Thursday, November 19, 2009

Strange Happenings in the Office...

It's gloomy out there today. I have been assured, however, that the grey skies are going to clear up and the sun will soon be out...sometime. It might be today, it might be tomorrow but the sun will shine again.

I'm thinking maybe a career change to being a weather woman might be quite easy. I know there's supposed to be some education involved but, really, to us layfolk, it seems awfully easy to sit there and spout things like, "We may see some rain today but it might pass us by," and "The sun will shine again sometime in the next few days!"

I know, I know...there's probably some meteorological school involved or something. I just don't really see how that works when, really, with all the Doppler 5000 technology, it just involves reading the weather off a computer.

Still, for now, the sun is not shining and the greyness of the day is pressing inwards. Our president fired someone yesterday. One minute she was here, the next minute the news is flying around the company, urgently whispered as so to keep it covert. Naturally, we all knew within five minutes although we still don't really know why. She was a fairly new hire and it's likely, we'll never know the reasons she was fired. I know she reminded me of one of my old bosses, someone for whom I had so much trouble working, I finally threw in the towel and found another job. Yet, since I didn't know this woman that well, I can only guess what her crimes were.

Of course, it has sent a fear into all of us. Even the most secure of employees here has to realize that being fired is a simple process: One day you come into work like usual and the next thing you know, you're carrying a banker's box of possessions out the door and being asked to submit your computer passwords. In the days when we worked with the university, it was harder. Being fired from a university is a long, tedious process and it takes months, even years unless there is a good, obvious reason like, say, you kill your manager or something.

I'd like to think that if I were in trouble, I'd at least know ahead of time. I think usually, a firing is preceded by closed door meetings in which bad behaviour is discussed. If the bad behaviour doesn't stop, a firing happens. It's abrupt, it's quick and all we employees ever know is what comes in the standard email: "Effective immediately [Name of fired employeed] no longer works for [our company name] Please direct all questions to [Name of President] or [Name of HR Manager]." That's it. We have the gossip chain, of course. We all have our suspicions, our own anecdotes of how the fired employee misbehaved but we never get anything more official than that email.

The thing I find amusing is that if we have questions, we're supposed to ask the president or HR manager. Yet, if someone asks "Why?", they're told, "I'm afraid we can't discuss it." That pretty much says it all. The only thing we all want to know is "Why"? but that's the one question they won't answer.

I know they can't say why for legal reasons. This is a litigious society we live in. Anything that we're told could be admissible if a lawsuit is filed by the employee if he/she feels it is a wrongful termination.

Yet, the why of the situation would be good for all of us. It would ease some of the self-doubt that is swimming around everyone's minds: What did she do that was so bad and am I doing it too? What sort of thing could we get fired for? Was it because she was always watching videos on her computer at work? I do that too! Am I going to get fired?

You get the idea. Sometimes the cold, hard truth is better than the speculative worry that floods the atmosphere when people's thoughts are left to stew.

So, today, this morning, everyone seems to be walking around, a little stunned. We can't discuss it because our company President is upstairs, ensconced in his office, a deterrent to gossip because he hates gossip. We can exchange surreptitious comments, raised eyebrows but we can't talk about it at work.

It means we're all on our toes, worried about our own job security. I'm not too worried...yet. I haven't been summoned to my boss's office. I do get my work done, even if I don't do it with beams of joy and sunshine flooding off me. I never fail to meet my deadlines. I hope this means I'm safe never know. And I know I'm not the only one thinking this.

I suspect the quiet in the office will last all day while we tiptoe around. It makes for a productive work environment, even if it is a little tense.

As for me, I think I'll keep a low profile, do the odd chair dance and, if things get really bad, do a mental dance around the teapot.

I'll just make sure no one sees. Just in case.

Happy Thursday!

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