The View From Your Recession

A reader writes:

I work for a multinational information and technology company in an office in the Midwest. We were originally a small local company serving local needs, and came to where we are today through a series of acquisitions by ever-larger corporations.

Last November, the company announced that our office would be closed at the end of this year. The news was a surprise to everyone. I don't think anyone thought we would last forever, but I also don't think anyone expected the end to come so soon. The company didn't make this decision because our work wasn't good enough. We were a solid business center making good money for them. Indeed, the company has gone out of its way to emphasize that this decision wasn't a reflection on the people who worked here or the work they did. It was purely a matter of business.

Of the roughly 150 people who worked here, about 130 are being let go. Most of their work is being sent overseas to India and the Philippines.

A few of us, including myself, have been lucky and landed jobs in other offices. Some will have to relocate to other cities, while others will telecommute. For those relocating, that means they have to sell their house in a depressed market in one of the most economically troubled regions in the country.

Over the course of the last year we've been training people in other offices and overseas to do our jobs. It has been very difficult watching as another group of people leaves each month and the office empties out.

Today there are probably about 40 people left. By the end of this month it'll be half that. Once this office was noisy and bustling with activity. Today it's dead silent, except for the sound of a few tapping keyboards. I could throw a football the length of our office and not even hit anyone. I just wish the whole process would have been faster. Dragging it out like this only compounds the misery.

I feel tremendously sad about all of this. It isn't just that I have friends here. There are people I don't particularly care for. But I know a lot about all of people I work with. I know who the smart ones are, and who the not-so-smart ones are. I know who the hard workers are and who the lazy ones are. I know which ones work well with other people and which ones don't. I know people who are older, who have health problems, who have debt problems, who've worked here for decades and literally have no other marketable skills. I worry and wonder what they will do.

I never thought of my job as a sinecure, and I understand the company's point of view. We live in a world where nothing matters more than keeping the stockholders happy. Cheap labor is good for business. The company has offered those people it's letting go decent severance packages and outplacement services. That's more than a lot of people get. So I can't say that I feel particularly bitter.

You might as well be angry at the rain for falling down.