By Mark Zurfluh
On November 6, 2001, I learned I was going to be laid off from a high tech company where I have worked for nearly 20 years.
I received a phone call from my immediate manager about a half-hour before my shift ended on that Tuesday. He requested that I join him for an unscheduled meeting. Since several of my co-workers had already been given layoff notices, I guessed the nature of the discussion. I was so distraught that I went to the wrong room. I walked all the way back across the building toward the correct room, hoping my fears were wrong.
The next few minutes are a bit of a blur as I was told that my last day was just three months away. Somehow I’d have to stay motivated to complete my current project — and work to my last day to get severance pay.
It’s hard to describe the emotions that go through your mind when you’re laid off. I suppose the feeling of rejection is the most difficult part. You can’t help but feel a bit of shame in being chosen even when it has little to do with your past performance. My manager gave me the option of taking the following day off to recover, which I accepted readily.
I called my wife and notified her first about the big news. I didn’t want anyone speculating about whether I was included in that round of layoffs so I created a brief email message to notify my friends and co-workers.
I arrived back to work that Thursday to find over 20 e-mail messages expressing sympathy. I really appreciate every one of my co-workers who e-mailed encouraging words; however, my friend Jerry Baird was especially supportive.
Jerry had known for over a month that he was being laid off, too. He took me under his wing that Thursday morning, starting with explaining the process he had been through. He was so encouraging and upbeat that I immediately began to feel better.
Jerry drove me to an outplacement firm that the company had employed to assist laid off employees. He introduced me to the consultant staff and signed me up for a career continuation workshop. Jerry went out of his way to help get me back on my feet emotionally. Even though we are in the same job classification and will be competing for available jobs, Jerry still took the time to get me going again.
Ironically, my manager was also notified that he was to be laid off (about a month after I was), and I was able to support him emotionally and offer him advice. Because Jerry demonstrated a caring positive attitude that made a difference in so many lives, I was able to follow his example. Jerry taught me that relationships and people are so much more important than a job.