Sunday, November 25, 2012


One of the most ridiculous phrases is "losing your job." It makes no sense and, by rights, leaves you open to conversations like this:

"Hello, Bob, how's it going?"
"Bad news, I lost my job."
"That's too bad. Can I help you find it?"

You don't lose a job. You know perfectly well where it is -- or was. The job lost you. And even then, that implies that made yourself scarce by your own volition. That's just not how it's happening these days. If you're lucky, however, you get "laid off," like the remainders of dinner being scraped into the garbage disposal. But at least you get a severance. Which, to me, evokes the memories of The Pit and the Pendulum. 
Good advice -- now tell management!
The worst thing about getting laid off – other than getting, well, laid off – is the sheer, breathtaking suddenness of it. One minute you’re leaving muffin crumbs on your keyboard. The next, you’re emptying the Ricola wrappers out of the desk drawer – along with the napkins, packages of soy sauce and the 2Q09 spreadsheet that someone in middle management thought looked really good to whatever vice-president she was sucking up to but never got a promotion from.

The perfect Christmas gift.
Just because you’ve worked at your job almost 25 years and have an “Employee of the Month” scroll that misspells your name doesn’t mean you’re safe. Everyone’s on the firing line these days. Unless you’re management. Then you make sure that everyone else gets the blindfold and last cigarette so your muffin crumbs can keep clogging the keyboard. After all, somebody’s gotta face the board of directors with a straight face, which nobody with half a brain can possibly do.

"I know it's tough, but
look on the bright side --
this is the last time you'll
get bad news from me!"

In the end, then, there’s no reason to be shocked when you get the call from Britney from H.R. (the perky, sort-of cute blonde who tries dressing older than she is even though she was still defecating in her pants when you started working there, and for all you know still is) asking if you could “come over for a moment.” Trust me, she’s not looking for a little Petraeus-under-the-desk action. Not at 9:15 in the morning, anyway. And especially not with your manager sitting there, mentally rehearsing the speech he’s known he was going to give you for three months now: “As you know, we’ve been going through changes recently, and your position has been eliminated.” (Dude, you’ve spoken these words twenty times in the last year and it still sounds like you’re reading it off a script for the first time. Try to sound a little empathetic.)

Meanwhile, the idiot
in IT gets a raise
because he knows
HTML or something.
And you? You just sit there with your mouth agape as Britney from H.R. gives you the last rites in what sounds like Uzbek but is really English but you can’t tell because you just got severed and you have no idea what you’re going to do next because every company in America is going through this same ritual at this very second. You have no witty comeback or snappy reply to at least temporarily gain the upper hand. 

Oh, you might come up with something on your way home – something that would have really set them back on their ear – but by then it’s too late. Your chance to make an exit with your head high and a That’ll teach ‘em grin on your face has come and gone.

As a public service, I offer a few rejoinders to keep in the back of your mind (or underneath the 2Q09 spreadsheet) when they give you your walking papers. A few  require props, so some preparation is needed. Considering that your time could come tomorrow, it's good to get cracking now!

1) After you get the news, take a short breath, shake your head ironically and mutter, “First, the cancer diagnosis, now this. Man, this is not my day.”     

2) Look relieved, smile and say, “Thank God. I’ve seen that merger coming for months. At least my 401(k)’s safe.” When they look at you quizzically, look genuinely shocked and ask, "You mean you haven't heard?" Make an Oops expression as if you've let the cat out of the bag, then whisper, "You didn't hear it from me."
3) Bring in your backpack or briefcase. When they drop the hammer on you, announce, "Before I go, there's been something I've always wanted to do at work." Pop open a beer (preferably after it's been shaken) and take a very long swallow, followed by a a satisfied "Ahhhh" and a good belch. Then ask, "Now where do I sign?"

4) Whip out a realistic-looking water gun filled with red food dye, point it at your head and pull the trigger. After they finish screaming, laugh and leave the room.

Remember: this is your role model.
5) Don't say a word. Simply stare at your manager as he gives you the news. Do the same to the HR rep. When she asks you if you have any questions, keep staring at her with a blank expression but your eyes expressing a horrible end for her. (Think of Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men.") Keep it up for another moment, then get up from the chair, walk to the door... and give her another, brief, terrifying look. Return and do the same just on your way out of the building (if they haven't already called security on you).

6) After you leave HR, enter your manager's office and announce, "I've read my severance contract carefully and didn't see anything that says I can't do this" -- then stick your finger down your throat and vomit on his desk. (They might find a way to cancel your severance anyway, so be sure to have a good lawyer.)

7) When HR asks if you have any questions, ask, "Yes. Who did a complete and utter moron like you have to fuck to get your job?" (My wife really objects to this suggestion, so you know it's a winner.)
8) Return to your team and tell them confidentially, "Just a head's up. You can keep your job if you go down on the manager. I didn't think it was worth it, but you do what you have to."

There’s nothing illegal in any of these suggestions. No threats of violence are spoken. As far as I can see, you're in the clear. Besides, what are they gonna do – fire you?
Did you like that coffee mug up there? Great! My Cafe Press shop sells it and plenty more that are equally snarky! Go to

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