The Bad Time

Well.  I’m nearly five (I’m secretly waiting until I can start quoting A.A.Milne!) but the inevitable has finally happened.  My workplace is going through some “structural changes”, shall we say.  For the first time in my career, people I know and respect are losing their jobs around me.  I don’t want to go into my opinions of the specifics of the decision as I don’t have the full picture.  I certainly don’t have the whole set of numbers nor the strategic view.  But rather, I want to go into the emotional side of things.  Because actually, it’s quite a scary time for everyone involved.

Many people have been saying that the writing has been on the wall for a long time.  Certainly the sales data sent through on the internal financial reports haven’t been painting a rosy picture at all.  Given that this is my first time experiencing this level of staff redundancies, and ones so close to home, I can’t say with any kind of truthfulness, that I saw this coming.  I honestly believed that we would weather the storm and that because we are bidding for several large contracts at the moment, that we’d all be breathing a big sigh of relief sooner, rather than later, that we’d be in good shape again.  Apparently not.

One thing I can say is that my job is safe.  Much of that is down to the specific team I am on, and if I hadn’t opted to shift to this team (almost two years ago now, more or less) I would also potentially be in the firing line.  However, enough people have told me that I’m actually a decent software developer that I’m starting to believe them, so even if I were in my old team, I still don’t think I’d be overly concerned that I was going to be one of the folk being shown the door.

When management called an all hands meeting with half an hour’s notice, with such specific wording as (and this is a direct quote from the calendar booking)  “We’ll be hearing an important announcement and sharing important information, so please postpone any other meetings you have at that time.”  it’s fair to say that impending disaster was definitely an option being considered.  Nervous jokes were being made followed by nervous laughter.  Productivity wasn’t exactly high for that half hour.

Then it came.  The announcement we were dreading.  Around 12% of the jobs within the greater software team were being “disestablished”.  Some of them in very high places indeed.  Of course it was sold to us as more than just a cost-cutting exercise (in fact, I don’t think they admitted publicly that cost-cutting was even part of it).  A new strategy was announced, which was, well, more or less an extension to the old strategy, but more aggressive, because now we no longer needed as large a development force.  Oh and we could do with the cash associated with those salaries.  Which is odd, because under the terms of the redundancies, losing some of the high places I mentioned, will cost them more than a year’s salary of the individual.  I don’t know how much that means exactly, but I would hope it’s a great deal more than mine.

I definitely did the math of opting for a voluntary redundancy.   I don’t think there will be many people around who haven’t at least worked out what their entitlements would be, regardless of the relative safety of their positions.  I certainly considered it, and even went as far as talking to my boss and the tech lead about the possibility.  Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the team I’m in is probably enough to make the decision makers turn me down, but my relative value would probably count me out as well (of course, there are some decisions that I don’t understand – optimistically that might be the lack of data thing?).  I spent two sleepless nights thinking this one through.  Worried for my co-workers and sad that my company, who makes a big deal about its people being its greatest asset, were cutting jobs so readily.

One of the things that helped me to make the decision to stay, was writing down the reasons I was interested in leaving.  Around half of them sound completely half-baked when you read them back (is this the equivalent to Rubber Duck debugging?), whilst the solutions to others become quite apparent and, actually, moving companies won’t do a single thing to improve them.  So about the only thing I would gain, assuming I walked into a job straight away (which is not as far-fetched as it sounds), is a cash injection.  Which is nice, but not helpful in the long-term, where after 3 months, job satisfaction will again be the number one priority.  If I lasted that long.

The only reason I’m not iterating the rest of my reasons for potentially leaving here is that I’m actually too embarrassed to publicise them.  Writing them down once was enough – I’m so glad I did it with pen and paper, so I could watch the ridiculousness burn with it.

So life is pretty grim at work just now.  I still honestly believe that we’re just in a bit of a slump and that things will pick up, sooner or later.  I don’t believe that we will head in the same direction as before.  I really hope we won’t, because otherwise this decision doesn’t make economic sense.   Time will tell, I suppose.  I guess now the main thing to do is hope that the people who do end up losing their jobs move on to brighter things.  I have to believe there will be a silver lining to this particular storm cloud.


About Michael Malone
30-something web dev, self-confessed Linux lover, Ruby enthusiast, and obsessed with programming. Former embedded C and desktop .NET developer.

One Response to The Bad Time

  1. Xing Su says:

    Mike, seriously caring about your company and co-workers in difficult times makes you a great developer. Never change job for money unless the new job will likely bring you equal or more job sanctification. During my career there were a couple of times my employer almost went bankrupt… It was actually quite rewarding seeing the company raising again after down time… If you have enough savings to survive a couple of months without income, there is nothing to worry about… If the worst comes to reality, a developer of your quality can find a living easily…

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