Thursday, January 10, 2008

Approaching Ludicrous Speed

WHILE EMAILING THE FORMER CLINICAL editor at my shop — who still hasn't been replaced, nor do the auspices whisper of such an event being imminent — I commented that my to-do list ahead of my boss's departure is as thick as a Tolstoy novel and just as tragic. I actually had to attach three Post-Its to the bottom and a fourth hanging off the side to accommodate more items. The damn thing only needs a couple of wax seals to resemble a medieval charter.

I also have a whole separate list on which I've been toting up items, functions, and duties my boss performs, for which I need instructions prior to her departure. It, too, is quickly darkening with reminders and notes.

Our rump staff has a meeting with the managing editor tomorrow at 9 sharp to detail the next steps. By this time next week, there will only be two of us in our New Jersey office, doing the work that six used to do (an ed ass't was laid off a year ago, and the editor who specialized in Web work moved to another department before my arrival; I now do her work). Most of the shrinkage is directly attributable to a couple of bad decisions and the resultant culture and leadership clash.

I like the work I'm doing, but I have no idea how I'll sustain that sort of quality or output during this pinch. The idea of wedging further skill acquisition into this sort of schedule is laughable, which removes another one of the attractions I had for this place.

It was the next job after the salt mine. It wasn't necessarily going to be my last job. It's just a shame that things had to turn south so quickly. But my first duty is to myself. And I am not going to knock my brains out fixing a problem I didn't cause by staying late or working weekends. No amount of money is worth that, though I've been tempted to ask for a raise just while they're over the barrel. If I'm just going to use the money on antianxiety drugs, what's the point of asking for more cash before my next review?

Hell, will I even be there by my next review? I can only imagine my remaining fellow editor is looking too. She has a huge commute on top of dealing with the absurd management style and the sudden decline of interest in taking the time to do good, well-researched work. Do I want to hang around while they figure out how to reconstruct the department, which might involve me training someone? I haven't been there long enough to train someone, and anyway, I hate being a supervisor.

Ah, they might just kill the publication anyway. This too would be a shame, though it's just what I've come to expect from the nut-cutters who scry corporate balance sheets, Scrooge-like, by guttering gaslight atop their miser's stools. The publication has a long history and considerable goodwill. But we are in a recession. Might be cheaper to kill it and lay the remaining staff off. The actual mechanism of being laid off I can handle. Job hunting in this environment, however, might prove a challenge.

With that in mind, I will work hard during my stay at the current place, keep my eyes open and my interests squarely on my ass, try to get as much training and as many bylines as I can, and review my job-hunt books from the career counseling I received last year. Oh, and (as per preexisting plan) get my resume updated. Resignation or layoff, I want to be ready, as I honestly can't see many other ways out of this.

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