Friday, 6 February 2009

Acceptable Losses

I lost my job last Monday.

I go back to the office after a month’s medical leave and I am handed over the proverbial “pink slip” with an unsubtle urgency that is vastly amusing: Please hand over your laptop, if possible today itself, and oh yes, you don’t have to serve out your notice period: we are giving you a month’s salary instead. And please close the door on your way out, thank you very much.

So, I closed the door after me, very softly. Banging doors is just not me.

Even a year ago, such an unceremonious exit in India for a senior manager of a company, who has put in more than 30 years of service, would have been unthinkable, unless of course he had committed some financial impropriety or been charged with sexual harassment or something equally unsavoury. But right now, unfortunately, we are not living in normal times. Companies, their balance sheets all bleeding and under pressure by the shareholders to reduce costs and increase efficiency, are becoming increasingly jittery and unsure of what to do.

We know desperate people tend to make impetuous decisions; the same is true for desperate companies as well

By engineering my departure in so abrupt a manner, I could see the company had alienated a substantial number of staff, if the flood of distraught and disconsolate visits, phone calls, e-mails, and text messages I had received over the next two days were any indication. Similarly, by not allowing me enough time to say a proper good bye to my customers, all of whom will have to get to know of my departure through third-party sources, the company may ultimately end up garnering a lot of negative publicity it can ill-afford in these difficult times.

Finally after clearing my desk when I came out of my cabin, the entire floor stood up as one and quietly escorted me down the steps into the lobby, gravely shook my hands, and led me to the car. As I looked at the pinched and unhappy faces of my colleagues, some of who have worked with me for over two decades, I felt a deep sense of sadness welling up inside me. I was not feeling sad I was leaving the company; I was grieving the fact that I would not be working anymore with these wonderful people. It was as if by leaving, I was letting them down in some way; I was leaving them defenceless with none to stand up for them.

As I waved my final good-byes from the back of the car, no, I did not choke.

That would have been very unsubtle.

38 comments:

awingandaprayer said...

This is your saddest post yet. Wonderfully written. Hope you are feeling better.

IdeaSmith said...

I am truly sorry to hear this. I don't know what else to say. Hope you're coping.

Thiruvengadam said...

It is indeed a unbearable loss. I can't express the feelings me and most of the employess here are going through. As you rightly said, you left the staff like us, defenseless and completely exposed to the brutal realities. This short-sightedness on whosoever part, will surely boomerang and the people will realize it in due course.

People like me can just see the things happening the way it is with abject helplessness and like a sword dwindling on our neck. I can just be fortunate enough to visit your blog and continue to be in touch with you.

Ravi said...

Every single human being who works for someone else is a statistic at best. In the past several weeks, I have seen too many good people at IBM, being treated badly and let go even after a great earnings report.

Companies fail to realize that all this will come back to bite them. Loyalties are only towards the shareholders and no one else.

Human Greed is king. I should know the best. The global meltdown, started here in the US, due to inflated and artificial home values in Palm Beach County, Florida and then spread to Arizona etc.

You are better off than being with your superiors who failed to realize your value.

Rada said...

@Shalini: As they say in Engineering, distance gives perspective. I can already see the humour in the situation. Give me time! I'll surely write a funny post on this very soon.

@IS: Look at the bright side! Now I have time for more blog posts. Be warned! ;-)

@Manohar: This too shall pass. One of these days, you should come home and we can laugh about corporate insecurity over a beer, my friend!

@Ravi: As usual, crisp and well-thought-out comment. Cannot agree with you more.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

You know I came here in the morning. Opened this to start writing a comment. Didnt know what to say so left cursing - the myopic employers of yours, recession and everyone else.

Ihear too many stories of this kind these days. i am a struggling consultant (my company AND my boss was mismanaging funds so i quit before shit hit the ceiling). I have projects which i dont know whether i will ever get paid. I know the husband worries incessantly abt job security. So this is very close home.

But then i think to myself that maybe this is what it takes to do something else, outside what one has planned for oneself. that this is the age of improvisation. And maybe, just maybe this might be the beginning of something else and somethng better for you. And I hope it is.

litterateuse said...

It must be wonderful to be so loved and respected by all your colleagues - how they reacted as you left speaks volumes about you.

Companies will come and go; no doubt you'll find another job soon - but the trust, love, respect and above all, friends you've collected all these years you will cherish for life.

Good luck!

-gauri

Renu said...

I haven't worked for as long as you, but in my industry, it gets pretty much clear right in the beginning that if you believe in hard-work-pays-off, ethics, team spirit etc, you are probably a misfit.

Which I was, and hence (totally frustrated) I embarked on a sabbatical from work a few months ago ( in retrospect which seems like a bad decision in this economic downturn ) :)

But I also believe that some things are meant to be. And so I feel that life has something else in store for you now. Keep looking for it.
My husband keeps saying that "if you aren't struggling, you aren't living". On a lighter note, I read somewhere "if the world didn't suck, we would all fall of".

Vijay said...

Rada, I thinks its pretty insensitive of your company.. I can understand letting go.. but theres a certain decorum that companies have to learn..

Again I see from one of the comments above that people at work are feeling the loss of a special colleague..even people like me who havent met you feel this bad.. I can only imagine what they are going through...

I was like @Cynic as well.. read this in the morning but took this long to even comment...

Rada said...

@Cyn: Believe me, I'm not feeling dejected at all, rather feel a tremendous sense of freedom to try out new pathways hitherto unexplored!

Much appreciate your sensitive comments.

@Gauri: Indeed I feel blessed to have to have the love and affection of so many wonderful colleagues!

Came by your site and was happy to note my prediction has come true: traffic has gone up significantly. Way to go!

You are the latest addition to my blog roll. Welcome!

@Renu:Don't lose hope, Renu. Hard work does pay in the long run, Ethical behaviour is vital for one's self-respect and without Team Work, you cannot build up an organisation!

When are we doing that trip to Mangalore?;-) (not exactly the right place to be these days!)

@Vijay: Offers are already coming in Vijay,though I have taken a conscious decision to look at them only after couple of weeks.

Btw, "The Blog's first anniversary party" is still pending! When are you coming to Chennai? :-)

padmaja said...

Hey, I'm so sorry... I know I haven't worked as long as you have, but I have quit 3 jobs in eventful career. And after a few days of moping, all I felt was relief! And each time I landed myself something so much better than my old job, in some way or the other! So I'm sure another, beautiful and much more brilliant window just opened up for you!! All the very best!!
PS: I live in Chennai. Where is the anniversary party/ ;)

Extempore said...

That's just an completely awful thing for your company to do - I hope you're okay.

Rada said...

@Padmaja: Thank you. Can you send me an e-mail at anchorage6000@gmail.com?
Let's try to meet up.

@Extempore: Thanks. And so happy Landmark at Infinity mall has reopened for business! All the best!

Philip said...

I left without commenting earlier because anything I said by way of comforting words would have sounded trite. But now I'm really happy to see that you're taking this well. The dignified post and the positive outlook, I'm sure that's so like you.

Vatsa said...

Whatever needs to be said has been said by others in the comments. Off the companies the lesser said the better. All talks of ethics and morals go through the air at the slightest pretext of anything affecting business.
Good luck Rada and it is nice you are taking this in your chin.

Lekhni said...

That is awful to hear! You are right, this is a good opportunity for you to try something different. But it doesn't excuse what your employers did; this culture of lay-offs is such a bad idea :(

I hope the medical leave was nothing serious and that you are well now..

Rada said...

@Philip:I am really, ok, pal! Thanks. Is it because of workload you don't post often these days?

@Vatsa: You are so right: as I said in my post, companies tend to behave erratically in times of pressure, when calmness is the need of the hour!

@Lekhni: The surgery was a minor one for hernia. I have recovered almost 90% you can say. I'm so touched by your concern. Thanks!

Anuja said...

"Its just the beginning its not the end, things will never be the same again..." I am reminded of the these lines from a popular song.

I have always experienced that when one door closes at you just turn around and you will find many golden doors just waiting to be opened!

Incidences like these help us re-discover our inner strength and latent talents. So turn on your search engines and go on a discovery mode!

All the best and enjoy every moment!!!

ps: We are all co-passangers on this beautiful journey, we are all there for each other

gauri said...

Oh you had stopped by? Thanks! And thank you for adding me to your blogroll as well, that's really nice of you!

Glad to see that you have offers coming in - not in the least surprised, though :)

-g

Rada said...

@Anuja: Very uplifting words. Thank You! I hereby put myself in "discovery" mode!

@Gauri: You are welcome! ;-)

Well Wisher said...

You lost your job – an acceptable loss, I agree. More than you having lost your job, I would say that the company has lost you. For your caliber, with the experience to back you, there’s always a path open to you. I’m relieved to see that the job loss as such has not disturbed you much. I understand the emotions associated with separation from colleagues with whom you’ve worked with for years. But, is it real separation? On the contrary, the bond’s going to be much stronger now. Who said you’re leaving them defenseless? You’re always there for them and they for you. And I guess you’ve gained more value in terms people that you’ve earned – can the company take away these ‘assets’ from you like they’ve taken away your laptop? I guess it should be the company that should be grieving really. Wish you good luck in all your future endeavors. You have it in you - you are going to shine and there’s no doubt about that.

"It's a new day, it's a new way, and I fly up to the sun"

All the Best.

ursjina said...

Its really unfortunate that I discovered ur blog with this post.But have to tell ya..
Great blog and great insights..
And am sure for someone like you,there are better things in waiting..
And if its any consolation,trust me..atleast ur in India...

shesturningblue said...

this is really upsetting
but you are remarkable

nitwit nastik said...

Same here. Unfortunately I discovered this blog only now from desipundit. I am really sorry to hear about your job loss and I hope you find a job soon. My best wishes and all the best.

Btw, you mentioned that you came back from a medical leave. Isn't that discrimanatory policy. Can't you sue yor company on discriminatory grounds?

Anonymous said...

Here I am trying to land a job and start from scratch only to see so many people being shown the door by institutions whose very existence would not be possible without their contributions. Very disappointing indeed. But then again, it is instances such as these that give us to restart things from a new perspective and come out of of the lull of a routine.

Rada said...

@ Joshi: Very uplifting words! I am incredibly lucky to have friends like you!

@ Ursjina: Thank you & welcome to Stepping Sideways! Please do drop in whenever you can!

@ Sheturning blue: Thanks! Now it's me who's turning blue(with embarrassment) accepting your compliments!

@ Nitwit: Maybe I could have taken legal recourse. But then, I was glad to get out, all things considered! :-)

DesiPundit said...

"Even a year ago, such an unceremonious exit in India for a senior manager of a company, who has put in more than 30 years of service, would have been unthinkable, unless of course he had committed some financial impropriety or been charged with sexual harassment or something equally unsavoury. But right now, unfortunately, we are not living in normal times."

Rada reflects on his sudden job loss in these difficult times.

Poonam said...

Actually you are right, it is more Company's loss. They did not even ensure a smooth handover of clients! This is unthinkable in recent times. :(

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Somehow missed this post.
Shocked to hear.Acceptable loss, if you say so.
I am seeing many people being asked to leave unceremoniously. Companies are not being good to people now.

God spede you,Rada!

-Nikhil

Rada said...

@ Poonam: No smooth hand-over process. You are spot on. This is what I meant by companies taking impetuous decisions without taking into account the consequences...

@ Nikhil: All losses ultimately have to be accepted by the individual, isn't it Nikhil? The sooner you are able to do so and move on, the better!

It was good to read about your long trip across Kerala. Have been planning to do something similar for a long time. You are my inspiration! :-)

vishwa said...

I feel so sad and sorry, Rada, for what you had to endure. It's unfortunate to exit in such a manner--makes one wonder if hard times remove all civic sense and subtleity from people, make them extraordinarily selfish and unbothered at those who are at the receiving end. And your story is the story of every working Indian, every working citizen of this world. That bloody pink slip is just round the corner for all.
I wish you loads of strength and endurance.

Ravi said...

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.
- Chinese Proverb

How true-what is life after all without any challenges or struggles?

Dileep said...

When I was in Goa last week, dear Mr Modi proclaimed that his baby was "recession-proof". Such smug arrogance. I don't think anyone or anything is recession-proof right now, and the world of sport that I'm involved with is perhaps the best (worst) example of greed taken to new heights. It will all go belly-up soon, and when it does, we'll sit over a bottle of Skyy and have a laugh about it.

Rada said...

@ Vishwa: Thanks! As far as job losses are concerned, I feel the situation will get worse before it starts getting better. We all need the will-power and the stamina of the long-distance runner to stay on in the race.

@ Ravi: Nice proverb. As they say, brevity is the soul of wit!

@ Dileep: Yes, I did watch the auction on TV and had the feeling that the entire bunch was inside a cocoon, insulated from the rest of the world!

Prashant said...

I believe actions such as these impose a contradictory image upon a company. It goes against some basic principles that give it the title of a company.

With efficiency as a goal in these times, this move will certainly unsettle the employees, possibly creating a negative environment and dismal motivation as someone as loyal as yourself has been forced to leave.

I'm just a student myself and I wouldn't exactly know the strategic alternative to this action but after having studied business now for approximately 3 years now, these decisions will most definitely not enhance the productivity and efficiency levels the companies are desperate for.

Maddy said...

I am really sorry to hear this. Unfortunately life has understanding and misunderstanding in equal measures. I think you have reached a turning point - a turn for the better and my best wishes - keep going man..

Rada said...

@ Prashant: The problem is, pressure from the shareholders and the market analysts do not allow companies to look beyond the current quarter. Long term benefits are sacrificed for short-term gain!

Thank you for visiting.

@ Maddy: Thank you, Maddy. Btw, yours is a blog I read with a lot of interest. I like the way you research your posts to come up with something original, all the time!

Vidya said...

Not able to come to terms with the way the company ended your tenure! It's shocking!

Hope I can be of help in some way.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.