Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Again? Really?!

Last week, another guy was laid off--another 50-something architect guy. It was Winston, with whom I worked with on a job interview as well as working on Pomme de Terre for a while. He had been working with Liz recently on some small collegiate projects (Liz, also of Pomme de Terre fame), so I asked her if he was laid off or leaving of his own accord. 'Twas the former, she said: "It seems like if you're not fully busy these days," she said, "you're gone. They're not waiting for the work to come back for you to do it, you're just...gone." She also noticed that every time someone is laid off, they're called into a conference room by a partner for whom they don't work. I'm asking my WAD readers: is that standard procedure? Wouldn't you rather be laid off by the people you actually work for? I would. I want them to look me in the eye. If there's a good reason to let me go, then look me in the eye and level with me. Not being the one to hand me my severance check and say "it's been great, nothing personal" when you're the one for whom I've worked for nearly ten years...that just seems chicken to me.

What I'm noticing myself is that the older employees seem to take getting laid off much better than younger staff. Younger staff are more bitter and leave without a word (or with a few choice angry words), while the older staff are the ones who send out the email to the office (or select folks in the office) that says "hey, it's been great to work with you all, take care and keep in touch." I suppose it's not surprising; older workers have likely been laid off before, so they're less likely to take personal offense to being let go, especially during a recession. If I become one of those people called into a conference room, I hope I can comport myself with grace. Design Associates is the only job I've had since grad school, so I really only have one source for references. Even if I'm furious, there's no place for being vindictive, especially since they've kept me for this long. If I get laid off at this point, it's pretty much not personal.


paul mitchell said...

I have never had to "lay-off" someone, so I cannot speak to that. I have fired plenty and I always do it myself because while that person might not be right for the position they are currently in, they usually have value. Usually. I like to let them know what I think they need to strengthen in their tool bag.

I have had to fire one guy with whom I did not work at all. I simply told him that he was too expensive for the position that he was employed. Pretty painless. Come to find out that he was also the father of my son's uncle's wife, which I did not realize. (That makes sense to me, really, read it again, you'll see it.)

Our profession lost more jobs per capita than any other professional field in 2008-2009. Engineering was second. It is certainly going to accelerate this year, because if you haven't noticed, there are very few jobs in the pipeline. There are virtually no private sector jobs going online in this country at all. Keep your eyes open.

Patrick said...

When I was laid off, I was called into the conference room by the partner I knew best actually. Though it being a smallish firm (25) I knew all the partners. But I took it really well when they said it had nothing to do with me or my performance, just no work going around. However I do believe you're right about the age factor, younger employees tend to take it pretty hard. The woman who sat next to me had been with them for 5 years and she just teared up and walked out.

And as important as it is to be polite and gracious when being fired, you're still getting fired so I hope managers learn to handle this situation with grace as well and understand that a person's career with the firm shouldn't be tainted by one emotional moment that they initiated. Both side have to extended a little grace for the other.

BaxtersMum said...

ha. I was laid off by my supervisor's supervisor. He was a dick to begin with. And he was an ass about the whole thing - but he would have been worse had there not been an HR person I had never seen there. The HR person served as the "distant objective source of information."

I admit, I cried. But I had already written my good bye email that weekend (because I suspected it was coming) and sent it off once I got the news. I made a hard effort to be hopeful and forward thinking.

I wanted to leave quickly, without seeing people because I didn't want the pity or the "it will all work out" crap. AND I was no longer getting paid so I wanted out of there.

If I had to do it over:
Take FMLA through the layoff date so they couldn't fire me when I get back.

OR - Hide out in process area, with no phone or radio and MAKE them come find me. I had to work the preceeding weekend, and to have to come in Monday to be told, So long and don't let the door... I just as soon would have slept in, asshole. I made it easy for some people who to this day didn't deserve for it to be easy.

but I am a vindictive bitch. :)

James Van said...

Unless you're in a horrible place and would have quit in a better economic climate, don't burn your bridges. This industry is such a small community.

ms. kitty said...

Keeping my fingers crossed for you, Pixie. But I've come to know you as flexible, smart, and creative, so whatever happens, you'll be okay. And it's normal to feel bitterly angry under the circumstances---it's a huge loss. Maybe older workers have had it happen enough, have had enough experience with loss, that they are better able to roll with the punches and not be visibly angry. It's still humiliating and angry-making to lose one's source of income.

Frank Lloyd Wrong said...

I was laid off kindly and professionally back in Nov. 08, not only by one of the highest ranking partners in the firm, but a former professor of mine. It was shocking, but I went out with class, and took it better than expected. I was laid off with about 10 other people in the same day, and they just told us one after another, in the materials library... which was odd, but come to think of it, it was the only conference-y room in the office that didn't have glass walls, so now I think I get it.

Small Town said...

Never burn your bridges. In fact, when I was cut back in 2001, my first request of the partners (both were there) was a reference. It was one of the most glowing I've ever received.
Let's hope we've hit rock bottom with the cuts and that work will start flowing soon! If I ever run into a banker in a dark alley...

Mackenzie said...

Hi there! I don't believe I have ever commented here, but have been reading your blog for a little while now. I live in Denver as well and from one of the posts awhile back, I think I just may have gone to the same school as your hubby... Anyway, I've been laid off twice now. Got lucky the first time around and got a job within days and today just got laid off again, but was definitely expecting it.. seeing as the my project just ended and I was the last one hired. We also have had 3 or 4 projects end within months of each other and definitely not that many coming in. The first time around I got laid off via voicemail! Horrible.. this time was done much better by the principal that does the hiring as well as the HR lady..
Well just thought I'd say hi. I'm doing surprisingly well today.. we'll see once it sinks in!

De Minimis said...

I'm in accounting, but went through this last year. My "relationship partner" [partner that you are nominally assigned to] did the deed, although in our firm partners are so remote from lowly associates like myself that it was practically like a stranger doing it. He went through what almost seemed like a script, how I just wasn't a "good fit," blah blah blah.
Then the HR lady took my laptop, had me sign a few things, stood at a discreet distance while I cleaned out my desk. Didn't have to do the perp walk with security or anything like that.

I was a fair bit older than most others at my staff level, and was having a hard time getting project time [despite my best efforts I was pretty much idle for the last three months of my time there]so I saw it coming. I really think that unless it is a genuine layoff situation you can usually see it coming and can prepare for it. It's still not a pleasant feeling when you get the phone call to meet in the partner's office, though.

Love the blog. Sounds like there is quite a bit of similarity between the professions as far as what's going on right now.

paul mitchell said...

The way that Mackenzie was let go is unconscionable to me. To sit idly by and wait until the project was completed before letting a person go is just unbelievable in the world in which I live. At least give that person some idea of the employment situation.

Mackenzie, I am certainly glad that you are handling it well. In my opinion from what you stated, your situation was poorly handled.