ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

June 1999

Articles
100 Percent Waterproof

Taking Teams To A Higher Level

Making The Soft Stuff Hard

The King Of Leadership Programs

Merger And Acquisition: The Six Deadly Sins



Columns
Enough Is Enough

by Peter Block

Tick Tock, Your Life Is Like A Clock
by Greg Smith


Features
Sorry We're Closed: Diary Of A Shutdown

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Pageturners
Book Review

Site Unseen

 

Diary Of A Shutdown
Sorry We're Closed

February 10
The more people that leave, the more valuable I become, sort of. As valuable as I could be in a plant that is being shut down.

I think we really need some sort of newsletter to keep up with this daily change in employee level. It is so disconcerting to learn that someone is leaving by seeing the notice for their going away party.

Those "Surplus" stickers continue to show up every where. Fred pasted one over his face in all of his family photos in his office. The cafeteria equipment, including the cash registers, have "Surplus" pasted in several places. Michelle Sylvester has put them on her office personal items, a plant and a dream catcher.

I need some overheads for a presentation but the entire design dept. is out today. I hope they come back tomorrow. I hope they come back, period.

I need advice. I talk to a friend. He says that I am discovering what faith in myself looks like. He says that I do understand and my anger is right there saying 'I don't understand.' Wake up. Do not forget where you are from, ever. This company is in decay. What god do I worship? Do I have to bite my foot off to stay alive? The company is eating its young and killing off its best. Something is really wrong, hideous, what is it? Can I do this knowing that it won't make any difference to anyone? Can I be that alone? He says to honor the gifts that I have whether or not anyone else does. It hurts it hurts it hurts. Am I being born or dying? Surrender. Accept the possibility of love. I just want to be weak for a while with someone who understands.

My grief is for
1. Myself losing the plant and all my work
2. My plant losing itself and all its history
3. My shock at realizing that this is the way of the world- careless rape and casual murder

I have lost innocence. Will I lose her twin, faith?

February 11
Sean says, "I keep wondering over and over to myself why would they decimate this great place. But the fact is it doesn't make a rat's rear bit of difference why. It's over and we have to get on with it." The anger in his voice tells me that it is not over yet for him and that he's not ready to get on with it.

February 12
Alice Boynton asks me if I have found a job yet. It occurs to me that she thinks that my business trips are job-hunting excursions. I laugh and tell her that I have no idea where I'll be when this is over. It feels good to say the truth, confident and defiant and good to tell her. Why should I be grabbing at straws? Grateful for some piss-ant crumb of a job? I tell her that I have no idea what I'll be doing and she says 'Everybody is worried about you because you haven't announced a decision.' I remind her that I am staying through December for the shutdown and she says, "Why make that promise?"

February 15
I realize how much time we all spend talking and thinking about whether or not we'll have a job and I have heard these conversations at so many plants. What a waste of time. What lost productivity. I don't believe in entitlement, but what if security was not issue? What if the company said, "Now that we hired you, we'll keep a place for you. Our focus is you and your focus can be the customer. We will invest in you, not to take care of you but to make you our weapon against the competition."

February 19
I get a promotion and a raise.

This is crazy. I am crazy. I give up.

I get to have lunch with the accountants, Chinese Day on Friday. The department is struggling because their manager, Mark, is insisting that they tell him where they are interviewing so that he can put in his resume, too. He says, "If they want you, then they would want me more because I'm your boss." When Erin showed reluctance to participate in this deal, he threatened to disapprove her severance benefits. Not surprisingly, (to everyone but Mark) no one has called him for an interview. Neil Peper couldn't take this daily harangue and he just quit without another job because he got sick of being hounded by Mark and being around the fall-out.

Diana Grossman has an interview on Monday and she is scared. She is also mad because for years she has been told that she was overpaid but the interviews that she has lined up so far are at least $7,000 over what she makes now. 'What an idiot I was to listen to these jerks," she says to me and anyone else who will listen. Mark says, "She can't leave me until I approve her release date." Diana says, "I'm not leaving you, the company is leaving me."

No one wears company-logo shirts around here anymore.

Funny how we used fight tooth and nail for office space, furniture and equipment and now that's the easiest thing to get.

February 22
I can't believe that I get another email about nonessential email:
"This message has been sent to all system users. Please do not forward it.

E-mail is a vital part of doing business. It also makes heavy use of other company resources, such as the network, at a time when we are working hard to reduce costs across the company. We need your help.

We are asking employees to reduce the size and quantity of email messages and to reduce the number of nonessential e-mail messages.

In the process, we will reduce the amount of time each of us spends dealing with nonessential e-mail."

So the problem is that we're communicating too much? At least, those of us that are still here? What is the value in "conserving this resource?" Without our use, it has no value.
And how can costs related to use be rising when we're in a layoff, shutdown mode across the company? "Reduce the size of messages?" Who do they think they are? Next, will they recommend an optimal length for voicemail? How about phone conversations? You just tell me how many words a day I'm allowed.

February 24
Today is Rick's last day. He is one of the good ones. He got a great job close by, high level, good package and the works. I find him at the end of the day, the rest of the area empty, packing up a few last things and crying. His department had constructed a notebook for him and they each wrote a page to him about what he meant to them. I didn't read it because I knew that I would start crying, too. He tells me about his exit interview. He counted four forms that had to be filled out, and there was one entire detailed page dedicated to 'Reason For Leaving.'
He describes his embarrassment when the security guard, during the briefcase inspection, grabbed the stapler and demanded "Did you buy this with your own money?" and Rick was forced to admit that no, he was taking it home, that and the box of paper clips. He says, "Funny, though, they never even looked in the four boxes that I was taking out."

February 25
We found out through one of the external local companies that they (and others) have been sending job opening notices to our HR department. These have been neatly sorted and placed in a notebook that is sitting somewhere in the HR area. Fred says; "No one was told about the book because we didn't want people leaving before we're ready."

February 26
The engineering department is reporting the shutdown progress with an intricate multi-color pie chart. Entitled 'Operation Shutdown,' it shows layoffs in black, quits in yellow, transfers in blue and retirements in green. I wonder if there was a rationale behind the color assignment, but I'm afraid to ask.

I think this is like a magic eye picture. If I can just keep looking long enough and be patient, then all of the seemingly random colors will click into a 3-D recognizable picture and I will understand everything.

March 2
I think we ought to conduct a special ceremony at 100 days.

Alice Boynton comes by with my tickets and says, "I have 34 days to go, Elizabeth, so we have to talk. I don't want anything done for me at all. I mean at all. No parties, no nothing. Come by my last day and give me a hug and let me go. If I think you're planning something, I won't show up. If you spring something on me I'll just leave. I mean it. The best thing you can do for me is let me go without any big deal at all."
I tell her, "You're going to make it hard on us, but if that's what you want, that's what we'll do."

She also tells me that it is getting nearly impossible these days to deal with the travel department. Alice had to make six trips over to get my tickets because they kept making mistakes, but each time they gave her a hard time, as if it was her fault.

It is going to be really hard on me without Alice. She has been my mother hen, my work-mom, clucking at me, taking care of me, giving me all sorts of advice and encouragement and insider information about the executives.

She promises to come back on my last day.

March 5
Pat Dreyer tells me that the slow-down is in full effect in Graphic Design. The routine is this: everyone agrees to do anything that is requested and then they go back to their desks and do absolutely nothing. He tells me that this is the new 'Business as usual'.
As he talks he gets so excited and I am so happy to see him mad at last. He dreams of writing an expose to the New York Times. He talks about staging a two-day walkout. I resolve to take him to lunch and spark some flames of hate, discontent and revolution.

Remembering the Rules for Radicals, I wonder - what do we have that we can use? Saul David Alinsky reminds us that the Spanish Civil War credo was "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees" I think that Elizabeth's credo is "Better to lose for the Cause than win for the Company."

I tried to watch 'You've Got Mail' because I thought a light romantic comedy would be relaxing. But, I couldn't watch the little store being shut down. It was not the backdrop to the romance for me; it was the whole story. I went to bed crying and I woke up mad.

March 8
The cafeteria has barely enough change to break my $20 at breakfast.

March 9
As I go through the day, I notice that I am becoming real comfortable with a new way of doing business. Everything is optional and I treat it as such. Requests of people's time are truly requests because I acknowledge that the time is extremely short. I even seem to have some sort of extra confidence and sense of freedom, but this is not based on any anticipated outcomes. And I don't feel dizzy or sick. I am not happy but I'm not in despair either. What if there was a way to operate like this all the time? What if I learned some secrets to how we work together during this ordeal? Will I find treasure in this cave?

June '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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