Let's Give Them Something To Talk About
by Peter Block
Sorry We're Closed: Diary of A Shutdown
Sorry We're Closed: Diary Of A Shutdown
Edwin Brennan ran the meeting while our plant manager, Nick Alt looked on. His manner was energetic, smooth, confident and smug. He was escorted by security guards and there were state troopers in the parking lot. He got right to the point, stating that, “The most important thing is that we maintain our dignity,” and that he expected us to conduct “Business As Usual”. He said proudly that he had selected this option of the four (the other three involved keeping the plant open). Packages of information were distributed to the managers. We will be shut down by January 2000.
During the Question and Answer period after the announcement, one of the employees asks if this will affect her annual salary increase.
Dan Whalen (my boss) is firmly in denial or putting up a good front, which he doesn’t have to do with me but I play along. He talks about the opportunities that he has elsewhere and I realize that he will leave as soon as he can.
I take home a book that is property of the plant.
Paul Neff (pgm manager) proposes that we accelerate the shut-down by working people around the clock, two shifts of 12 for five on, five off. He refers to this as the 10-day week.
Brian Ward (QE) proposes solidarity in
the form of a walk out.
I remember all those management training seminars that told us to be tactful in times like these because “certain people will feel betrayed” and I realize now that I am one of those people and that I have been betrayed.
I wonder who will be the first to go and who will be the last to go.
I wonder how long the cafeteria will still operate.
I realize I know each piece of equipment in the plant.
As it turns out, there was an employee who was relocated and started on Wednesday. His first meeting was the shut-down announcement.
Dan comes in and tells me that I have
been assigned full-time to Changeover Team, along with
Mike Settembrini. I am relieved because I think that it
means that I will be here for the duration (if I want
Dan announces at the staff meeting
that the changeover team will be meeting twice a week and
will consist of key people that will receive incentives
to remain on board to shut the place down. He announces
that Mike and I are the Ops reps on the team. He is
excited with a sense of urgency and consistently reminds
us that, “The clock is ticking.” He says,
“Hold your heads high and show them (the company)
the great job that we can do.” (I’m thinking
that since they haven’t noticed by now) Rob
Grueling tells me that he’s not worried about
retaining key people, he’s just worried about
keeping people, period. “As of Wednesday this place
turned into a placement agency”
I decide to blow off my performance review again. I’m too tired.
I think there are two types of people - those who ask “How ARE You?” and those who ask “What are you going to DO?”
We have 343 days to go - I think I’ll make one of those tear-off signs to help with marginality.
I call the hotline for the Employee
Assistance Program and she asks, “What specifically
is causing the work-related stress?”
I buy two books at the bookstore - one about careers and one about sex.
Continued discussion on how to keep people at the site. Funny how the staff is now panicking about losing the people that they had just decided were worthless.
Pat Dreyer charts the grief cycle and circulates it so we can all mark an ‘X’ to indicate where we are. Proving once again that engineers can explain anything with a graph.
The lump-sum medical payout that was available to the group of people were notified that they would be released on 2/19 is substantial - 20 months equivalent. However, some of those people are needed now to replace the ones that are leaving. The trick is, if they agree to stay they lose the lump-sum. The managers are instructed NOT to discuss this with the employees.
I do my calming-down exercises on the
way to the changeover development meeting and I arrive
calm and collected.
The next meeting is with my boss, Dan Whalen and two other staff members, Mike and Chris. We are reviewing the Changeover Plan for completeness and assignments. We get through relatively well and then Dan says that we are still required to develop our indirect budget proposals for ‘99 and we all burst into laughter at the absurdity.
I am still ‘doing something wrong’ every day and starting to look forward to it.
We were told that the entire staff (the entire plant) would be notified that we are “Announced Redundant” on Friday. This is a formal notification which, I think, means we could get a 60-day notice anytime. There are an increasing amount of rules about this and the Production Managers seem real frustrated. As they ask questions, Dan’s answers get short. The ground rules are supposed to be posted on Friday. However, it seems like the message was this:If people volunteer to take the layoff that are still needed, Dan’s answer is, “You tell them that we still have a job to do.”
We are still being requested to submit proposals for additional contracts - of course, now the work will go to the other sites.
I am exhausted.
I read the email notice which declares me ‘an oversupply skill’ and instructs me to read all the attachments carefully. Unfortunately, the attachments with the detailed instructions won’t open.
Oversupply? After everything it comes to that. This ‘Announcement’ means that from now on, they could come in at any time and give me my 60-day notice. Friday I was a gifted consultant and today I’m oversupply.
Meanwhile, up on the manufacturing floor, some of the associates that had been notified that they would be laid off have now been notified that the notices are rescinded. Their transfers to another plant were canceled because now they are needed here. The managers refer to this as ‘being saved’. The associates are joking about this with signs: Dear boss, please don’t save me!
Staff meeting canceled for today.
Our weekly Team Leader Development meetings are canceled.
Our monthly Quality meetings are canceled.
The notification yesterday explained the importance of volunteering for layoff and also stated that ‘key people’ will be needed for the duration of the layoff and these people will be offered a special incentive package.
Volunteering for the layoff is called “Self Appointment” and this activity is called the “Collaborative Layoff” program.At the end of the notice, “We thank you for your dedication and ask for your continued support to make the changeover of our business as successful a team effort as our past performance has demonstrated.” It seems we’re getting more kudos now that we’re being shut down than I ever remember seeing before.
When I walk past the nurse’s station to go to lunch, I see Wilma Dale who says ‘Come here and sit with me, Elizabeth.’ She is crying ‘Look at my hands.’ She has several sores and blisters, but the nurse is not in because her hours have been reduced to half-time. Wilma keeps saying ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I look at her hands and find the right sizes of bandages, and some alcohol wipes. While I fix her hands she tells me that she is hoping for a transfer and that everyone in her department is doing nothing all day except looking for work. She has been learning to create web pages on her own time and hopes to find work in that area. She says that ‘What I’ve always wanted to do is working on the PC, writing and publishing’. I realize that I have never heard her talk about what she really wants to do. I give her a collection of extra bandages to take along.
My friend Julie says that panic is a sign that people think that there is a way out. This is a reference to a study on rats that indicated that once they decided they had no options, there were no signs of panic.