Approximately 8:22 am
I arrive at work, grab an orange juice, and immediately head over to the interns' cubicle. I assigned one of them work before I left the night before that needed to be finished by ten-thirty - the final piece of a product to be released today - and I want a status report. Both interns have been here since 7:00 am, and are working steadily. The work I have assigned is done.
Cubemate Connor asks if I want anything from the outside world. He needs to find a dry cleaner and hopefully a barber. I have no needs at the moment - I am quite content here. I briefly check e-mail, send off a few of my own, and begin working on another project. I have two distinct things I want to get done by twelve. Then the plan is to hit Newbury Comics, pick up the new Gorillaz CD, perhaps Michelle Branch, and head back for an afternoon of work.
My boss comes in and informs me that everyone in the department is to report to the VP's office quietly. The four of us currently in the office walk calmly across the office to her workspace.
We are informed that we have merged with another company, but have essentially been acquired. The company in question is one with less revenue and smaller market share than us, and one that we had been assured of time and time again was a minor threat, but one that we could easily deal with. As it turns out, they've been gathering up large amounts of VC, and are now in a position to own us.
She tells us that she has been asked to leave the building by noon, and that at 10:00 am, employees of the other company will be walking around informing people whether or not they've been laid off or not. Those who have are to leave the building as soon as possible.
Should anyone get word that we know about this ahead of time, our VP loses her severence package. She has taken the risk because she feels we deserve to know beforehand.
The CEO sends out an organizational announcement indicating that we have merged with our rival company, and that layoffs will occur. He thanks everyone for the time and effort they've put in towards making us a successful company.
Meanwhile, across the hall, our IT director and an unknown man walk into the server room.
External access to the Internet is cut.
Another member of IT enters our cube area, and begins shutting down the Sparc box on my desk. He tells me he's been told to shut down all Unix boxes. He says not to bother using e-mail. A check verifies that the e-mail server has been taken offline.
My boss comes in with a piece of yellow-lined paper and exclaims, "Can you fucking believe this?" They've asked her to collect the people listed on the piece of paper and herd them into a room where they will be collectively fired. Our department currently consists of seven women and six men. After the layoffs, our department will be two women and five men. One woman currently on maternity leave is to be laid off, which is apparently a violation of the Family Leave Act.
Long faces all around as people scatter to find boxes to pack up their things. Their access cards have been taken away, which our acquirer later admits was a mistake, because they didn't realize that our building is compartmentalized and the keys are necessary to move from wing to wing. Connor gets canned... he's gone within five minutes of being notified. Most people stay around much longer. I help pack boxes into cars.
There is a rather large, bald-headed man at the front door eyeing people suspiciously, like the man who checks receipts at Costco before you leave. He's essentially a bouncer, watching who comes and goes and what they come and go with. The candy dish normally placed at the front desk by our old secretaries is replaced by a bowl of gumdrops provided by the new secretary.
I'm asked to attend a meeting for those in my department not fired (I have been spared). Random people who I assume are my new bosses talk about how great the new company is and how much fun we're all going to have. When they open the meeting up for Q&A, an imbecile asks "What will happen to my mail file?" Another more intelligent soul asks, "What will happen to my salary?" I'm thinking, "What will happen to my friends?" For the last forty-five minutes, those of us who haven't been let go have been making plans to go elsewhere anyway.
Meeting ends. Boxes are packed, gossip ensues. "What a bunch of fucking bullshit!" is the common theme. Nobody knows much of anything, except that a lot of people will be looking for jobs. No one in training or customer support has been told one way or the other whether or not they still have a job.
Company meeting with new CEO begins. I am currently drinking champagne with one of the girls who was released. She had moved to our department three weeks ago. Had she stayed in her old department, she would have still had a job. Champagne is good.
I take a leak and attempt to clean the smell of alcohol off me.
I arrive at the company meeting. It's the usual bullshit. We're all a team now! By the way, half your company is gone, and you'll be relocating. But we're a team! Our new CEO infers that our competitors are EVIL (his emphasis, not mine), and that they must be treated as such by us, because they are there to steal our bread and butter and ruin our livelihood. This seems a bit like what he did to 52 of our employees earlier in the morning with less than an hour's notice. He tries his best to make us all feel like Eddie Murphy from The Golden Child.
Again, more stupid questions about mail files and whether or not the new building has shower facilities. We're told we get a discount membership at a local gym, and that once a month the company sponsors beer parties. Whoop-de-fucking-doo.
The CEO finishes his speech and hands it over to the CFO. The CEO exits the room and sees our two interns eating from one of the catering trays outside the room. He gives them the evil eye and shuffles off.
The meeting ends and lunch is served. Big sandwiches, lots of drinks, large trays of cookies. The bread and circus thing probably worked in Rome, but not here. I eat a bag of M&Ms for lunch.
I return and hang out with the interns. They tell me about Shifty giving them the eye when they were eating sandwiches. He walks by again and gives them another dirty look. I explain that he's the CEO. They explain that he's a fuckup. One of the interns is pissed because he can't log into AIM to talk to his girlfriend. They also haven't been told whether they get to finish their internship.
Third meeting of the day, again with who I presume are my new bosses. Introductions are abound, with several of the engineers making long-winded speeches overevaluating their roles in the company. Again, the mail question comes up. Folks, we're migrating from Notes to Exchange. Which part don't you understand? Yes, there's a fucking integrated calendar. This meeting is more of the same bullshit, and doesn't end until quarter of three. No one plans to remain at work for the rest of the day, and it doesn't appear as if our new bosses expect us to.
I call up Champagne Girl on her cell phone... we're all meeting at a local bar for solidarity, brotherhood, and alcohol. She's on her way.
3:00 pm onwards
The early crew arrives at 3:00, but by four the place is rocking and serious gossip ensues. Our ex-CEO arrives to join the festivities. Among the things learned from the various CxOs present...
- Our Chief Technical Officer was offered a demotion to Project Manager (a non-technical position), and declined. She was then offered a position working under a guy who was an entry-level SQA Engineer when she was Assistant CTO at another company. She declined that as well. They told her to accept one or the other or walk with no severance package.
- The deal had been hammered out over a long period of time, the apparent stickling point being our CEO's adamant refusal to accept a deal without severence packages for every employee (most of whom went from fully employed to lock out of the office in twenty minutes time).
- Another one of the higher level engineers was shitcanned because he refused to accept a demotion that would have had him coding again. Another was spared by agreeing to code.
- None of those involved with making layoff decisions for our company had any idea of the merits and skills of anyone in the company before last Friday afternoon. They had no access to training records, resumes, or bodies of work, and had to rely on the recommendations of our senior managers. Our VP said that she was asked one question: "Which of your employees has experience with automation tools?"
What's odd about this is that I kept my job... and I still feel like I've been fucked by a train. It's one thing if your company is in financial trouble and you can see it coming. My company was profitable and doing well financially. And it's another thing if there are bigger fish in the sea and that acquisition is always looming large. My company was the industry leader, and had a ridiculous customer base and market share.
This came right out of the fucking blue.