Melancholy mood

An Old clock with cogs
It's good when people work together like clockwork. It's bad when people are treated like machinery. (Image via Wikipedia)

A friend of mine got RIFfed last week. RIF: Reduction in Force, for those whose workplace uses different jargon. Out there in the world you’ll also hear about positions being eliminated, roles restructured, organizations right-sizing, layoffs, and goodness knows what-all-else.

It boils to the same thing: My friend lost his job. No one ever likes losing their job and in this economy that sounds even more big and scary.

I’ve been RIFfed twice so far in my career, though we used different phrases for it in each instance. As if to prove that God is working all things out for good to those who love Him and are called according to his purpose, it’s worked out well for me. In hindsight, there’s no angst, no regrets. Even when it seemed like a step backwards at first, it was quickly a leap forward.

My friend is very talented. Any company will be lucky to have him.

My friend is also a supremely nice person. I cannot fathom a scenario in which he will not be OK.

Even with all that perspective, I find that I am taking it very hard.

For his part, in the weeks approaching his final day he had little to say on how he was taking it, and now I’m not really in a position to ask him.

These things seem to happen, and in particular to the Tech teams, roughly every year or so around here. I can’t imagine the stress they must feel when every year or two they’re being asked to reapply for their positions, or living through yet another realign and restructure process. And while I understand the importance of aligning the tech teams with the business – I have worked for at least one company where the Tech teams and the Business teams were not partners working toward a common purpose, but more like opposing teams in a zero-sum game – I no longer see how all these shuffles are getting us any closer to that goal.

I used to know who to call with an issue, or a question, or to bounce off an idea of how we might resolve something. These days I don’t know who to call, or how to access the form that allows me to engage someone even if I knew who they were, or whether my question/thought/idea will be “important” enough to ever get off the bottom of the so-called priority list for us to even discuss it.

It also feels of late like we’ve gone to a scary place where IS/IT folk are considered cogs – absent personality or humanity – each one easily replaced by another. How are we supposed to foster teamwork and work as business partners, when they are systematically being rendered nameless and faceless?

If I find this difficult, what is it doing to their psyches to work in this environment?

Another friend of mine gives me a glimpse into what it’s like… he’s asked to be put at the top of the next cut list. Not just ON it, but at the TOP of it. Give him a package, and he’ll happily go.

When I got here, these two people – the one who has left, and the one who wants to – were among my first friends at the company. In those early days of a new job, my tendency is to wonder if I’ve made a terrible mistake. I always have to remind myself, at the beginning, that I’m not responding to the company or the job… for the first 6 months to a year, I’m responding to the newness, and that’s the part I’m not liking. Everything at the beginning is pinchy and uncomfortable, like walking a mile in shoes that haven’t been broken in. I have to make myself stick it out until the newness loses its edge. For those early months when I first got here, and I was busy trying not to hate it, everyone was nice enough but these guys made me feel truly welcome. They were my friends, and my partners in whatever projects were before us to complete. We worked well together. We got a lot of things accomplished. We even occasionally had fun.

Even when my role changed and we didn’t work on the same projects anymore, we may have spoken less often but through it all I still felt like we were in this together.

And now one is gone, and the other plans to be gone. And I know they’ll be OK. They must be. But…

But I know how this goes. I’ve been through it myself. There are people who will stay in touch, but excepting very rare cases, that trails off. LinkedIn or similar sites will give us the illusion of connection, but any real relationship will slowly dissolve. Friendships die of neglect. I will be as guilty as anyone else in letting it happen. Because the tide must turn, and things must move on.

All things in their season.

Still, knowing that I will probably never see my friend again makes me sadder than I can even say. With his going, I feel anew the loss of every friend who isn’t anymore.

3 thoughts on “Melancholy mood”

  1. I share your feelings, and your angst. I have been through it myself, in the workplace. Some people are very special. Some people you cannot forget. Some people you will never forget. I was about to board a cruise ship, once, when something similar happenend to me. The pain was almost too much to bear. I felt helpless and so far away as to not know what to do. And yet, through God’s grace, it has worked out. And that is the answer. God’s grace.


  2. Sigh…I too have been RIFd twice in my career now. Going on a year without work here…and I never thought that would happen. It’s a pretty scary thing – sure hope the end is in sight…


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