After the email from my CEO came a subsequent email from the president of my division of the company. It reiterated what the CEO’s email had said, with very little new information, but I still thought it wouldn’t reach the branch level on which I operate. In our daily team meeting, however, my manager seemed to be pretty worked up about it. So it was back to incessant worrying for me.
All week, I’ve been really busy working on a couple of different projects. Mainly, these projects are an attempt to correct items that have been falling through the cracks. Well, that’s putting it nicely. A particular coworker has been purposely allowing them to fall through the cracks for some unknown reason. I’ve been willing to take on these projects (even though they have little to do with my normal job) because I’m tired of watching this happen and having the fallout affect my job. It also seemed important, particularly this week, to show initiative and prove that I’m valuable beyond the job I was hired for.
Yesterday morning, I was hard at work on one of those projects, mired in an eye-crossing amount of data entry and report reconciliation when my desk phone rang. It was my manager, asking to see me in his office for a couple of minutes.
Cue the panic.
His office is in a different building than mine, so I threw on my jacket and set off across the work site. I climbed the stairs to his office and entered to the sound of him dialing the special conference call phone. He didn’t get an answer and started muttering things like, “I told him I would call him right back.” On one of the repeated dialings that followed, I caught part of the voice mail message of our HR person. I also noticed that the surveillance camera monitor on his desk was tuned to the camera that would have showed me walking across the site to his office. I assumed this was so he could already have the HR person on the phone when I got there.
I’ve been in this situation before and I was starting to lose it. I was shaking and having trouble breathing normally by the time he finally got the HR guy on the phone. As I stared at the floor, they exchanged greetings and then debated who should start the conversation. I think my face must have been white as a sheet when I finally looked up, because the first thing my boss said to me was “Let’s get this out of the way. You are not being laid off.”
I know I should have been relieved. And I was. But now all I could think was that I was still in trouble and was going to get a Talking-To. I was wracking my brain trying to think of anything I could possibly be in trouble for and coming up blank. Beyond the buzzing in my head, my boss was still trying to reassure me. I think he could see he wasn’t getting anywhere, so he just laid it all on the table. It turns out that a coworker (the same one as above) will be laid off on Tuesday (after the holiday.) They wanted to give me the warning because I will be assuming the majority of her duties, at least temporarily.
This will be a significant shift from my current duties. The position is a mess right now, due to this person’s propensity to hoard information, create unnecessary work, ignore necessary work, and generally be as difficult to work with as possible. (Really, this employee has been on the chopping block for ages but the “reduction in force” gives them the cover they need to take care of it.) The current plan is for me to go in, clean house, and rebuild the position from the ground up. This includes everything from changing existing policies and procedures to physically rearranging and cleaning the office space. (Hey, at least I get my own desk, right?) Once we all feel the position is in some sort of reasonable shape, I’ll work at training someone up and gradually resume my own duties. Because there are two of us in my current position, we’ll get by.
What this really means for me is a lot more pressure, a lot more training, and likely much longer hours. But it also means job security and longevity. One thing that was very clear from the conversation with HR is that they have been incredibly impressed with me and my abilities, and have no intention of letting me go anywhere. While it may have just been flattery to help me swallow the pill of more work with no change in pay, it was still really nice to hear. If I play my cards right and accomplish this “reinvention”, I will become just that much more valuable.
The problem with all of this is that I still had to finish out the day both on an adrenaline hangover and as the only person (other than my boss) who knows what’s coming on Tuesday. If I have learned anything from yesterday, it’s that I would make a terrible spy. I could hardly function from holding on to this secret the rest of the day, and I didn’t even encounter the coworker in question. It’s a good thing I won’t be in the office today, because I’d be useless. I wholeheartedly agree that this person needs to go, but I have also lost jobs unexpectedly and it’s a horrific experience. I probably shouldn’t even be posting this yet, since the layoff hasn’t actually happened yet, but I had to get it all out somewhere. Just typing it out made me anxious and shaky all over again, even though I KNOW the outcome. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a much more positive work environment. But really, this could go either way.