It was the first roll call your organization has ever had. As you’re at the coffee machine preparing your morning wake-me-up cup of coffee, you hear your name announced a little too loudly over the paging system to please come to the conference room. As you run back to your cubicle to retrieve a pad and pencil in preparation for an impromptu meeting, another coworker is leaving the conference room carrying a thick white envelope with the word “confidential” emblazoned across it in typed red caps, and with what can only be described as a smirk on her face. Then, almost immediately, realization slams into you like a ton of bricks. OMG, you’re being fired! Oh, it doesn’t matter what the technical term for it is called — a layoff, a reduction in force (RIF), or a reorganization. The bottom line and the only thing that matters are that you are one of the chosen ones.
As you trudge toward the conference room, your work history literally flashes before your eyes. You’ve given your employer years and years of loyalty, hard work and effort, and commitment, not to mention blood, sweat, and tears. You missed family functions. You worked weekends. You worked while ill. You’re not a doctor but you were always on duty — your iPhone was constantly ringing with “supposedly” important calls that god-forbid one should go to voicemail. Your iPad was always buzzing, signaling a continuous stream of incoming emails that just beckoned to be read at that very moment. Damn Apple© for inventing these addictive devices that now you just can’t function without.
Your heart is pounding as you enter the conference room. Once the so-called “we have to let you go” rehearsed layoff spiel wears off, you have to admit to yourself that you had a tiny inkling this could possibly happen. The signs were there like a blinking neon light. The organization was steadily losing revenues. There had been previous layoffs (although handled differently). Employees were overworked almost to the point of abuse (i.e., no work-life balance). It had been three years since employees had received a pay increase (not even a cost-of-living adjustment). The list goes on and on, which only makes you mad at yourself. You can’t believe you didn’t heed all those warning signs.
However, you do come to your senses and focus. Initially, you are stunned when you first hear the words. Your thoughts are racing wildly. You experience a bundle of mixed feelings — anger, bewilderment, detachment. And, you are consciously aware that the bearer of such news is watching you closely, monitoring your reactions, ready to sprint into action just in case you have an apocalyptic moment. But, wondrously, a peaceful calm surrounds and envelopes you.
On the way back to your cubicle with your white envelope in hand – as you hear the name of another coworker being paged — you are questioning yourself, your skills, anything, and everything. And, a barely perceptible smirk crosses your face as you and your coworker pass each other like ships passing in the night. Then miraculously, a light bulb goes off. You realize you are one of the chosen ones.
As you pass cubicle after cubicle, you see the chosen ones crying and laughing with tears of joy and relief, and groans from those who are left behind. The chosen ones are thanking their lucky stars that they are being released from bondage; and those who unfortunately remain realize once again that their already oppressive workload will increase exponentially.
So, remember, in a layoff where the double-edged sword strikes, the laid-off employees may be truly the chosen ones.