When The Layoffs Come, Everything Must Go

Individual carrying belongings out of office i i

It's not easy being laid off. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com
Individual carrying belongings out of office

It's not easy being laid off.

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Commentator Marc Kevin Hall describes his last few months on the job he was recently laid off from. He was one of a handful of employees kept on to wrap things up after a big corporate consolidation.

On the Monday after the layoff, I returned to my office to begin my personal countdown to termination.

Compared to the bustling pre-apocalypse days, the offices were empty. Most of the cubes were broken down for reallocation to other regions. Chairs still carrying their ergonomic instructions were corralled for resale. Phones were heaped haphazardly on carts. Professional awards — laser-printed certificates, team photos and engraved trophies — were left in piles or thrown into trash bins alongside shredded performance reviews.

Anything not locked away at the end of the day might be gone by morning. The survivors would roam through our offices looking for some bit of leftover equipment, and were often surprised to discover we were still there.

"I can't believe you aren't staying on! How will the company survive without you?" they'd say.

A moment's silence, and then: "Hey, what happened to the nice monitor your assistant had? I could use one of those, and New York says I can't have one."

Marc Kevin Hall

Commentator Marc Kevin Hall. Courtesy of Marc Kevin Hall hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Marc Kevin Hall

Now I was an "unperson" in the eyes of the corporation. I wasn't included on mailings. I wasn't invited to meetings. I didn't get the new organizational charts or phone directories. There was no need to tell me anything. I couldn't help anyone anymore.

I spent my days handling whatever random tasks came my way. I went to the classes offered by the outplacement company. I wrote resumes for friends. I looked at financial statements and worried about the future.

But mainly, I stared at a monitor and tried not to think about where I was. The building where I'd spent most of my professional life was haunted now, and I was the ghost.

I took the weird artwork off the walls of my windowless office. I emptied drawers, purged drives and boxed up trophies. Ten years of personality, stripped away for a new occupant.

The final day was predictably rough. I said my goodbyes and e-mailed a few people who had been good partners and friends, wishing them well. You can pretend you'll keep in touch all you want, but it's usually better to grab closure when you can.

And then it was 5 o'clock. Fourteen years, seven months, 24 days and nine hours earlier I had walked into the building for the first time. Now I picked up the remnants of my personal effects and walked out of my office for the last time. Was it worth it? Did I get a good deal? It doesn't matter. Not really.

This was a clearance event. There are no exchanges, no returns, no money-back guarantees. All sales are final. Everything must go.

Everything.

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