Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Failure to Chuckle Results in Customary Punishment

The basic project now is just to do the next thing. I’m also using the technique of “noting,” quiet mental labels for events as they occur: “Opening the cat food can. Stirring the potato soup. Pouring soup into a bowl.”

I thought of what teacher Steve Armstrong said at the meditation retreat I attended last year: “All phenomena arise from causes and conditions over which we have little immediate control.” All I can do is plant positive seeds, for instance by doing metta practice, and take whatever constructive actions I can think of, and I can try not to indulge in frightening stories about the dismal future.

My soon-to-be ex-co-workers seem to be acting kind of strange. My manager hinted that their turns are coming soon, but I’m the only person to be “displaced” so far, and I think that if the tables were turned, I would be calling the soon-to-be-jobless person, asking how he or she was feeling and offering reassurance, but I’ve not heard a peep from my team lead (different from my manager), nor from my four peers, with one exception: Bill. He has totally been there, and I have a theory about that. His quest for romance is endless, meaning that he has been out with probably 500 women so far, which seems to have given him the hang of offering sympathy and kind words, bless his heart.

Over the years, I’ve been to several emergency meetings called with just a few minutes’ notice to announce that someone or other has been laid off, so I asked my manager if there would be such a meeting for me, but he said no, that his boss had suggested keeping it quiet, perhaps to avoid panicking others. Besides my particular tool going away, the company has significant “redundancy” due to a major merger in the past couple of years (not an unusual word for this business situation, but it always sounds odd to me when applied to human beings), so many have been and will be displaced. The lack of such a meeting felt a little strange, as if after being at this company for 13 years, it’s best if I now skulk out like a thief in the night, like someone who has done something wrong.

But there’s not much I can do about that, so I’ve been thinking about what else I might want or need before my last day at work, which will be toward the end of this month. I’m going to line up some references, to collect any contact info I’ll want in the future, and, because no one else in my group works in San Francisco, I’m going to ask if my own team can meet on the phone to say goodbye. I have two goodbye lunches scheduled with co-workers from groups where I worked in the past, and I’ve gotten a lot of warm, encouraging notes from various colleagues and managers from over the years.

One thing I haven’t been doing is spending much time wondering why me first and not someone else—those would be wasted minutes, per the following amusing anecdote. I used to sit next to a group at work containing a fellow who was absolutely at the top of his game. He knew every aspect of the job from top to bottom and was always happy to assist his colleagues.

In the same group were two longtime employees notorious for their incompetence. If one of them received an email asking him to process two red items on Wednesday, he could be counted on to process four green items on Monday. “He got three things wrong from just one sentence of instructions!” one of his co-workers once marveled to me.

When layoff time arrived, however, reckoning day came and the company seized the opportunity to rid itself of—the highly knowledgeable fellow, which drove home that there is no evident rhyme or reason to these things.

In any event, it’s not like anything would change even if there actually was a direct cause and I could somehow guess it: “You’re right! It’s because you didn’t laugh at my joke in the team meeting last week. Displacement canceled!”
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