Taken By Surprise - Nancy Cech

Wednesday 6:15pm, I’m sitting at my desk trying to wrap up the day and the phone rings. It’s my boss. I’m new to her team I asked for a re-assignment a couple of months ago to get some distance from a psychotic narcissist (you heard about him earlier in the week.) She’s great. I love her. She’s level headed, gives you room to think, appreciates good work and pretty much leaves me to do my job. But she never calls me after 5 so somethings up.

“Hi. How’s it going.”
me...”Oh great, just prepping for this new assignment we get to kick off tomorrow.”

We’re talking in code these days, with fake enthusiasm. See we just did get a new assignment for a project that we know won’t work. Basically we’re trying to woo back clients that decide to leave the firm. It’s sort of like sending flowers to your ex after you’ve signed the divorce papers, along with a letter that talks about how much weight we’ve lost, that we’ve learned to cook fine french food, and that we really miss you. It’s a little too late. But corporations are funny that way. We all agree to have a corporate memory lapse when the project comes down from the president with an emphatic get it done. Okay so there I am prepping for something that I know won’t work and she says “Well your work is going to get even more interesting. I got laid off today.”

My jaw literally drops. I always thought that was some exaggeration, but I feel the muscles get slack and my mouth open. Did drool just pool out? Thank goodness no one is around.

“That’s insane.” I say. Thinking about what this means. We are in the middle of a re-org and quite frankly don’t have enough folks with her depth of experience.

“Yep. I was asked not to say anything, but I had to tell you. You’ll be reporting into my boss and he’ll come by to talk to you tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry. I really have enjoyed working for you. You really bring a lot of value and I think it’s a big mistake. I was really looking forward to working with you this year.” I say this and I mean it. It’s one of the few things that was authentic that I said that day. And then the line everyone has to say “You know it will be better in the long run, everyone lands some place that makes them happier. And jobs are coming back online. Lots of them. Hey did hear about K. her new job is overseeing the European division. She’s going to Paris next week and is staying for 6 months.” We go on to chat about colleagues that have left, some on their own, most at the hand of re-orgs. Almost all have found work. Only one or two haven’t. The conversation ends on a congratulatory note, me to her. We do give good severance.

And with that I get to go to work today to have my new boss tell me the same story. And I look forward to my second interview for a new job at a different company next week.