far-away, untouchable executive who will not only not read it (instead, having his secretary go through it), but will never offer acknowledgement or a simple thank-you-for-helping-me-do-my-job-better.

I know what it feels like to come home completely, utterly, and totally exhausted. You can’t even move an inch. Your brain is fried, your eyes are severely dry, and you have no energy to do anything. Not even to try and attempt to get yourself out of what is now your trough. You feel there is no hope. You feel no happiness. You feel no joy and fulfillment. You feel … nothing.

I know and I understand. All. Too. Well.

Depression Is Not Normal

My belief is that our lives were not meant to play out like some twisted cookie cutter version of a so-called “happy and normal” life. Because it is far from happy. And being depressed is not normal. No matter how common it is now. 14.8 million Americans suffering from depression is far from normal.

Whatever you are doing with your life right now, are you doing it willfully and of your own wanting? Or just because your parents expect you to? Or because you don’t know what else to do? Or because you think it sounds like a nice idea or looks good on paper? Or that is deemed respectable, realistic, and practical?

Titles mean nothing. Degrees and certifications, in the end, mean nothing. The 3-bedroom town house you live in means nothing. The brand name clothes you wear mean nothing.

What matters are your life experiences. The moments you absolutely feel and come alive. Those cherished and rare moments when you are truly happy to be in this world, the times you look around and see your loved ones happy and healthy, and that everything is just blissfully perfect the way it is.

The Pursuit of the Arts

The first time I told someone that I was a writer and an artist, I literally felt myself pause afterwards. Because it didn’t sound “normal.” All my life, I was told that pursuing the creative arts is a surefire way to starvation and inevitable failure as a human being. This. Is. Absolutely. Wrong.

Whoever started this insane and preposterous idea that the arts are just a casual hobby and not meant for “real” careers should be smacked. Hard.

I have heard from far too many people to count that the arts is no way to go and that a “real” career, something in the line of business, law, medicine, and health, is the only way to make a real living and provide any lasting impact upon the community and world at large.

As if the arts were something only selfish people with their heads in the clouds did. Far from it, folks. Far from it.

For instance, last month I was at a wedding and bumped into a former childhood friend of mine. I asked what she was up to these days. She said she is in Law school while her sister is in Med school. Both at Ivy-League universities and top-notch programs in the U.S. Then, it was my turn to spill out what I was doing.

Well, I’m quitting my corporate day job and pursuing writing and the arts,” I said.

Hm … sounds …  interesting,” she coolly said. From the tone and inclination of her response, it was in a way that looked down upon such endeavors. Thus, in effect, looked down upon me as a person. And this was coming from one of my peers. Now try and say that to the older generations in which radical change is far more difficult for some to comprehend and accept. Like your parents. Or your aunts and uncles. Or your grandparents. Sometimes, it is just not possible (because they believe it is not possible).

The belief that our well-being is safer in the hands of someone else (i.e., a corporation) is completely and utterly false. This is far more dangerous to give so much control to someone else, not knowing each day you come into work will be your last.

Oh, and guess what? No raise this year for the entire company. And they’ve cut out the holiday party. No promotions, a companywide hiring freeze, no raises, no perks, you now have to pay for coffee in the kitchen, no nothing. And one expects this to be a safe environment? I don’t think so.

Your Job Is Not Safe

I will tell you that right now if you do not know that already. Any day now, no matter how good of an employee you think you are (and most of us think we are excellent), can be your last.

If the company decides to outsource your entire department or to merge with another company during an acquisition and your position gets eliminated and replaced with a computer or a cheaper alternative (folks from India or China), what does it matter that you were voted Employee of the Month for 3 months in a row? What does it matter that you are a stealth PowerPoint presentation maker? What does it matter that you bring in the best homemade chocolate chip cookies during a colleague’s birthday celebration?

It simply does not matter. Your job – you – are expendable, when it comes to the company’s perspective. We are all liabilities. We are all expenses. Understand this, and don’t be surprised when something like a massive layoff hits.

It hit Walgreens 2 years ago with over 1,000 employees laid off companywide. It hit my company just last month with 3% of our employee count instantaneously gone. In a moment, your life can change.

Before something like a layoff happens, ensure you are living a worthwhile and remarkable life by not just adhering to the status quo and being in a job you a) dislike, b) is unfulfilling, and c) does not help you leave a lasting legacy behind.

You were meant to do great things in this world. You really are and I truly believe it. Go out there and start doing it. Realize your job is not safe and you only live once. If you never take the risk and jump, you’ll never know what it means to fully live. To fully experience a life worth living for.

I’m taking the jump. Will I see you on the other side?