Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fear and Loathing in High Technology

Riddle me this: So why do I get such a kick out of reading the blogs of folks whose jobs plainly suck worse than mine does? Is it a sort of schadenfreude that they're doing things for a living that I don't have to do, or am I just repressing dread at the thought of my own employment prospects when it comes time for me to be visited by the Layoff Fairy?

Whereas a lot of bloggers prefer personal anonymity, I prefer to keep the details of my job as obscure as possible. Someday I'll create a blog wherein I can rant about what I truly think of my company and my profession, but not under this identity. A lot of people I know personally come here to read my blog, and they all know where I work. Some even work there.

I do have to blog about work today only because I'm so bothered by today's news and an appalling corporate tradition that we thought had passed. Please bear with me.

For as long as I've been a very small cog in their very large machine, my company, as big as it is, has managed to reinvent itself several times over in order to keep pace with developments in the marketplace. This was a Wicked Neat thing back in the dear, sweet old days of the dot-com boom; we were all collectively riding the trend-waves and dreaming of what we would do with our paper millions. We checked the stock price more often than we did the weather report.

Now, post-dot-com-bust, the climate isn't quite as buoyant. The summertime "let's reorganize and reinvent ourselves" tradition has now given way to an annual summertime reduction in force (read: layoff). Last summer's major makeover was so pervasive that I was absolutely sure I'd see 2005 in as a greeter at the local Wal-Mart. No one was more surprised than I was when I found out I'd been spared. The effect on us "survivors" was so devastating that it took a full 3-4 months after the layoff before we had the strength to pick ourselves up and get back to work. Oh, and don't ask me about the paper millions.

Management was smarter this time around. Not only have they outsourced the entire HR department (so no one "on the inside" knows anyone to leak the news to), but they struck quietly, not announcing anything until after the affected people had already been hustled from the buildings.

One of my friends emailed me to tell me that a mutual friend of ours -- one of my dearest work-buddies -- had been spirited from our building today. The whole process was so quick and quiet that I never had a chance to say goodbye, never exchanged emails or home phone numbers. In a way, it feels as though she had suddenly died -- she was just yanked out of our little work-world, and I won't see her again. At least the last time around, we had a chance to mumble some quick words of commiseration with our less-fortunate fellows and promise to stay in touch.


Sharon said...

Oh Karen, I know what you're feeling a little bit. Years ago, I left school for summer vacation and in the middle of the summer found out I was being transferred to a different school. How did I find out? I ran into an acquaintance at the mall who told me she saw my name on a list. Employment anywhere can be a bit like living on an earthquake fault line. I'm happy to be back on the stable ground of retirement. You are wise however, to leave work out of your blog for the most part, other than in the most general terms. This is the internet...it can bite.

blogdog said...

You've got that right, Sharon. That "secret transfer" you had sounds like classic passive-aggressive management; the administrators who'd do such things have a great future ahead in corporate America. At least, they do until they get outsourced.

I had read in a few places about people who worked for large companies complaining about said companies on private, non-company Web sites, and being sacked for it. I never read the original sites, so I don't know exactly what those people said or how slanderous it actually was, but I work for a computer company, where everybody has net access. Why give anyone ammunition to put me on the next "hit list?"