I Should Have Known

How I Got Laid Off

There were so many signs that despite all of my education, career success and personal success, I now wonder if I am even half as bright as I think I am. I work in the newsstand circulation side of the consumer magazine business. In 2003, after almost a year of negotiation, I sold my private consulting business to a medium sized publishing company and joined forces with them. That was the first sign I missed. The negotiation should have taken at best, a month or two. But this company dragged it out for no real reason I could discern except that they were “busy” with other things.

We were supposed to be building a good sized consulting practice that would support the company’s efforts. But after only picking up two consultants (I was number two, and disturbingly, referred to as an “acquisition”), the division stopped growing. All the implied support we were going to get to grow a top line consulting practice never arrived.

A year ago, at a sales meeting, the company began asking how we were going to grow our revenue. How are you going to support our efforts to grow the revenue, I asked. Dead silence.

Six months later, I was called to the corporate office for a meeting with my division manager, the CFO and the CEO. What could have been an interesting meeting talking development, web, circulation and sales strategy instead turned into a weird, disjointed, five hour monologue from the CEO with the end result that my income was slashed 35%.

The past year has been very difficult in the publishing business and the company struggled as advertising revenue declined and as our consulting revenue diminished. We spent our travel budget before the first quarter of the fiscal new year closed. While our in house publication numbers were good, it seemed like we were blamed for everything. I work off site and after we put to bed our last big release of the season, I noticed that the home office was awfully quiet.

Then I got a call from our division director, “Come down to our home city for an “Off-Site” meeting where we will discuss the future of our division.”

Well, it was pretty obvious what this was about. But, in typical fashion for this company, we were going to have to wait a whole week for the meeting. Yes, they called me on Wednesday to tell me to wait until the following Wednesday to get axed. Then they spent a week acting like it was business as usual.

The “Off-Site” meeting was held at an airport hotel. They chose some franchise place that had changed hands a few too many times. We were in an “Executive Suite”. The room was dingy, dirty, had poor air conditioning and grimy windows. It was perfect. The other consultant and I at least took the “power” seats. Not that it mattered.

Our manager started off by asking us to give this meeting some dignity. Oh did the snarky side of me really want to let loose. “Dude, look around you”, I wanted to yell, “You call this dignified? You call making me wait until you had a break in your schedule to let me go dignified?”

Then the operations director took over and put it to bed. At least she got it out within the first paragraph that we were no longer needed and the company no longer wanted to be in “our business.” Did they ever really want to in the first place, I wondered?

And, in typical fashion, we then spent the next few hours in that dingy, grimy hotel room filling out forms, arranging for severance, arranging for insurance (they lost my partner’s paperwork and delayed mine so long my life insurance policy expired) They told us how much they would miss us.

When it was all over, and I was on my way home, I asked myself where the dignity was? Did they have it in an “off site” location because they thought we’d hurt morale in the home office? Everyone in the home office knew where they were going, or would soon. Were they afraid that we would lose it and go postal? This was not a huge impersonal company. There were fewer than a hundred people involved. I had been there for five years. They knew us.

The final insult came a few months later. Our former director was retiring. The company was going to out-source their circulation and they said they welcomed and wanted a bid from us on the business. We knew it inside and out and we were supposedly a “shoe in.”

We should have known. I should have known. Shame on me a million times over. The solicitation and presentation process should have taken at best four or five weeks. It took five months. We didn’t get the business.

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This post was submitted by John Doe.


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