My layoff was a disaster for me, it began as follows, just to give some background.
The company was useless in the entire process (well almost useless).
I received the E-mail from my [posterior]-crawler boss asking me to attend a meeting with him and HR in two days, no subject for the meeting, just the time and place. So I went to see him.
“What is the meeting about”, I asked? “Sorry I can’t tell you”, he said!!! ”Well”, I said, “if that’s the case I’m not coming”. “OH” he said, “no need to be like that.” I said “if I don’t know what it’s about how can I prepare?.” “Well”, he said, “I think we may have something for you, so I think you should come”. By that he meant early retirement. So I turned up for the meeting.
The first meeting:
There we were, [posterior]-crawler, me, a woman from HR and her boss, all seated in a meeting cage in an open plan office, surrounded by worker ants and boxed in by smoked glass! He started if off by introducing them then got right down to it. “There has been a re-organisation in development and your job is one of the 96 which will go” (to China). “Thank you”, I said. “There is a package currently being worked out by the board of directors and a workers committee.” “Oh” said I. Turning to the HR boss, employed, I asked what the package was. He said, “Sorry I can’t give you any details it’s still secret.” So I said, “WHAT THE [Anglo-Saxon curse word], you invite me here to tell me that you can’t tell me anything, that’s ridiculous.” “Why waste my time, you should have phoned me up or just sent a mail.”
By this time I was cooking. He said, “We don’t do things that way! But we should know the details within the next 2 weeks.” “OK”, I said and stormed out and went home. Two weeks came and went, I started cleaning out the office, slowly, nothing from HR. I stayed at home, sometimes went in and continued to clean out my stuff. On a Thursday two days before the end of the month the [posterior]-crawler phoned me, “Can you come in tomorrow at 4 p.m. and sign the various contracts?” “No”, I said. “Monday at 8pm.”
So it was; I signed the papers, no choice in the matter, either sign and get money, or not sign and get instant dismissal. I had 6 months to find another job within the company or I was on the street.
Question: What can a synthetic organic chemist do within a pharma company apart from synthetic organic chemistry? The answer is NOTHING. What a hatful of [posterior orifices].
The months came and went, as did a few other meetings, which were with HR and a waste of time, I just went in to get my stuff and on the 30th November 2010 I signed over the PC etc. to my [posterior orifice] of a boss. After 30 years I was tossed out like some sort of toxic waste.
During the period of notice I saw and spoke to no one, I just left.What should you do the ﬁrst week?
Well once the initial shock is over you realize you can’t really ﬁght them, so start cleaning out the ofﬁce, although I stayed at home. Started cleaning up the mess the next week.
How can your family and friends help?
They can’t really help, friends in other companies just sympathized but there by the “Grace of God go I” was really the response.
Was the help the company offered you (outplacement, etc.) useful?
No, not really. They offered a reasonable severance package plus full salary for the 6 month notice period and I did not have to work, could spend my time looking for other job or cleaning out the ofﬁce. But as I said above what else can you do in such a company, and if you had managed to ﬁnd another job within, the Damocles sword would always be hanging over your head.
What ﬁnancial advice can you offer?
Don’t spend much money. In this country the tax is a year behind, I received all the severance pay at the end of the year, which meant it went on the tax for for 2010. This effectively doubled my tax bill and I had to sell my company shares to pay it off. So make sure any severance is paid to you in the next tax year, when you are unemployed. But then you won’t get so much unemployment beneﬁt, roundabouts and swings I guess.
What should/did you do?
Not a lot I could do. I applied for a few jobs but at my age it was always a “no” we were looking for something subtly different was the usual reply.
What should you NOT do?
Try and not get depressed
When did you start looking for another position?
Immediately, but it did not last long
How painful was ﬁnding another position?
Very painful and I found it embarrassing. The rejection, in spite of experience, they were not interested in that at my age you may not ﬁt in the team too well!
What should someone be emotionally prepared for?
Several things; not being able to discuss chemistry. At one stroke all access to the literature is gone (I don’t want to go back and use the library). You can’t get references anymore, no refereeing, no nothing. That hits, and still hits me hard.
How did you spend your typical day?
I sort out my database of compounds I have made over the years, sort out my literature collection, but for what? I should have done it years ago. It’s of no use now.
I go have a beer most days. Do a bit in the garden. But I seem to have lost purpose. It is very easy to get into a routine and one must make a real effort not to do this, although it’s easier said than done.
What behaviors do you think were helpful or not helpful?
The company behavior was not helpful, once the deed was done they did not really give a s--t. On to the next problem for them. Perhaps I could have done more to help myself, but what for? (Depressed?)
Have you found new work? What was helpful there?
Still unemployed and will remain so.
CJ here again. Thanks to RK for his story and my very best wishes to him and all of us.
The Layoff Project is an attempt to collect the oral histories of chemists who have been affected by the changes in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The explanatory post is here; stories can be left in the comments or e-mailed to chemjobber -at- gmail/dot/com. Confidentiality and anonymity is guaranteed.