Taking the pressure off with work

silhouettes of a group of five businessmen - one of the silhouettes is a different color
It’s hard to say if the orange guy is out, or if he’s staying, while all the others are shown the door

So, rumor has it that there are going to be massive staffing cuts before too long at work. Nobody — but nobody — knows their fate.

How wonderful!

I mean, it’s not wonderful for people who need to keep their jobs and keep supporting their families.

It’s not wonderful for people just on the verge of retirement, who will find their plans hosed by rich people who aren’t getting richer fast enough for their tastes.

It’s not wonderful for people who don’t have a lot of skills to transfer into other companies or other lines of work… people who have been at low-level positions with the same company for so many years, that their salaries will never, ever be replicated if they go to a new company and have to start from scratch.

But it’s wonderful, that it takes the pressure off all of us to PERFORM AT OUR PEAK LEVEL, DAY IN AND DAY OUT. You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief, at how much less pressure there is to be ALPHA MALE/FEMALE and UBER-PRODUCER-OF-THE-DAY/MONTH/YEAR/DECADE.

All that gets old, after a while. And it’s a relief to just go about my business, doing what I do because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because it’s politically expedient.

I’m supposed to do my Q3 goals a few weeks ahead of time. I also had to do my Q2 recap a few weeks ahead of regular schedule. I think they’re trying to line everyone up and pay out our bonuses before we’re let go. And that’s fine. Because it may give me the month of September off — or at least a few weeks — to regroup and just enjoy the fine weather (assuming it is fine).

This is the harsh reality of the job market in my lifetime. It’s never been any different for me, so it seems business-as-usual for me. I’ve never known stability in any job, they’ve always moved things around, always cut staff, always merged and joined and “transformed” organizations — most often to benefit the ones in power. I feel bad for everyone who’s been at this company for the past 10-15-20 years, who had some stability and constancy, but to be honest, they’ve been in a magical bubble that was bound to burst, sooner or later. And I feel bad for some of them, because the skills they used to keep employed there, aren’t going to translate elsewhere, necessarily. The cultures are different. The people are different. And what cements your place in one company, won’t always work elsewhere.

Everything is unheaval. Everything. The best thing to do, is embrace it. Update your resume. Look around for other jobs. See what the market is like and where the biggest opportunities are. Follow your gut, use common sense.

And never, ever, take anything for granted.

This is the new world for many — and the old world for me. I wish everyone the best of luck…

Serious, not serious

serious-not-seriousI’m feeling better today – much better. Thank heavens for that. This bug I’m fighting off is likely just a sinus infection, but the aches and pains and sore throat had me down. I woke up in the night feeling really sick, choking on my coughs, the back of my throat burning. I wanted to get up and gargle with warm salt water, but I couldn’t rally. So, I rolled over and went back to sleep. My body’s been in a lot of pain, over the past weeks, what with all the driving and the disruption of my schedule over Thanksgiving – AND the break in my daily exercise during November, when I was so busy, each morning.

I’m paying for all of that. I thought I was doing fine and I didn’t need to keep up with my “maintenance”… but I was wrong. So very wrong.

I’ve been having a bit of trouble, lately, with my memory and reading. I’ve been mis-reading emails at work, which isn’t good. I put people through all kinds of extra work, because I don’t understand what I’m reading, or I miss some details. I need to just get in the habit of reading an email three or four times before I respond to it. Maybe I should read them out loud to myself.

I also got a text from a former co-worker last week, and I completely forgot who they were. They were at a conference I was supposed to attend, but couldn’t because of my dentist appointment (it went well, by the way – but my spouse wasn’t feeling up to eating out, so we just came home and I cooked us some fresh steaks, which was just as good as eating out — maybe better). Anyway, I got this text from someone saying “Are you here? We are –” and then they listed the names of the other people I used to work with. But because they didn’t put commas between the names, I thought it was all one name, and it didn’t look familiar to me. And didn’t I look like an idiot, texting back “Um, I think you have the wrong number. I have no idea who you are.”

So much for that.

I dunno, I kind of feel like I’ve been going backwards over the past weeks and months. My memory isn’t as great as I’d like it to be, and I keep missing small details in conversations. I also have lost ground on the stuff I’m managing at work, and I’ve gotten lost in the weeds of all the details. Big picture thinking is not my strong suit, these days.

Of course, it doesn’t help when you’re being threatened with layoffs, and you don’t know where you’re going to be in a few months’ time. I totally dodged a bullet on the most recent round of layoffs, but supposedly there will be more. And it’s tough to not let it bother me. I’m the sole breadwinner for my household. I have a mortgage and bills to pay, food to buy, and my spouse’s business to keep stable. My spouse does a good job at what they do, the market just isn’t always there for their products & services, and there have been issues with customers not paying, so that’s a problem.

I like not being homeless. Been there, done that, not going back ever again. When I was a little kid, I once struck up a conversation with a little old lady who was buying dog food (I used to be a really outgoing kid, before the TBIs started happening). I asked her what kind of dog she had, and she said she didn’t have one… and then she ran away from me. I asked my mom why, and she said the lady was probably going to eat that dog food, herself, because she didn’t have money, and dog food has a lot of good protein. I’ll never forget the look of shame and distress on that little old lady’s face. And I swear to God, I will do whatever it takes to prevent myself and my spouse from ever having to experience that.

It made an impression, to be sure.

So, that’s my focus in life – just keeping us housed and fed and healthy. Of course, there’s only so much you can do for someone who won’t help themself. And that’s where my spouse is — just neglecting themself and letting their health go to hell. Watching the love of your life fade away because they would rather die than provide themself with a sense of being loved and cared for, is not easy. But that’s exactly what’s happening. If someone isn’t waiting on them, they don’t feel loved. So, in order to feel that, they play helpless and victim, and they wait for others to wait on them… which is about the worst thing you can do for yourself and your health.

I blame their friends. They are all of that ilk. And it’s killing them all. Not good.

So, that’s adding stress to my life. Just a bit.

It’s hard to know what things I should stress about, and which ones I should just take in stride. I don’t want to keep having these memory and cognition issues, but I also don’t want to make too much of it. I need to be objective and understand exactly where I come down, compared to where I want to come down, and then take steps. The thing is, I don’t get a lot of help from others, figuring this out. It would be nice to have an objective outside opinion, but my neuropsych is very much into the idea that we make the lives we want to have, and mild TBI is not the sort of thing that should hold me back. Especially the kind of TBI(s) that I have had over the years.

They seem to believe that because my test scores are pretty good, overall, and I have just a few areas of difficulty, I should be fine. And the thing that makes it worse for me, is my interpretation of my experience as something that’s negative, rather than positive.

I get that it’s important to be positive about things. Absolutely. The thing is, when I am having issues, I need to be able to be clear about them. I need help getting clear about them. And their influence doesn’t help me, because I get very stressed and very turned around when I try to explain to them, and I can tell they’re not taking me seriously.

It’s been infuriating at times, and many’s the time when I nearly didn’t go back at all. I have a hell of a time verbalizing my issues out loud. And when I come up against the “disbelief field” of their attitude, everything gets all jumbled up. So, I’ve often wondered how much sense it made for me to even go see them. But they’re literally the only person I know who has a grip on brain injury, as well as what’s possible in life, so I’ve used that experience as a way to be more clear in myself about what was really going on with me.

And of course, I have this blog. And my notes. So, I can write my way through all this and make sense of it in writing, even if I can’t do it out loud.

It’s hard to know what’s serious, and what’s not. And the thing that makes it all even more stressful, is having pressure on me to be a top performer, when I am lagging cognitively. So, I just do what I see others doing – I just keep going. I pretend that everything is fine, and I’m getting it together, and I don’t worry about how I look to others, or if it’s compromising my position.

Just keep going. Focus on the basics. Stick with fundamentals and keep everything very, very simple. Ultimately, things will work out, if I just don’t give up — and I keep learning my lessons properly.

Onward.

Time to update my resume… again

Some days it feels like this
Some days it feels like this

Oh,well… that’s interesting. I just found out today that they’re going to announce layoffs for my division next week.

Surprise!

I had no idea. I mean, I noticed that people have not been very perky, lately. They’ve been pretty down in the dumps, and nobody has been in a holiday spirit. All the talk about decorating cubicles has stopped. Back in the summertime, people were more into it, than they are now.

I think people are really freaked out and afraid of what will happen. Between the merger coming up and the cost-cutting that was already slated for this year (but hasn’t gotten much traction), I think it’s going to be a kind of grim Christmas season for everyone.

I’m really not sure what to think. I haven’t been with the company that long, so I don’t know what they’d offer me by way of a severance package. Best case scenario is that they give me year’s salary and a year’s worth of health coverage. That’s the ideal. Then I can take a few months to just chill out. And I can get some of my personal projects done. I can take my time looking for another job, and just tend to my own business for a bit.

Or, I could get moved to another group entirely. I’ve been getting a lot of attention from people in another group that has some dealings with mine, and the head of that group has actually told me that they thought I should be working for them. I’m kind of popular in places, because I’m eager to help out and I can be fun to work with. So, maybe that will help me.

Or it won’t.

Or… I could have the option to transfer to another position. I doubt that will happen, because they’re cutting positions, not adding them, but you never know.

It’s funny… I had a feeling, something was up. I’ve kind of cooled to this job, over the past weeks, I think in part because my boss has been removed and fairly tense. I’m just glad that I haven’t been in the loop, because it would have freaked me out a bit, and who wants that hanging over their head? I’ve felt like I was going to throw up, all afternoon. I’m better now — especially since I just updated my resume — but I’m still a little thrown off.

Oh, screw it. I need to just make supper and take it easy. It’s tempting to spiral down into the pit of despair. But what would be the point.

I have a plan – if I get laid off, I’ll strategize and figure out where I want to go next. If I get a decent severance package, then so much the better. If I don’t get laid off, it’s onward and upward.

It’s onward, in any case.

100 Days and Counting

And the count begins

The reality of my situation is starting to sink in. There is a very good chance that I will be out of this job by mid-June. It occurred to me last night, when I was thinking about the money I just spent on a replacement van — what kind of money I’m going to be making over the next few months, how many hours I’ll be working, etc. It occurred to me that I need to not bank on this job being around, six… no, three… months from now.

Oh, we got a really good van, by the way, for about $2,000 less than book price, because it doesn’t have all the power “bells and whistles” that people come to expect, and it’s been sitting on the lot since September. I really feel like I got lucky, finding that van. It’s smaller than the one we had before, so it’s easier for my spouse to drive. Plus, it’s a 2005 with under 100,000 miles (I know – where did I find that?) and it only had one accident reported on the carfax. Pretty amazing. I managed to cobble together the money to pay for it in full up front, and we even have a couple thousand dollars left to live on.  It’s not much of a safety net — 1/6 of what we had 24 hours ago, and if anything catastrophic happens, we’re pretty much screwed — but I get paid on Thursdays, so there will be money coming in from this contract for at least a little while.

Yep, we got lucky.

And now my luck continues, actually, because I might be out of this job in another 3 months, after my major projects are delivered, and the company switches over to a new technical infrastructure. What makes me think so?

  1. Nobody has added any projects to my docket after my two big projects launch at the end of May/beginning of June,
  2. My boss has been spending an awful lot of time at corporate HQ and has stopped going out of their way to be super nice to me,
  3. My boss’s boss has been dismissive towards me and cancelled the 1-to-1 meeting they scheduled with me when they first came on the job, and
  4. Nobody on the “new technology infrastructure” team is making eye contact with me.

That’s what my keen observational powers are detecting, anyway.

To be honest, it’s a relief to think I’ll be out of there. I’ve really been disliking the work environment, with all the political changes going on, the rumors, the gossip, etc — and the company switching over to an “open” workspace configuration. God, that sucks. Talk about fresh hell. The wild thing is, for all the technical environments I’ve worked with, and all the teams I’ve been part of, this extended team is the one I like the least. They’re okay as people, but they’re not the most inspiring.They’re more interested in feathering their nests and keeping up appearances, than kickin’ it in the technical sense.

And I just don’t relate to that.

But in another few months, it’s probably going to fall into the category of “not my problem“, which will be wonderful.

I’m sure there will be other problems at my next job, but this team and the dynamics will not be one of them.

So, I’m getting proactive and gussying up my resume, updating it on job sites, and also updating my other online profiles. I’ve reached out to folks I used to work with, to see if they can keep an ear open for me. I also have talked to recruiters and put them on notice for June timeframe. Even if I don’t get shown the door, I’m probably going to shift out of there, once my big projects are done. I have no enduring loyalty to this company. I don’t actually like the products they make. I just like the paycheck and the commute. Other than that, I’m fine without them in my life.

It’s funny… I’ve had this nagging suspicion in the back of my head for some time, that the 2-3 year contract they set up was not going to be fulfilled on their end. They’re letting other contractors go, and with a “last in, first out” approach, that puts my head on the chopping block next, because I’m the most junior contractor left.

Now that it feels more definite, I feel like things are freeing up for me.

Ideally, they’ll just tell me what the deal is ahead of time, so I can get a running start. I’m already talking to recruiters… And I’m not waiting for them to come clean, because they generally don’t — and probably can’t. If I hold my breath, waiting for them to do things the right way, I’ll probably suffocate.

So, it’s onward and upward.

100 days to go (max) — then I’m free to go. 🙂

Ironically, the most qualified people got cut

Here’s a weird thing that’s oddly validating to me.

In the recent layoffs, the people who got cut are the most qualified folks in the bunch. One has a Ph.D. and the other has a long string of letters after their name, from all the different certifications they’ve gotten over the years.

Another person got let go, too, but they just don’t add that much to the mix.

But I’m still here.And I’m told I’m “safe”. I’m not sure that’s ever true, but I’ll take it, for the time being.

The thing about this whole round of layoffs is that it just goes to show how important it is to make your best effort, to do your best to add to the team, and to really work well with people, regardless of their “level”. I believe I’m the strongest “utility player” in the bunch, with a lot of varied skills and interests, and a willingness to do what needs to be done.

At least one of the folks who got cut, has a superiority complex and loves to lecture people about, well, everything. Not much of a team player, that one. They get a bit tiresome.

The other one is nice enough, however they don’t really stand out as someone who goes out of their way to produce results. They’re nice, but they seem to think their education is going to pave their way.

Anyway, it could also be because I’m a bargain, and I’m not paid as much as the others, so I’m easier to keep around. But I also know that I’m on good terms with everyone who wants to be on good terms with me, and people really enjoy working with me.

I’m fun.

Maybe that’s why they keep me around… 😉

Anyway, who can say? It’s the weekend. Time to focus on my own work.

Ha! Twice vindicated!

How you like me now?

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in a strip mall in exurban America, listening to their musical mix of ballads by French singers. I think they’re French, anyway. Maybe Brazilian or something else. Hard to say, but they’re all sounding melancholy and deep. I’ve got a big-ass cup of green tea on the table in front of me, and I’m positioned with a good view of the entrance of a massive liquor store that’s got a regular flow of folks going in and out.

It’s Friday night, and I am so relieved.

First, because I’m not going to be laid off (yet). I’ve been informed that I’ve got a job for the forseeable future.

Second, because I wasn’t completely nuts and paranoid, thinking I was going to be laid off. ‘Cause I came this close.

Here’s how things shook out this past week: Monday and Tuesday were pretty intense, because I had reckoned that I was going to get laid off that week. People were acting weird towards me at work, nobody was emailing me, and the absence of my team was particularly noticeable. Some organizational announcements were made with some allusions to new roles and new divisions and what-not. But other than that, nothing definitive was communicated to me about my situation.

Wednesday, I actually talked to the uber-boss on the phone while they were offsite meeting with HQ. They were not having a very productive time of things at HQ, but they did tell me that my job was safe — and I’m actually being considered for a more prominent role involving more leadership in the group. Where exactly that is going to be situated in the company, I’m not sure (nobody is, just yet), but the bottom line was, the folks at HQ have a lot of respect for me and they want to use my experience more than it’s being used now.

So, that was good news. Nothing definite, but a heck of a lot more promising than the vibe I was getting before my team all left on Friday.

Thursday, we had a visit from executive leadership, and they gave us a rousing pep talk and big-picture spiel that was actually pretty inspiring. It was a whole lot better than the half-assed prognostications that everybody’s been involved in. I got a very clear sense that there is a definite vision in place for the future, and executive leadership is really behind it — innovation, change, and all that. Sure, it was a lot of conceptual stuff, and who knows how much of what they’re planning will actually happen, but it’s a mission. It’s a vision. It’s a goal. And that’s more than I had on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday.

Thursday afternoon, after the big C-level whoop-de-do, the uber-uber-boss called a meeting and informed everybody of what’s going in the division. Basically, we all get to keep our jobs — or rather, we get to stay employed. Our jobs will surely be changing, and nothing will be certain for a number of weeks, yet, but the bottom line is, we don’t have to all brush up on our resumes and go looking, for the foreseeable future.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Apparently, over the past months, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth going on between HQ and the division about who’s needed, what jobs need to be done, etc. etc. And apparently, only a few months ago, people at HQ were assuming that my division would be drastically cut, because there are so many of us. But then something changed and the cuts got scaled back. Only a few folks would be going away. But my team’s uber-boss was going to have to cut one person. They were told they couldn’t keep everyone – one person would need to go. And I’m guessing (I’d bet good money on it, too) that I was their prime candidate. I know I’ve really worked upper management’s last nerve a bunch of times, and I don’t genuflect the way everyone else does, so I’d make a really great candidate to get cut.

I believe that’s what was going on last week — when things were weird, I’m sure that my head was on the chopping block. But then… the uber-boss went to HQ, and apparently people there were talking really highly of me. I should hope so — it’s not that I’m all conceited and what-not. It’s just that I’ve gone out of my way to be courteous and friendly and collegial with folks there, and I’ve not made a secret of my in-depth experience and my strong opinions that are based on that experience. I’ve been straightforward and up-front with everyone at the top, admitting my flaws and shortcomings, while making sure they know about my strengths and experiences and my eagerness to make right the things that get screwed up. So they have no reason at all to think poorly of me. I’ve been nothing but professional towards them, and I know they appreciate it. They’re actually happy to see me, when we run into each other, every now and then — it’s not that fake posing that I detest, either. It’s genuine friendliness. On both our sides.

This is in sharp contrast to the behavior of the rest of my team who have followed the uber-boss’es lead. They tend to be defensive and closed and stand-off-ish, and posturing like they’re so much better than the wonks in HQ. What’s the point in that? It’s time to build bridges, folks — the people in charge are still people, and they look to us for help and support, so why not give it to them — and then some?

Interestingly (and not unpredictably) the uber-boss got totally brushed off when they went to HQ. Out of three long days, they only got to spend a few hours with the folks in charge, which was about as much of a brush-off as you can give someone, imho. And the time when they did meet, they talked about me in positive ways. Can you tell I’m pleased?

So, just acting like a decent human being has paid off 100%. And acting like a jerk is not getting people anywhere. Karma’s fun, when it works out. But of course, I’ve earned it.

I’m quite happy tonight. Relieved. And not just because I’m in a really good position with the folks in HQ, but because I was NOT being brain-injured, delusional and paranoid in think that something was wrong with my immediate team. Because I was in danger of being laid off. Very much so. I’d bet money that the uber-boss was going over with the intention of nominating me for the axe. But it didn’t turn out that way at all.

So there.

I’m still here. I’m still standing. I’m not crazy for suspecting things were stacking up against me. But rather than having to go down in flames, it could be that I’m actually going to make out better in the organization than I’d expected, which pleases me more than words can say. Truly.

Of course, we live in an interesting world, so all of this could change next week. But right now, it’s Friday night, I’ve got a cozy chair in a corner of a little Starbucks with my big cup of tea, and I’m feeling quite fine.

I’ve been vindicated. I’ve been spared. And it might turn out that this re-org works 100% in my favor in ways I never dreamed possible.

For tonight, life is really good, so I’m going to bask in the glow while I can.

Ahhhhhhh….