Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Stressful Times

     My mom is still in the hospital.  Slowly improving, but still there.  There's nothing I can do to help.
*  *  *

     The business I work in is...shrinking.  Indirect competition from online services is siphoning off the advertising money my employer relies on, and while they're online, too, it doesn't monetize in the same way or on anywhere near the same scale as the traditional model that the entire industry was structured around.  Less money means less people -- and in a business that ultimately runs on fast talk and BS, and which idolizes a kind of "robber baron" approach to management, it means yearly rounds of layoffs have become twice a year events, quarterly looms on the horizon and, like the smallest adults on the Russian troika pursued by wolves after the last child has been thrown out to appease the predators, my co-workers and I are all looking at one another and wondering not, "Who's next," but just, "I hope I get eaten last."

     Meanwhile, the cars and suits of the men at the top get fancier, while the next level or two down of salaried managers work harder and harder to put a good face on it: they, too, merely hope to be eaten last.  Their nice suits are getting a bit shiny at elbows and cuffs -- or have been replaced by casual wear -- and the clued-in managers and assistants who once had a place at the table are increasingly frozen out, seen as more liability than asset, especially if they have the temerity to point out where "bold, forward-looking vision" ignores a lack of workers and space for them to work in.

     It's a rerun; twenty-five or thirty years ago, a different branch of the business hit a huge, unexpected snag (or set of snags) and shrank to fit the diminished resources (just as it had twenty-five years prior to that).  It's still shrinking, after rounds of consolidation resulted in mountains of debt; the very largest players are not expected to survive the next two years intact, if at all.

*  *  *

      The clock is ticking; it is no longer a matter of "if' but of "when." 


Guffaw in AZ said...

Be true to yourself!


Blackwing1 said...

The superb management skills of the MegaCorp for which I work has resulted in a non-layoff layoff. This is where they attempt to find "a position in a different business unit of the company" for the people that they want to get rid of. The division is losing 30 out of 84 people over the next year. And just coincidentally, everybody over 55 (or showing grey hair) isn't going to be left behind. If they just laid everybody off, they'd be facing an age discrimination lawsuit that would be a slam-dunk, but by purportedly offering a "different position" they can avoid it.

When they approached me and asked me to stay on for the next year to train my (probably half the pay, since they're moving the work to another country) replacement, they told me they would find me such a position. I basically told 'em I was too old a dog to learn a whole new set of tricks (I've been doing work for this division in three different positions for over 25 years), and that I'd just frickin' retire.

This company, which used to be engineering-driven, now views experienced engineers as expensive overhead rather than as valued assets. The bean-counters took over about 15 years ago, and they're just hitting their stride. What's almost hysterically funny is watching the newbie just-out-of-school "engineers" making mistakes that are repeats of fiascos of years past, because there aren't enough people left with experience to show them why it won't work. They treat the cube-dwellers are interchangeable plug-ins: pull one out, and the next one will do the work exactly the same (even if they don't know what they're doing).

When bridges start falling down and airplanes start falling out of the sky, you'll know why.

Raz Raxxaffian said...

Sounds like it would be a good time to start making casual inquiries, getting in touch with old friends, and seeing about new possibilities. To me, it is better to make a planned escape than to just hope for the best when the ship sinks out from under you.

I went through this multiple times and always had something lined up when it was evident the end was near. I worked in nearly the same field as you, and know the chill that comes with rumors of possible 'downsizing'. You're a smart lady and probably already have thought this out, but being an old cod, I feel compelled to give unasked-for advice.

I know you'll come out just fine!


Matt said...

I got restructured out of my job Monday. I felt the vibe in the office a week before. Didn't make it any easier, or better. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

The biggest danger to yourself, as you are no doubt aware, will be the announcement that technical services will be out-sourced to a contract company that you will be offered a 'job', at substantially less pay for sitting in the same seat and doing the same things you had been doing.

Start your own tech services contract company...

Jeffrey Smith said...

I used to work for JCPenney. 26 plus years in the same store. After seeing a decade of bad management (including a store manager who exemplifies the Peter Principle) and a corporate strategy that seems intent on running stores with as few employees as possible and forcing those that stay into part-time benefit-free status, I was working myself up to look for a new job.
Then I was offered an early retirement with a slightly enhanced pension (meaning tiny instead of pitifully tiny). I took it with almost no hesitation. I am 58, single, in a house with a paid off mortgage. In theory, I have enough savings to last until I can get Social Security. But I do need a job, if only for the health insurance. But at the moment, I am treating myself to an open ended staycation. Not having an hour long commute each way is a nice thing...

Roberta X said...

My "Plan B" pretty much involves a short pier and a long walk once the money runs out -- and I am only 75% joking. I've seen Mom's experience at a *nice* retirement home, well beyond what I could afford, and it's pretty awful. I'm not going to do that.

For now, technical services are unlikely to be outsourced; there is zero walkaway and response time needs to be within minutes if not seconds. Instead, they are being insourced, from Engineering to IS. Supposedly, the two departments are merging and Engineering has one guy not far from retirement and another who will be leaving as soon as his Mom needs full-time assistance. So I may last it through.

The biggest danger to myself will be if the sharks decide I need to go, in favor of someone younger and cheaper. Nothing to be done about that.

waepnedmann said...

Blackwing1: "...they treat the cube-dwellers are (sic) interchangeable plug-ins: pull one out, and the next will do the work exactly the same.."

Check out Dr. Mitra's explanation of the western world's education system based on the business machine of the British Empire of times past.
The educational system was designed just as you say, to be able to replace units in the machine by unplugging one and replacing it by plugging in a replacement.

Not putting a premium on experience reminds me that: Good decisions are the result of experience. Experience comes as a result of bad decisions.

The Neon Madman said...

I have seen this movie before. It still sucks.

How realistic is it to prepare for the worst? Would it be possible to transition into an early retirement, maybe with some freelancing on the side?

My own goal is to pull the plug in another two years, at 63. I want to get out of the working world, my own industry/company has changed over the last 30 years and a lot of the fun is gone. Maybe I would work for a few more part-time in a hardware store, maybe not even that. Anyway, your own situation is your own business, but I would advise to consider the possibilities.

Rick T said...

Younger and cheaper, but not as productive nor able to respond as quickly as someone who knows where the bodies are buried, why they got buried, what happens when you touch 'that' control AND how to fix it if you do... If they truly believe response times are critical you should get an understudy/shadow for months before you hang up your tool belt.

I work in IT/IS and data ain't analog or high power RF, from my perspective about the only thing the two have in common is 60Hz power...

Roberta X said...

"How realistic is it to prepare for the worst? Would it be possible to transition into an early retirement, maybe with some freelancing on the side?"

For what I do, and with my debt? It's not practical. My specific skill set -- transmitters and RF -- is essential when needed but is rarely needed; freelancing involves a lot of travel and PE cert, which I don't have and can't get: I have no formal education. My general skill set is okay, but the big freelance money is in live TV, at which I suck absolutely.

I have to eke out another fifteen years of house payments. Everything else is optional.

Will said...

" And just coincidentally, everybody over 55 (or showing grey hair) isn't going to be left behind."

In the mid to late 90's, the cut age was 50. That didn't seem to happen in the 70's and 80's, but sure became obvious later. The rational was that they could be replaced with a younger, and therefore cheaper, body. This lead to lots of problems, but "cause and effect" never seemed to be something recognizable by those managers and directors who bought into that technique.