When The Axe Falls
Wednesday was like any other day. Work day that is. I was busy toiling and doing Boss’ bidding when he called me. He sounded flippant, not angry and I thought that he was finally going to have the ‘sit down’ talk I had requested earlier in the week. I needed to get him to realize how much he had heaped on my plate. “When you are done doing what you are doing, let me know and I’ll meet up with you in your office.” I immediately started making mental notes. I wrote some on a piece of paper. I wanted to be ready to air my points and recommendations.
He met me in my office as promised. Right on cue! Very rare for him as he was more like the absent and scarcely seen Boss. He beckoned me to follow him to the board room so we could talk in private. I grabbed my note pad with me. Can’t go in there unarmed. I was mildly surprised to see the HR guy waiting for us at the door. Looking back on the scene, he was more like a vulture waiting for the spoils. Or was it the executioner? “What is he doing here?” I thought. “Boss must have asked him to come to make our talk formal. Anyways it doesn’t matter as I have valid points. It’s not like I’m getting canned.”
We took our seats at the table and without waiting, Boss jumped right in. “Well Carlos, you know we are restructuring…” I didn’t know. “And due to this, we are sorry that we have to let you go… ” Or did he say buy me out? Or lay me off? I lost him at ‘we have to’. He kept talking and I picked up snippets. Words like ‘package’ ‘immediately’ ‘family’ and ‘forms to sign’ danced around in my head. No! Not me! I’ve been here for almost eight years! I have near-perfect attendance! I do everything asked of me! Even squeeze out a laugh at their dumb trying-to-be-clever jokes. Never got into any trouble! Everyone loves me! Heck, I am the most recognizable person at here! How could this happen? Then I felt numb. I have 3 little boys and a mortgage! What am I going to do? I have never been laid off or fired before. I considered myself an untouchable in any workplace. So this is how it must feel...My life is over!
In my almost 8 years on the job, I was never called in to the office to discuss performance issues. No one had any issues with me. I was always willing to go that extra mile, thinking it would get me noticed. The more I do, the more indispensable I would be. Plus, Boss knew my little boys and played with them at work functions. My family was my safe card. Who would terminate a good worker with a young family and an unblemished work history?
Within the last year, Boss had dropped the axe on two employees and assigned their duties to me. I asked for training but never got it and was left to fend for myself. Thankfully, I was able to train myself on most of the duties but it was a deep hole to climb out of. I was never able to fully get going under my own steam as I still had my own desk to take care of. I ended up being the only employee with three computers and three desks. Yes! I actually worked at three desks! They were mine! Saying I was stressed would be an understatement. Heck, even Boss was stressed with trying to keep up with what he had dumped on my plate. I dreaded going to work. I thought of getting stress leave from my doctor but realized that it would just be a temporary fix. I thought I loved my job until I opened my eyes to what I had allowed to happen. Instead of standing up, I had put up. I ignored the signs that said I was an outsider even after seven years. Nothing I do could have changed that. I half-heartedly applied for jobs. I didn’t want to give up the Christmas parties, the prizes, the choices of coffees in the office, working unsupervised (and untrained), the pep talks about how like a family were all were…(I must have been the proverbial black sheep in that family).
On Wednesday, God took it out of my hands. He probably said, “Jeez man, do I have to do this for you?” And he did. So when Boss was spouting numbing and paralyzing words, I didn’t have a cardiac arrest, I was able to look him in the eye without flinching and without emotions. Sure I was numb and in shock but I was still able to look as if he had just told me I would not be getting a raise this year. My expression said, “Oh really? Hmm…ok.”
Then it was the HR’s turn to pick at the pieces. “So here’s where we are at…” He seemed uncomfortable. Who could blame him? He was letting go one of the hardest working employee in his stable. At least in my opinion. Others grudgingly would also agree. “Don’t sign anything right now as you may want to read it over and discuss with your wife.” My wife! Yes my wife! How am I going to break this news to her? “We know you are a family man with a house and kids so we will make sure you are taken care of. For a while at least.” I was starting to hear and decipher things. Words were making sense.
While I emptied my desk of all my personal belongings, Mr. HR hovered/lurked nearby. A couple of my co-workers walked by and I pretended nothing was wrong. Just cleaning up my office guys, nothing exciting to see here. Then the jr. accountant came to seek out my help on an accounts payable issue. Thoughts deep in my head told me to say, “Sorry man, I no longer work here.” but the nice guy in me made me stay for a few minutes to explain to him how to process a problematic invoice. It’s just how I roll…Mr. Johny-on-the-spot. I was like that for almost 8 years, why change in a minute?
I drove home blindly. Pulled up in front of my house, I hesitated to go inside to see the kids. I opted instead to go for a ride. After about 10 minutes of almost getting lost on some highway, I drove back home to my boys. Three of my raison d’etre. Once with them, I felt better. Everything is going to be just fine. When my wife came home, it took a while for me to get the courage to tell her that I no longer was a Lafarge employee. When I did, she understood immediately. “It’s probably the best thing. You could take your time and find something better that you actually love.” I already did, babes. You.
In life, we sometimes entertain thoughts of change. We wonder what’s out there for us but we are too scared to look. We don’t want to give up the known for the unknown. Sometimes it takes a rude push to get us out of that state. It’s like wandering around the lip of a pool, too scared to go in because the water is cold. Someone pushes you in and after the first cold blast, you get to love it. You would never know if the grass is actually greener on the other side until you try it, right?
On Wednesday, life handed me lemons. Tomorrow, I make the best darn lemonade.
Note: My experience wasn’t all that bad. I made some life-long friends and gained valuable knowledge and experience. I harbor no ill-will or resentment towards anyone but instead look forward to better things ahead. Thanks Boss!