The Pleasure of Being Downsized

In The Beginning

Fortunately, from the day I started my career in 1980, I had been preparing financially for the moment where my services would no longer be required in the corporate world. I don’t know about you but I can remember starting my career full of excitement and anticipation. That feeling quickly disappeared when it sank in that I would be working 5 days/week and roughly 48+ weeks/year for some ungodly number of years.

The Magical Moment

Roughly 36 years after I started my career in banking, I experienced what many before me had experienced. A new CEO stepped into his role a little over a year before my termination date which set a snowball in motion; heads rolled as the organization “pyramid” shrank starting at the most senior executive levels.

Within months before my final day at work in May 2016, my boss and her counterparts, and virtually all my counterparts, were packaged off and subsequently replaced.

I distinctly remember the morning I learned my services were no longer required. I was scheduled to have my regular “touch base” with my new boss. An hour before the meeting I received an email suggesting we meet in one of the boardrooms in the building in which I was located; my boss’ office was a few blocks away. I thought it was strange we would be meeting at my office but gave it no second thought. Ten minutes before our scheduled meeting I received another email suggesting we postpone the meeting 15 minutes. No problem.

At the agreed upon time I walked to the boardroom. The door was ajar and I could only see the HR Director.

I entered the boardroom with the information I had brought to provide an update as to what my team was working on. Once I had sat down my boss proceeded to tell me we would not be having a touch base. The purpose of our meeting was to inform me that my services were no longer required. I was presented with a termination letter which detailed the terms and conditions of my severance and it was impressed upon me that my termination was definitely not due to my performance.

I turned over all my employer’s property (iphone, keys, etc.) and was asked if there were any personal belongings in my office that I required before leaving the office; whatever I could not carry home with me would be boxed and subsequently couriered to my home. Naturally I needed my wallet and house keys but other than that nothing else was critical. While my boss left the room to retrieve these items I asked the HR Director if I could access the train schedule from my iphone since I had never taken a train home that early in the day. While I had temporary access to my phone I made a point of jotting down a couple of my team members’ phone numbers so I could call them to let them know what had transpired.

During our wait for the elevator to take us to the concourse of our building the HR Director once again reiterated that my termination was definitely not performance related but simply a sign of the changing times. When the elevator arrived she asked if I would prefer that she wait for another elevator. I said “Heck no! That’s just silly.” I told her not to worry. It was no big deal.

We finally arrived at the concourse, shook hands, and parted ways.

Now What!?

Oh great, it was 9 AM and my first train home wasn’t leaving for at least another 1.5 hours. In fact the train wasn’t even going all the way home. I would get off at an earlier stop and to catch a connecting bus!

Since I had only ever had a work phone which I used for personal/business needs, I had to find a pay phone to contact my team members. It had been such a long time since I had used a pay phone that it was a real eye opener for me as to just how few pay phones there are!

After searching for a pay phone for at least 10 minutes I came across one. I called one of my team members and said:

“I’m taking a well day today.”

He laughed and said “What do you mean you’re taking a well day?”

I said, “Well, I’m not coming to work anymore.”

After he composed himself he rounded up the team members and I met them for coffee at a coffee shop in our office tower.

Everyone was shocked and dumbfounded but I told them to relax. I didn’t think their jobs were in jeopardy and I told them not to worry about me. I referenced the 7 stages of grief:

1. Shock and Denial
2. Pain and Guilt
3. Anger and Bargaining
4. Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness
5. The Upward Turn
6. Reconstruction and Working Through
7. Acceptance and Hope

and told them I had breezed through all those stages and I was now in stage 8 which I call Mixed Emotions…as in joy AND happiness? I had been dreaming of this moment for years!

A couple of weeks later the team organized a farewell party for me. It was great because my wife finally had an opportunity to meet everyone I had spoken about. We promised to keep in contact and our next “get together” is slated for mid-December. The number of people who have confirmed they will be attending is far greater than I had anticipated. That’s a good sign!!!

How Does This Story Tie In With The Subject Line?

I finally got home after my 1.5 hour train/bus ride only to be greeted by the cat and dog. About half an hour after I got home my wife returned from an appointment. She was extremely surprised to see me home so early and that’s when I said:

“Honey, I’m home!”

She said “I know. I see that. Why?”

I said “I’m retired!”

Her reaction? “Oh no! I’ve got to get a job. I don’t think I can be around you 24 hours a day.”

Well, here we are, more than 6 months after that wonderful day in May and we still love each other!

Have any of you been downsized? What was your reaction?