Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I've been working like a dog

I'll be the first to admit that I have been very, very lucky when it comes to my career. In my entire work history, teenage and adult, I've only had one job that I didn't like. Sure, every now and again I'd get an annoying co-worker but, the vast majority of the time, I've worked for great companies with great people. It's actually kind of stunted my career, I think, because I never want to move onward and upward and leave my current great job.

I started one of these great jobs right after I got married and moved to Sacramento. I considered it my first "real" job. I had a monthly salary, good benefits, and a big office. I was originally hired to be an assistant to the president and another executive but soon I was operating in a de facto "office manager" role. I handled all the out-of-the-ordinary problems. I developed more efficient ways of doing things. I tackled the big, ugly projects that no one else wanted or had time for. I dabbled in HR, employee training, accounting, event planning, and budgeting. I was versatile, resourceful, and responsible. (I realize every sentence in this paragraph starts with "I.")

So, of course, they fired me. The use of the word "fired" would draw a collective gasp from the people who made the decision to fire me. Technically, I was "laid off." When one of our major clients decided he would be better off managing his own properties, it took a big bite out of our company profits and suddenly we were overstaffed. Someone had to go. That someone was me.

I understand how they reached that conclusion. Even after 3 years, I was still the last person they had hired. My actual assigned job duties were few because I'd been functioning as a problem-solver for so long. I could see how they might decide that a full-time office manager was a waste of money.

They were gracious about it. They wrote a glowing letter of recommendation. They tried to help me find another job in the industry. They paid me a two-week severance. (Although, the last guy that got fired for actual wrongdoing was given a whole month of severance pay.) They expressed appreciation for all I had done for the company. They didn't want me to think I wasn't a valuable employee.

Just not valuable enough to not fire.

I kept on a happy face through my final day. I told them I understood. I told them it was probably for the best. I assured them that my family would be fine and I wouldn't have a problem finding another job.

I had lunch with a former co-worker a few weeks after my last day with the company. She told me that the woman who was assigned to handle a small portion of my former duties was totally inadequate for the work. Not that the workload was too much, but that she just didn't have the skills. "She wrote a letter for me, and it looked like something a forth-grader would churn out." My former co-worker said she thought a big mistake had been made when they decided to fire me and she thought they were going to realize it shortly.

I had a smug sense of satisfaction thinking about the company limping along, wishing they had not fired their capable and resourceful office manager.

That was 4 years ago.

The other day, I ran into someone I knew from when I worked at the company. "How's everyone at My Former Company?" I asked, knowing him to be just clueless enough to give me the honest truth. I expected a tale of the rough struggles they'd been through with the bad economy and housing market.

"Great!" he declared. "They have so many more properties than they did when you worked there. You'd be surprised. Business is great. It's keeping everyone really busy."

"Huh. That's good for them, I guess."

"Yeah. Mike (the president) just moved into a big new house."

"Really? He moved into a big new house right after I started working there."

"This one's even bigger! You should see it! It's totally awesome!" blah blah blah

There was more conversation but I didn't care. Apparently, My Former Company is doing great without me. Bully for them.

This is totally petty, I know, but here's my gripe with My Former Company:

As office manager, at the request of the owner, I planned dozens of "Bon Voyage" parties for departing staff members. Some were long-time employees but leaving under less-than-amicable conditions. Some were short-timers who were leaving because they were incompetent and hard to get along with. No matter what the circumstances, there was a card and a cake, and everyone was invited to come and express their appreciation for a job well done.

For my departure, at five minutes to noon, someone said, "Hey, it's Andrea's last day. We'd probably better go out to lunch or something." Three staff members (those who hadn't already left for lunch) and I walked to the Mexican restaurant next door and had a burrito.

I even had to pay for my own lunch.

1 comment:

Shauna said...

Had anyone ever been "laid off" before due to economic hardship of the company? Maybe they thought that a cake and a card was too big a bit out of the budget considering that they were already having to let go of staffers to SURVIVE.

Even still, I think that your final act as office manager should have been to throw yourself a kickass going away party.

Two weeks isn't much actually. We fired a girl once because she was COMPLETELY incompetent but they felt bad because it was right before Christmas, so they gave her 3 months of severence out of guilt. I think you should come work for me. I'm a great boss. Just ask Brett.