Monday, April 21, 2008

Not Sure How Many More Bullets I Can Dodge

IF THINGS CONTINUE AT WORK the way they've been going since the turn of the year, I'll be the only person in the office. Or at least this one.

Around 2:00 today, two messages went out to the staff. If you received the first one, you were called to a meeting at 2:30; I and the others who got the second one had to meet in the same place as the first group at three.

From past experience, you wanted to be in the second group. Last time they did this, the two meetings were launched so that the first bunch would be told of their layoff, and be packed and out the door, while the second bunch was being informed of their former coworkers' collective fate. Still, the cryptically brief note bore no information on why we would be meeting, so we were left to wonder.

I happened to pass the conference room while the first group was in session. No read on the faces; not excited, but not overly glum. Maybe the full story hadn't yet unfolded.

But I got a taste of what might be the topic of discussion when I hit the kitchen. I noticed five stacks of apartment- and home-finding guides on the sideboard, of the type usually found near the entrance of our local supermarkets. I passed without scrutinizing them at first as I got a can of Diet Coke from the fridge. On the return pass, I decided to look at one, to see how rents were doing in northern New Jersey during the collapse of the homebuying market.

Only this wasn't a New Jersey apartment guide. It was a Central City apartment guide.

All five of the guides were for Central City homes or apartments.

My guess: Some or all of us were going to be told our jobs were moving to Central City.

Although past experience told me that the second group to meet with the bigwigs was the one who was going to be OK — or at least better off by comparison — I knew that they had finally hired the last staffer the needed for my publication, out in Central City, the previous week. We were now at full strength again . . . and in far less time than I thought they'd need. And I could see no reason why they would persist in paying a New Jersey salary for a nonmanagement person when they could just as easily make a push to have me move, possibly knowing — from my earlier inquiry about COBRA — that I had displayed no particular fear over joblessness. By this method, they could "dismiss" me by offering me a go-away check, assuming I'd choose that and joblessness over moving.

Which is correct. My family and friends are here. Even if I didn't have either group, I can't easily conceive of an amount that would induce me to pull up my roots. Not before retirement age.

My hunch proved right. As I headed back to my desk, the first meeting broke up. I followed a couple of stunned-looking folks to a growing cluster of coworkers, who confirmed that production of several publications was to be consolidated in the Central City office, and the staffs could either move or take severance.

Long story short, my job is staying here, much to my surprise. The second group was indeed made up of folks slated to remain here.

I got assurances from two authorities (both parties to the note I sent around after my return from the hospital) that my presence in the office was very much desired and appreciated. I told one of these parties it was good to hear that, considering my review was on her desk.

I can only imagine how many folks will go along with this. This is a de facto layoff. The company had to know the majority of the people would say no. We're not an office of friendless orphans waiting for the next Pony Express recruiting drive.

So over the coming two months, a couple dozen folks will have the twin joys of helping to purge their cubes and departmental records of unneeded paper, back issues, and other impedimentia ahead of the planned subdivision of the office, and then themselves be purged.

I feel . . . lucky?

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