I had a great job. Had great bosses. Enjoyed what I did and looked forward to going to work every day. Then one day, the company re-aligned and my office was disbanded. It wasn’t a new thing and it wasn’t personal. Companies do it all the time. It was simply a matter of necessity and geography.
At 10 a.m. I was called into the conference room and the HR guy had a stack of papers for me to sign. He said, “OK. You can go now.” I was stunned. I said, “I have things to clear up. There were personnel files in that office. Payroll records. All kinds of things to wrap up and make sure they aren’t just left unattended.” I said, “I am coming back tomorrow to clean everything up. I can’t leave my office this way.” He said, “I have never had anyone say that they wanted to come back before after being let go.” My former boss said that it spoke to my character. I said it was just the right thing to do.
The company did offer me a different position but I would have to move. That wasn’t really an option. A manager I knew offered me a lesser position because she knew me. I was at least happy to be employed. After spending 3 months at home, bored out of my mind, I took a job where I lost half my salary and demoted 2 levels. The job had no computer and was told that I couldn’t talk to or email groups of people that I worked with before because I was no longer at the same level. People that were formerly under me still called to ask how to do simple procedures even though that were making twice as much money as me and I was asked by the group that took over my office to come and set all their computers and phones up. I tried to tell myself it was about the team but no matter how you sliced it, it was degrading.
It was a learning experience, right? These lessons will be invaluable to me and help me in some way down the road. What else could I tell myself? I cried a few times. Got mad. Tried to make sense of it. I read articles about being let go from your job. Each article likened it to the grieving process. It was really like that. I had to let go of everything that I knew and learn to move on. Learn to shrug off the reactions of people I saw that knew me in my former role. They would stutter and say they were sorry, be empathetic. Those were the kind ones. The rest just stopped talking to you. It was a lot to process. It made me tired.
In a very short time however, I started to notice business irregularities. Questionable HR practices and sketchy record keeping. Managers started telling me stories about things that turned my stomach such as wrongful terminations and blocked promotions for very law-suit worthy reasons. I guess I should take it as a compliment that they trusted me. Trusted me to ask for help. I think they just knew they were stuck. I knew that I was stuck. Friends told me that I was just too smart. I knew too much coming from a higher level about how things really worked. My conscience told me that it doesn’t matter what level you are at, right is right and wrong is wrong. I tried to help on the sly giving contact information to employees and managers who were also questioning situations. They were too scared to call. Who was I kidding, I was scared. Even a bad job is still a job?
I woke up one morning and made a decision. I decided that it wasn’t enough to just have a job. I needed something and people that I believed in. I needed to work in a place where things were done the right way for the right reasons. My experiences after being displaced had taken that from me. I didn’t want to be cynical and jaded. I had started to be pessimistic about what the company would do and the abilities of my co-workers. I couldn’t imagine staying there and giving 100% to a company that didn’t care. I could feel my 100% slipping day by day to 95%…87%…..75%… I was clock watching and looking for ways to not be at work. I was miserable.
A few years ago, I had written some articles and taught a few classes on resiliency and optimism in the work place. Those lessons started flooding back to me. I had to be the one that took charge of my career. The company didn’t owe me anything but I did owe myself something. When I was displaced, I thought that I would never find anything that I loved as much as my old job. I was depressed and a little lost. I needed to pull myself up and really look deeply at what I needed. What I needed from my job. I decided that I deserved to wake up and go to work in a place that I loved, get paid what I was worth and go to a place that made me excited. I deserved to work in a place that was ethical and did things for the right reasons. I made a plan and started applying for jobs that fit into my plan. Shortly afterwards, I had some interviews with various companies and eventually the right one stuck. I felt like a weight had been lifted. I was going to go to place every morning where my skills were valued and I could make a difference.
Losing my job actually turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I would have never had the courage to apply for a job that would challenge me because I was comfortable. If I would have never seen things that I didn’t respect in the workplace, I would have never reached out to find a position that embodied what I wanted in a new job and a company. So in a way, getting displaced had pushed me to make changes. Changes for the better. Changes that I never knew I needed and I am very grateful. Maybe it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to me after all.