It’s Friday, the day after The Bad News, and you arrive to work a little bit early, naively hoping that everything will be alright today.
‘Jerry’s in.’ Matt says with a heaviness in his voice that tells you much more than words could ever do.
‘How is he?’ You ask but you already know the answer. Matt just shakes his head.
You sit down and try to work. Open your emails, ignore them all, open a word document, ignore it just the same. You cannot concentrate. The atmosphere just feels wrong.
Jerry walks back to his desk and it’s obvious he has been crying in the toilets. You don’t know what to do. You want to go talk to him and tell him it will be alright. You want to tell him that he is a good bloke with great skills and you want to tell him that it must have happened for some greater positive reason and it will all work out well for him in the end.
You want to tell him these things but how can you? Jerry outperformed you on any number of reasons and yet from seemingly nowhere he was made redundant. Told “thanks but no thanks” and informed mid-Thursday that Friday would be his last day.
Today is Friday and Jerry is not handling it well.
‘Cunts.’ You say because you feel that excessive swearing somehow makes up for your inability to provide the comforting words that situation requires. Matt just nods in agreement as a gloomy silence descends on the room.
It’s 9:30am and Jerry walks by again, flicking a business card onto your desk as he passes. He cannot bring himself to talk. Now is the moment for you to step up and say something but you freeze, not know what to do. He continues to walk away-
Jerry turns and his face is a mess, contorted with tears and sadness and you wish you had thought this through. He shrugs, knowing you cannot offer any real consolation and you stick your hand out. He shakes it briefly and you decide to go for it – you hug him. He cries on your shoulder for a few seconds as you tell him you will miss him. You wish you could do more but all you have is cheap words and a guilty conscience.
You think back over the past few months and it makes you feel even worse. You’ve seen Jerry slaving away, doing the work of at least three people, and all the while trying to make a positive difference. You’ve seen Jerry mentoring the graduate and trying to bring a happy and positive attitude to the workplace. You’ve seen Jerry delivering excellent work time after time and yet here he is. Thrown overboard by the management at the first possibility and completely blindsided by it. You try to draw comparisons with pirates but even pirates had more morals than this. Even pirates had a better code of conduct.
He’s packing up his stuff now. Blatantly throwing his work, his notes, and his good ideas into the bin as he holds back tears. Management looks the other way, pretending this is for the best and that they’ve made the right decision for the greater team but it obvious they’ve chosen a sacrificial lamb in order to save themselves. A great demonstration of leadership.
Normally a captain is supposed to go down with the ship. If poor decisions have been made, either directly or indirectly, the captain should wear the consequences. Just ask Steven Smith. The captain takes responsibility for the bad decision, or at least the decision to hire the people that made the bad decisions, but apparently that is not what happens here; the place where avoidance and leadership are synonyms.
Jerry leaves with his notes packed in a travel bag and his mate Peter by his side. They’ve both individually done more for this department than whole teams of others yet both have been made redundant. Both wanted to make the department better, both challenged others to perform better, and both were made an example.
And what is that example? Do not challenge others, do not try to make things better, do not go above your position, do not speak up when you see flagrant bullshit. That is the lesson these redundancies seem to enforce.
We’ve all accepted a paycheck for this work; an amount we deemed fair enough as a trade for our time and effort to do our jobs, but now a new question is forming. Are we getting paid enough to sell our souls too?