Just Like David Brent

David Brent
Image via Wikipedia

Just the other day, I was talking to a friend about this blog, and commiserating over the fact that it’s not a particularly personal look at my life.  My original intent was to chronicle my efforts at getting a novel published.  However, writing about writing all the time is pretty dull, and I wanted to unleash the creative reins a bit, so I decided instead to turn it into a fun, humorous, and (hopefully) witty series of rants, or mini-essays if you will, about whatever topic struck my fancy.  My goal?  To showcase my writing, and to entertain the masses.  I think I do those things fairly well here, but still, I told her just yesterday that I would like to take a stab at some more emotionally-driven types of posts.

Be careful what you wish for…

I may have to officially subtitle the blog “One Man’s Journey From Unemployed, Struggling Writer To {Fill-In-The-Blank}” because, yesterday afternoon at work, my worst fears were realized.  I was notified that I had been “made redundant” as our friends across the pond are fond of calling it.  It appears I’ve got something in common with David Brent (from the British version of The Office) now.  Oddly enough, that makes me smile.  Ricky Gervais is funny as hell.  Then again, his character was crude, overbearing, and egotistical.  So much for that smile.

Here’s how it all went down.

I was at my desk, putting together some certified letters to mail, when my boss approached me at 3:30.  “Hey, Mark,” he said.  “Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Great.  Let’s go down to HR.”

The minute those words left his mouth, fear hit.  Numbing, almost paralyzing, fear.  Because nothing good ever happens when you are summoned to an impromptu meeting with the Human Resources Manager.  I suppose in theory they could be offering you a raise or a promotion, but then again, in theory pigs could fly.  If you dropped them from an airplane with a parachute tied around their torsos.  Nope, I knew right away the news was not going to be pleasant.  That walk from the west wing upstairs, where my cubicle is located, to the HR office downstairs was the longest of my life, and the whole time, the same word kept repeating itself over and over in my head.

Shit.  Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

When we got to HR, I was ushered into the HR Manager’s office, and the door was closed.  She was on the phone, which led to another interminable two minutes in which I stood there awkwardly, hands in my pockets, trying for all the world to look nonchalant while that same refrain rambled on through my brain.

Shit, shit, shit.

I imagined that I had committed some violation of company policy and was being called out on it.  Excessive internet use or too many personal phone calls, something of that nature.  So, when HR Manager finally hung up the phone and said, “Mark, I’m sorry to inform you that a corporate decision has been made to eliminate your position,” my first reaction was one of relief.  Whew!  I wasn’t in trouble for anything!  But a second or two later I thought, Hey, wait a minute…that ain’t exactly good news, either!

I was both shocked and, at the same time, not at all surprised.  There have been several rounds of layoffs at my company in the past two years, and a lot of good people have been let go.  I’d fretted out loud, since early 2009, about how my head might one day be on the chopping block, too.  But then the oil rig explosion in the Gulf happened, and that was a boost to sales.  It sounds weird that we could benefit from a disaster like that, but we did.  Sales have been through the roof these past few months.  Our CEO was just congratulating us for another record-breaking month, in an e-mail full of confidence and enthusiasm.  I had finally let my guard down, so of course that’s when the shit hit the fan.  It’s Murphy’s Law, or some variation of that.  You know how they say “expect it when you least expect it”?  All I can say is, amen, brother.

HR Manager asked if I had any questions.  “Err, yeah,” I replied.  “When is my last day?”  Surprisingly, she could not give me an answer.  I was told they’ll need my services “probably at least another two weeks, maybe 30 days.”  Really?  So you’re letting me go, but you can’t tell me when?  Seems like they’d have worked that not-so-insignificant detail out before calling me in, but apparently not.  However, considering that I wasn’t escorted out of the building right then and there, like so many of my fallen comrades, I can’t really complain.  An open-ended end date is better than an instant end date.

I then ended up consoling HR Manager, who was visibly distraught.  “I feel terrible having to deliver news like this,” she said, and even though I was on the receiving end of a nice little kick in the ass, I couldn’t help but feel badly for her.

“I’ve been in your shoes before,” I told her reassuringly.  And I have been.  Not literally, of course – heels aren’t my thing – but, I’ve had to let a couple of people go in past jobs, and I know how unpleasant that is.  “I don’t blame you for a corporate decision.  That’s business.”

And, damn, that’s really understanding of me.  But I’m not one to burn bridges.  I intend to remain professional right up until the very last second.

“Why don’t you go ahead and take the rest of the day off,” she said.  I glanced at the clock on the wall.  It was 3:45.  I leave at 4:00.

“That’s okay,” I said.  “I’ve got some certified letters to take care of.”

“No, really,” my boss interjected.  “The letters can wait.  I’ll clock you out at 4:00.”

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth – and not really given much choice in the matter, anyway – I marched back up to my cubicle, gathered my things, and logged off the computer, leaving a whopping fifteen minutes early.  Why couldn’t they have met with me in the morning? I wondered.  That way, I’d have had half a day free.  Oh, well.  Such is life.

So here I am, still technically employed, but only for a little while longer.  If there’s a silver lining to be found – and trust me, I’m digging around like crazy for one – it’s that now, for a little while at least, I can focus on getting that novel of mine published.  It’s time to query every last agency in my book.  One final, all-out blitz on the publishing industry.  I’ll have a decent enough severance package, one that will keep me afloat through the end of the year.  Plus, there’s unemployment, and a girlfriend who is already offering me tons of emotional support.  I will be okay.  I believe that with all my heart.

Also in the Let’s Make Lemonade Out Of Lemons department – now I’ve got some really good fodder for the ol’ blog!  I see some honest to goodness soul-baring posts ahead!  I won’t abandon the fun and witty stuff, but it’ll now be interspersed with posts chronicling the trials and tribulations of my impending job search.  Fun stuff, I’m sure.

Are you ready to come along for the ride?  Buckle up, and let’s go.

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14 thoughts on “Just Like David Brent

  1. Bummer. So sorry to hear. Given that I held the same position before I left I’m sure I would’ve been in your shoes. (“Not literally, of course” – men’s sneakers aren’t my thing.) I can’t help but wonder if this is the first step in consolidating other marketing or customer service positions. Like you, I’m not entirely surprised. I started worry about my job way back when they first announced that Denver was becoming C-Tech’s new headquarters given that they have marketing and customer service people there already. As a side note, if you ever need a peer recommendation let me know. Good luck with the novel and job hunting. You’ll land on your feet just fine. Then again, you already know that.

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    1. Thanks, Kandace. I really am looking at this as an opportunity to finally get off my butt and do something about my writing. Maybe I’ll even take a stab at freelancing for awhile. This is going to be an adventure!

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  2. Wow, how’s that for a smack in the face? But these things have a way of working out for the best, like you said, it’s going to be an adventure! And, once again, a strange correlation between your life and mine. Publish that novel, Mark! You can do eet!

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    1. I will…or I’ll die trying! Either/or. I’d talk about “hell or high water” but that’s too much of a cliche. And also, we’re supposed to have a pretty wet winter.

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    1. You were right about idealist.org, Nancy. I’ve come across a few interesting sounding jobs from them! Nothing that I’m qualified for, unfortunately, but it’s nice to see those kinds of postings, at least.

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  3. Wow, I’m sorry to hear this. It sounds like you are in a good place about it though, and lucky that you have the emotional support of your girlfriend as well :). I’m definitely in and ready for the ride – I’m sending good thoughts your way that you’ll find fullfilling work, and soon.

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  4. You may not know this… but lemonade is overrated.

    But seriously, I’ve been where you are and I’m looking at that possibility again. There’s not a damn thing I can do about it so I just wait in abject fear of living your experience. So what IS the bright side then? No one can get mad at you for looking at other opportunities while still there. At least you weren’t told to pack up your shit and get out right then. If you weren’t in love with your life, now you can figure out what you really want to do/be and move forward with that. You can also try wearing high heels so you can understand where your HR person is coming from, although I don’t think that’s the best option right now. Something better will show up on your doorstep… so be looking.

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    1. Seeing that I’m 5’8″, I’ve been tempted to try on high heels.

      But seriously, you do point out some good silver linings to my current situation. I asked HR during our meeting if I can just cut out the BS and tell them I have an interview, should I happen to land one while I’m still here, and they were very supportive of that idea. What’s the worst that can happen to me now, you know? (Knock on wood, just in case).

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  5. I’m just starting with you here in this adventure, so I’ll give a somewhat belated condolences. You now have a new full-time job (get a full-time job) and a pretty great attitude to go along with it. I predict good things (but not about the pigs; sorry, they’re staying on the ground).

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