Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Laid off - updated

In the middle of the afternoon yesterday at my VoiceBox job the whole language team (there are 11 of us, representing 6 languages) received an email saying the "leadership team is re-evaluating the company's language needs" and we should not come in to work for the next two weeks. We should hear at some point if our services are needed at all anymore.

Which means that the economy's woes have, indeed, caught up with the voice recognition software industry as well and that the company is trying to cut costs any way they can.

Which is all well and good and somewhat anticipated; the product, after all, is somewhat, if not very, superfluous. (When faced with the choice of being able to voice control the air-conditioning in your car or spend that money on, say, a vacation, home improvements or gasoline, I'm betting most people will choose to press the air-conditioning button with their fingers.)

What really bothers me is the way that they went about handling the situation. First of all, there was no warning, no "we're going to have a meeting about costs and your department might need to scale back". Give us a few days to get used to the idea, maybe.

Secondly, it was done over email.
Our supervisor sat in an office a few steps away and could not be bothered to come into the language lounge to tell us to our face.

Third, after having sent said email the supervisor was unavailable for questions and it appeared he had fled the office altogether.

Fourth, our department head, Ralph, was still on vacation and it seems that this decision was completely made behind his back. He has always been the MLL analysts' voice and has stood up for us and I'm imagining he'll be quite upset when he comes back to an empty office today.

Finally, there were five of us at work yesterday when the email was sent. We got the instructions that WE were responsible for calling the rest of our coworkers and getting everybody's timesheets together. Which we did. Because we're nice.

I wish I had the courage and the luxury of telling them off. "How can you treat people like this? Do you honestly expect us to sit by the phone for the next few weeks, waiting for your call to hear if we are allowed back or not? Don't you realize that you are losing so much more than a bit of money by treating us this way? Do you really expect any loyalty after this? Most of us come from Europe where it is ILLEGAL to fire people, even for a crappy, part-time job, without 15 days notice and several months of severance pay. That's right, you'd go to jail. Or pay a crap load of money. Good luck when you realize next month that you need us, but we've moved on and you need to find and train a whole new group of people, which will take weeks if not months to get them to function as well as we do!"

But I won't. Because the sad reality is that, although I'll try to find something else to do, I most likely will have to take the job if they ask me to come back. (My guess is that they'll either eliminate all languages except for French and Spanish or scale back the department to 1 part-time employee per language.)

It was sad to have to tell my colleagues this over the phone. It was even sadder to leave. We were all shocked and more than a bit upset. Maybe we'll unionize, who knows...

So, I'll be trolling the part-time, full time and the nannying ads on Craigslist but it's looking pretty bleak.

I'm trying to think of it as a blessing in disguise. Maybe now I can find something I really enjoy. Something in my field even. Although, again, the sad reality is that my field is hit equally hard by the economic downturn and no theatre in town appears to be hiring for anything I'm qualified to do.

Then there is the whole childcare issue, too. If I find something full-time, what will we do with Joris?

I think my best option is to find another nannying gig and get back on food stamps. This will also give Jacob more time to write. Sure, it won't make me feel like I'm utilizing any of the skills I so carefully cultivated in my 20s, but I'll enjoy spending the time with my favorite little guy. I will feel that, once again, my own ambitions have been put on hold but I can hang on to the thought that Jacob will finish that dissertation soon and get a fabulously paying job, which will enable me to throw myself back into the non-profit world without having to worry about being able to pay the bills.

Any advice from my handful of readers?

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UPDATE (Wednesday night)
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Apparently there was a company meeting this afternoon at VoiceBox. Over half of all employees got laid off, effective immediately, no severance pay.

I suspected I would not be going back when earlier today I tried to check my VB email from home and found out it was shut down.

Still, except for our team leader, Ralph, nobody has received any official word from anyone (HR or other). I guess it doesn't matter.

I thought that maybe it would make me feel better, knowing we weren't the only ones having a hard time, but I keep thinking of all my colleagues whose whole family income, their health insurance and everything depended on their employment. The guy whose wife just gave birth to their second child. The people here on H1B work visas who will face deportation if not employed, everyone who did not expect to have to worry about their next mortgage payment...

I just told Jacob, I'm not used to being fired - I am the one who leaves employers who then write cards, give farewell parties and ask me to come back. Not actually being told you're fired, but knowing it sucks. It makes me feel like the hours I put in were nothing important - my contribution and therefor me meant nothing to this company.

Anyway - enough. I'm going to watch yesterday's Daily Show and then go to bed.

1 comment:

Sarah B said...

That REALLY sucks, Carine. I'll keep my eyes open for something (not like I have any pull at my job or anything). I'm sorry your boss was so lame at breaking this to you. You deserve much better.