Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 9.5% in June 2009 and hit a 26-year high. Rumors of a layoff were floating around in my company for many weeks prior to June. Finally, at the end of June, the news broke out for our government-sponsored project. There was a huge cut in the government budget and many consultants had to be let go.
Everyone in my team knew that a downsizing was coming and we had anticipated it to be at the end of June. Our team was the biggest target, because we dealt with requirements gathering from the clients. Any cutback in the scope of the project would reduce the needs for us. I knew I would be part of the downsizing, so I had mentally prepared myself for it.
On the last Friday of June, the office was extraordinarily quiet. I had arrived early and packed a few of personal belongings. I still had a lot of things in my desk drawers so I store them in bags and would later assign them to people who could hold them.
That morning, all meetings were either postponed or canceled by management. The senior managers were scrambling back and forth on our floor. It was a tell-tale sign that something was going on even though nothing was officially announced. One coworker alerted us that stacks of packaging boxes were lying on the conference room tables. The packaging boxes would confirm that a layoff announcement was imminent.
Most of us tried or pretended to work, but we were all occupied in our minds, wondering what was going on. People around me were asking questions and gossiping. Many people were curious, some were nervous, a few were anxious, and I was just… myself.
At 11:00 AM, many people were called to a mandatory meeting in a huge conference room. The head of management came walked in about ten minutes later. Most of us had an idea of what was about to come. The head said that there was a huge budget cut and they had to downsize the project. We were asked to give up all our work and company equipment and pack our personal belongings. He gave a few words of thanks and good luck and dismissed us.
We went back to our desks and packed our stuff. It was a sad day for many people. The people who survived the layoff came to say goodbye to those who were leaving. Several people from the client side were surprised by the consultants who were let go. The people I worked with on the client side were upset that I was leaving. I said that things will be okay and that things happen for a reason. I reminded everyone, “They say that when one door closes, another one opens.”
There were no escorts and there were no time limits for us to leave the office. Many of us stayed around for at least an hour, chatted and took group pictures. I walked around the office, shook people’s hands, and distributed my personal office supplies and food that I had stocked up in my cabinets.
Eventually, we gathered all the members of my team at the building lobby and we went out for a group lunch. We talked about our time on the project, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We brought back memories, we joked and we laughed. Then it was time to go. We exchanged goodbyes, we wished each other the best of luck and we went off on our ways.
The day was still young, it was only two hours past noon, and the sun was high in the sky. I walked around the city with a coworker for hours and we had a long conversation about our future plans.
The downsizing of the company was huge. All the teams were affected by it. Our unit had the biggest cut, roughly 80% were gone. Some units only let go of one or two people. But no matter how big or small, the reductions brought up concerns to the remaining people. The surviving members of each team were more nervous now because they fear that they would be next to go. Rumors of another round of layoff were already floating around the office.
There were some people who did not expect to be let go in the first round and this news was a surprise to them. Then there were some people who were in this country on a work visa. It would be a complicated issue if they did not have work. They needed the job to stay in the country.
As for myself, I was more fortunate. I could stay in the country forever, I had a few bucks lying around and I did not have four kids waiting at home for me to feed. I had been in that work place for three years. The routines were getting mundane, so I thought it was time for me to move on. I took the layoff news with a smile.
I was mentally prepared for the layoff. I could have applied for another job, but I decided to take time off and relax for a while. I had not taken a vacation for more than a year, so having the summer time off sounded good to me. I had saved up for a few months in anticipation of the layoff. Also, I could use the extra time to work on my personal projects. Hopefully some good would come out of it and another door would open up for me.