Rituals Of The Betrayed

I have seen a lot of layoffs these past few years.

I have survived a number of them.

I have fallen to a few of them.

I have talked to far too many friends, on the phone, through email, through IM, over beer, watching them tear up from the sense of failure and betrayal.

Too many. Goddamned too many. In a sense, it’s easier when it’s you.

I am tired of watching impotently as my friends fall to yet another corporate earnings report and mandated change in direction and any other euphemism you care to use for “we screwed up and are damned if we’re ever going to take any responsibility for it”.

There is a deadly rhythm developing to these horrible events. The drumbeat of rumors weeks prior, the dead look in the eyes of the people who know earlier and can’t say, the worry in the eyes of everyone else as they furtively check networking sites and job listings and send emails on their private accounts.

It’s always the same. Always the fucking same.

And the people responsible – no, not the managers who actually have to wreck people’s lives up close and in person, but the higher-ups who actually made the screwups that led everyone to the cliff – they’re Out Of The Office. Off To Meetings. Not Here Today.

Responsibility. It’s a nice long word, rolls around in your mouth. Says a lot. Isn’t said much, in any way meaningful.

The part of the ritual that always gets me? The Official Statement. There always is one – the people in charge of PR can’t just let it go (or else they might be let go themselves!), they always have to weigh in with the usual Our Hearts Will Go On malarkey.

And that’s why it always gets me. Because it’s always something to the effect about how “these unfortunate events” weren’t really critical. It’s not important, those people we let go. They’re not that important. We didn’t really care about them, you see. It’s unfortunate, sure, but we have great things in store, just you watch! We’re not set back in any way, no sirree bob! Everything’s GREAT!

Everyone knows it’s what companies say – everyone knows it’s what companies have to say.

And it’s the final act of betrayal. That final kicking dirt on the guy as he heads out the door with his action figures and Best Employee Of The Year trophies in a box that was helpfully set out in the hallway the night before. Because it’s not enough that you let that guy go after he gave his all for your bottom line, it’s not enough that you had to force him out into an economy that is anything but welcoming. No, not only did you wreck his life and reward his loyalty with a pink slip and a packet about COBRA coverage, you then got to announce to Teh Intertubes that in the grand scheme of things he wasn’t really that important.

You know what? Everyone reading those releases knows it’s a ritual. And it’s a ritual that sucks. It’s IMMORAL. It lies. It lies to your customers, your stockholders and the employees that remain in fear of their continued livelihood.

It’s the final gratuitous act of betrayal. It always happens. And it always sucks.

I remember when I had one of those *on the radio*. I had been let go from a dot-com company in mid-collapse, in 2001, and escorting my shocked and awed arse out the door was a press release that said that those let go were “underachievers”.

Thanks, guys! I’m sure that’ll look good on my job application. Underachiever Class of 2001. Way to reward working long hours and surviving layoff after layoff and wondering when I’d be the next.

Corporate loyalty is a LIE.

Maybe someday I’ll be in a position to change that.

Or maybe I’ll just keep impotently raging into chat windows.