It takes a great deal of preparation to kick off an orderly massacre. The victorious Catholic hordes took days driving stakes into the ground, coiling rope and dragging in tons of greenwood before finally accepting the Cathar’s surrender and subsequent burning. In an untold number of medieval and modern villages gallows would be erected in anticipation of the dawn of execution day. More recently, the Nazis took everything up another order of magnitude and devised a malevolently complex bureaucracy to navigate for both the perpetrators as well as the victims. In case no one ever thought to say it before, what pricks! My sense of drama is building this up way too much, but these things came to mind when I came into work yesterday.
The message came in mid October from Corporate in standard memo form. These memo’s are either intended to be inspirational by highlighting all the extra cents per share we earned for distant shadowy shareholders, or a terror inducing hint at coming layoffs. They never say it quite that way. It’s always a roundabout lackadaisical rumination about the near term outlook, past projections, then bam, by the way, it looks like we hired way too many of you when the future looked so bright we had to wear shades. The wordsmithing is so masterful that although it is never hinted at, they do understand that it is probably your fault.
The siege mentality sets in . Do you think you are on the list? What about me, do you think I am on the list? How about him, he has to be on the list. If he’s not and I am, oh, I’ll be so pissed. The culture of speculation trumps even the most energetic efforts to maybe turn things around. Why the hell should I care? I’m probably on the list. It’s not good times.
This time I had some real cause to wonder if I was on the list finally. Oh, I have a good rep and all and bring in money, but something fundamentally changed from the last two layoffs. This time followed my coming out as transgendered to HR. We had some very good and productive transition meetings, but all that ceased once preparation for the slaughter began. I knew they were busy, but still, it didn’t give me a good feeling. Here I was, and employee who identified special needs, would require additional workforce training, and in the minds of HR, could potentially open the company to risk of lawsuit. Or they could quietly make the problem go away. When a third of the workforce is being let go, pretty much any flimsy excuse will do .
I ascended the stairs yesterday morning, passing the hundreds of gallows boxes stacked neatly in the stairwell awaiting all those personal effects and cutlery that should have been returned to the cafeteria. I tried to speculate something witty and clever, but instead just wondered if one of them had my name on it. Ugh, how mundane; stress reduced me to cliché. By noon the culling ended and I remained standing. Now, amidst and bruised and resentful remaining population, I must go forward and announce my transition. Shit.