This morning, I woke up thinking about the dungeon that was my previous job. I worked with some terrific people, and while the thought of that place still irritates me immensely, and I’d much rather never have to think of it again, I wonder about them from time to time.
Coincidentally, a colleague and my former counterpart in Los Angeles called to check up on me earlier today. She’s a nice, genuinely caring individual. Like me, she did not get the job she applied for, but the company kept her on an additional six months to do real estate work her replacement isn’t qualified to do. Her replacement, by the way, is a secretary from the other side of the merger, and she has no operations experience. My previous counterpart informed me that my replacement is an employee from the other side of the company, too. So, I looked up this successful candidate on LinkedIn, and it seems she has no operations experience either.
Our perky colleague and former counterpart in Houston, a real firecracker, is still being strung along. She began the interview process just after Christmas, about the time I did, and was informed a few weeks ago the race is on between her and one external candidate. A man. That external candidate was in the office she manages interviewing yesterday with a high level executive. My perky colleague, however, was not invited to do the same. This high level interview happened in her office, behind a closed door she could see from her desk. It lasted about 45 minutes. When I spoke with her today, it sounded as though she were one Tinky Winky band-aid away from flying into a billion tiny pieces.
Leslie and I were sitting in front of Peet’s coffee when I got off the phone. I was drinking the usual afternoon latte, a habit I haven’t tried to break yet, as I considered what I’d been told. The general consensus might be that across what was “our” geography, the position my counterparts and I applied for and didn’t get has been filled with outrageously unqualified candidates from the other side of the “merger of equals”. In fact, the entire action looks perfectly premeditated.
It took a moment for this new perspective to sink in. At first I sat there, my head racing, feeling irritated and stressed out all over again. To date, I’ve considered this a learning experience, which is what I tell myself when I’ve been intensely fucked and can’t find a hidden benefit. Then the tears fell. If they knew all along they would replace us with legacy firm drones, what was the point of all this? Why tell me I’m a strong candidate only to shoot me down later? Was it so we wouldn’t miss the pleasure of banging our heads against the confusing ambiguity they called change management or so we could enjoy being de-valued as our responsibilities were stripped slowly with little explanation? Oh wait. It was so we could fully imagine the terror of being unemployed in what is undoubtedly this century’s most dramatically publicized and fear inciting recession; thereby being scared shitless enough to do whatever they asked us to do and willingly overlook the strong possibility our efforts might be for absolutely nothing.
Suddenly, I realized this lets me off the hook.
Over the last three weeks, I’ve worked on living with the learning experience theory above, and wondered how long it would take my confidence to bounce back. My outer Donna, the big girl, was aware of the set up and knew it was not to be taken personally; but inside … well, that was another story. My inner Donna, the little girl, fretted and even obsessed over the certainty of what I did wrong. The job was only a quarter of its previous responsibilities, and would be surrounded by rude and inconsiderate peers, but this seemed inconsequential. What did I do that made me inadequate for this job? Suddenly, that little, red head, freckle face Donna, the unconfident girl with buck teeth and a dorky pom-pom hat, was liberated from the burden of her self-imposed unworthiness by the knowledge that the firm hired people who weren’t even close to qualified, and probably had plans to dumb it down all along.
A company that treats support services with disdain and utter carelessness is a nightmare to work for in a post-merger environment. The professional staffs who don’t meet their numbers won’t hang around long. But because support services don’t generate revenue, those staff might as well wear targets and wait to be picked off, terminated due to cost savings. As the new firm approaches its utopian state, this will increase with the integration of real estate locations and sophisticated self-service human resource, benefits, and finance systems. Finally, the end result will be a largely automated and highly sophisticated internal services function that sits just one hop, skip, and a jump away from complete and total outsourcing.
If I were still working in the Shared Services dungeon, I'd start mustering up what dignity I have left; because if the process of elimination doesn't wear you down, the ferocious job market certainly will.