Anne Notations

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

With a whimper

It's funny, being a lame duck employee. When you first learn you're being laid off, most co-workers are solicitous and sympathetic, while others never say a word. "Huh? What elephant in which living room?"

The work itself keeps coming pell-mell at first, especially when a high-profile annual event is only weeks away. Gradually, though, your activities begin to taper off, partly thanks to exclusion (no need to attend directors' meetings anymore) and partly because those staying on are looking ahead and adapting to a workplace without you.

People at work cut you a lot of slack when you're a lame duck. You are frequently out of the office to meet with human-resources staff and job counselors, to go for interviews or training. Since you can't begin any long-range projects, you do just the basics and begin cleaning up your office, packing personal objects such as framed photographs, freelance samples, and what's left of your Star Wars collection. You delete old emails and put personal digital content on disks and thumb drives. All of this makes you sad, because your office is that special "room of one's own" where you have been YOU, a creative professional with an identity separate from that of mother, wife, and grandmother.

What you miss most in these waning days of a long career is being needed: for input, brainstorming, institutional perspective, urgent text or web posts, opinions. All of those occasions when one or another boss said, "Let's put Anne on the [choose one] web redesign committee/ research communications group / Clinton visit planning committee / Summer Studies marketing audit team" – they are in the past. You're off the list, dropped from the batting order, cut from the A Team or indeed any team whatsoever. No one cares what you think about this or that proposal, this or that strategy. You are suddenly so yesterday.

Here is the truth: The life of a lame duck is boring, frustrating, demeaning, and melancholy. Driving in each morning to this particular office in this building at this campus on this historic hill in this capital city is What You Do – or rather it has been for more than 30 years. You're three weeks away from losing the whole enchilada – the colleague-friends, the cherished edifice, the professional identity – and you are alternately agitated and verklempt.

Mostly, you are alone – drifting away on your little boat, like it or not. The voices on shore get fainter, the lights on the dock dim, and the mouth of the harbor approaches. Soon even that will recede as you reach the open sea.


  • :(

    By Anonymous Sue, at Wed Jun 09, 07:02:00 PM EDT  

  • Let me just say: "We have reached the open sea, with some charts, and the firmament..." Sail on to the new adventure. You are going to rock the new world.

    By Blogger Katherine Hinds, at Wed Jun 09, 07:23:00 PM EDT  

  • Will there be any retirement pay? And if not, after 30 years, why not?

    By Blogger billanderson, at Wed Jun 09, 07:57:00 PM EDT  

  • I read that last comment as "retirement PARTY" -- go out with a bang and commandeer a bar with Peter and Cynthia after work that last day. And let the outside world know - we appreciate you too.

    By Anonymous Elaine, at Wed Jun 09, 09:11:00 PM EDT  

  • @Bill A: Only a government employee would ask such a question in this day and age! LOL

    Here in the real world, I have money in a quasi-401K fund that my employer also contributed to, but I can't afford to cash that in since I'll need the monthly pittance to support me when I'm older. At 58 I'm too young to collect Social Security.

    After 30 years, one receives severance pay and "good-bye."

    By Blogger Anne D, at Wed Jun 09, 11:43:00 PM EDT  

  • Time for the next adventure.


    By Blogger BrideOfPorkins, at Thu Jun 10, 02:31:00 AM EDT  

  • The transition is hard, and you will manage it well, I know. It is just as hard when you leave for another job. (Been there, done that.) The only difference is that your "limbo" was longer than it is for most people who transition between jobs.

    Good luck, keep your chin up!

    By Blogger Michael A. Golrick, at Thu Jun 10, 12:44:00 PM EDT  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Wordsmith52, at Thu Jun 10, 09:52:00 PM EDT  

  • So well-done (as usual) and so thought-provoking, Anne. Although I've never been in your spot, I'm on the other side of this right now in my office: One colleague departed May 31, another finishes June 30. This all rings true with what I've been observing -- and tiptoeing around. How much should I say or ask - will I make things better or worse? How do I delicately explain where I'll be for the next hour, when where I'll be is a gathering they're no longer part of? I need to make plans to take over and/or reassign their duties, but how do I start making those changes with them standing 5 feet away? Do I ask about their new job prospects, or will that just heighten their anxiety? Will I appear uncaring if I don't ask? The whole situation is more awkward than puberty -- as you already know too well.

    By Blogger Wordsmith52, at Thu Jun 10, 09:54:00 PM EDT  

  • I remember other staff being involved in meetings pertaining to the future of the agency and 3 of us not being "invited"... It is humilitating and creates such an awkward atmosphere for those being kicked to the curb and the ones "who truly care" that this is occurring.
    It is much better to have it over with. Nothing you do can change it but getting out of the environment is healthier for yourself.
    Keep your faith,Anne. This is what I have held onto for 4 years now...

    By Blogger r_weeks, at Fri Jun 11, 09:28:00 PM EDT  

  • Anne, I live across the parking lot from a nurse, who worked at our hospital for thirty years, received "Nurse of the Year" award and was promptly escorted to her car stating that they needed to downsize the nursing staff. I am friendly with her and still am though the first year was torture as I was usually standing in my scrubs when she would be walking the dog. (she wasn't ready to retire) I felt horrible, but the one thing that kept me from ignoring her was to keep her updated on all the gossip etc. She has learned to move on and has done some pretty spectacular things, so much so that when I am standing in my stinking sweaty germ infested scrubs after work I envy her freedom and her new "jobs." Venturing into the sea isn't easy but there are some beautiful things out there, keep focused, don't take your eye off of a dream or something you want. My heart is with you. I am truly sorry for this position you have been put in, Pete and I thing and talk about you a lot, he just asked how things were going today. X Cheryl

    By Blogger Cheryl Leigh, at Sun Jun 13, 06:33:00 PM EDT  

  • I am here, without words, but here. Sigh. You write beautifully. It fits with the subject that you write about yourself as though from outside, because that is how "The Man" sees you and makes you feel. Sigh.

    Does G-d want our pain?
    Yes, sometimes, just as our prayers,
    are answered with no

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Thu Jun 17, 11:59:00 PM EDT  

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