Org Prep Daily

September 1, 2017

Breaking Bad in South Florida (8)

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 2:56 am

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. If you find any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, deadly or lively, or actual molecules, carbons or heteroatoms, it is purely coincidental.

Part 8

(here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 9)

The Board of Directors met on Thursday, the last week of February 2016. Our research director did not stop to chat in the chemistry lab as he would usually do after these long meetings.

The next Friday morning I almost missed my termination interview when I showed up two hours late for it. But I was lucky, the managers were waiting and still willing to see me. (An experiment the night before was taking a long time – eventually I had to turn off the distillation, leaving it unfinished, past midnight). When I arrived to work, my colleagues were already mostly gone and the labs deserted – all quiet. Our grandmotherly administrator said that the boss needed to see me right away. There was a firmness in her voice that did not make it sound like a birthday surprise bonus check or the stock options promised to me by the previous CEO two years ago.

Still, I did not realize it was the grand finale until on my way there I saw a colleague walking back with an empty box in her hands, sobbing. I kept the squad waiting a little longer and helped my colleague to pack her books and papers, we carried it to her car. It gave me time to compose myself. (I even thought about just driving off without ever returning to the office but the result would have been the same and I did not like the idea of the company collecting and packing my belongings.)

So there was our research director with the business development guy waiting seated in a stuffy little office – and they looked heartbroken but they had no other choice and they were giving us two weeks of salary plus two months of medical as a severance if I please sign the papers right here at the dotted line. I told them they were way too generous and I couldn’t possibly accept their excellent offer: they should take their severance papers and use them in whichever way they find enjoyable.

I just figured that the list of people being laid off was probably put together three months ago, the HR consultant was already “helping with the transition” at the beginning of December last year, and the main factor that earned me the membership in the layoff club was that I made the CEO and the research director stop their illicit drug manufacture at the company. I explained that I was happy to fight the company with everything I got. The next thing they tried was the offended pose, to show me their indignation and they accused me of blackmailing them. The business guy taunted me about not having any evidence that there were drugs cooked at the company.

I walked out of that meeting and the research director run after me and brought me back to his office and he said that perhaps they should be able to work out some consulting arrangement since I was tremendously valuable to the company. Before I even finished packing my box, the research director wrote me two e-mail messages to my gmail address (my company e-mail account already stopped working) and he attached consulting agreement proposal and he wanted me to stop by at his office, to see me again on my way out. He also set up a dinner meeting with me the next Monday.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Here is the Standard Model of corporate downsizing: The first principle is to keep all preparations secret till the last minute to better catch the subjects unaware what is about to happen so that they don’t sabotage the company or gather kompromat; ideally they should be off-guard even as they are sitting down with the “exit specialist”. Next, it is important to try to have them sign the prepared papers that they are accepting the severance and will not sue the company – this is best done by applying mild pressure while the subject is still shell-shocked. After that, you just get those bums out of the building, one by one, escorting them gently but firmly to control the unpleasant scene. The layoff theory stipulates that it is important to downsize on Friday (or better yet, on the last day before Christmas) because the ex-employees will have more time to exhaust themselves with anger and beer, and get depressed. After a weekend or holiday they will be less likely to return to the company with a shotgun. I don’t know how well the theory worked in my case but I did relax over the weekend and I was genuinely looking forward to the meeting on Monday.

On Monday night, our research director brought me the nice widescreen Mac that I was using at the company: he already prepared it by removing the company files but leaving everything else – it came installed with Chemdraw and MS Office so that I could work from home. He handed it to me in the restaurant parking lot.

I wasn’t keen on his vague consulting agreement where the number of work hours depended on the company whim. I wanted to see the exact income figure, the medical plan, my obligations laid down in a clear language. In the end, we shook hands on a fixed-term four-month extension contract: 3 extra months of salary spread over 4 months, with four months of continuing full medical coverage. I would be working from home. (There was actually plenty of research results to write up for publication and patents so this wasn’t a sinecure but a real contract, and the company actually did this once before, to accommodate our colleague who had to be in Vancouver with his family).

I thought this package wasn’t great given the circumstances but I did not want to fight or deal with the lawyers – I thought it was reasonable enough: I could interview for a new job and still remain employed for a little longer, and I wouldn’t have to worry about medical insurance in the meantime. This convenience alone had a value for me. We could even remain on friendly collegial terms… So we shook on it and I was relieved. One huge problem solved, or so I though.

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2 Comments »

  1. Is seems like a great writer was lost on you! Your imagination is just astonishing: the level of detail, clear and deceivingly real scientific background, involving famous names from back-in-the-days.
    Ever thought about a Hollywood career? Maybe you could start by pitching this story for some sort of legally safe knock-off based on a great TV series.

    Comment by career coach — September 1, 2017 @ 7:20 am

    • I try to be very specific when I write these fictional stories. I have a rather detailed image of the main actors. The person’s character is shaped by the upbringing so I try to fill in a realistic-sounding family and education background – and that even includes occasional name-dropping when it does not hurt anyone.

      I was thinking actually about selling the film rights and maybe the book publishing rights too. Please do you know any good agent?

      Comment by milkshake — September 1, 2017 @ 1:43 pm


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