Thursday, December 13, 2007

Stuck in a Rut

I have worked for the same company for nine years. I have worked in three different departments, three very different positions, and I also worked from home part time for two years as an independent consultant after I had my son. It’s a great company – family oriented, flexible, and fun.

The company dabbles in so many different types of fields it’s insane. They grow apples, raise bulls for their sperm (gross), grow grapes and have their own wine label, the owner and founder of the company raises horses and competes in equestrian matches. He’s ranked like number three or something in the whole world. I think one year he ranked number one. But what they mostly focus on is residential development; from land acquisition and land development, to construction and sales and marketing. The specialty being master planned communities; a place where you can live, work, and play, all in one community.

But the real estate market is bad right now. So bad. It’s so bad that there have been three rounds of major layoffs this year in our office, one each quarter. The company has been reduced by at least half of its personnel. I’d say there were about 100 people in our corporate office and now there are probably about 50. There are more employees who were affected out in the field – construction workers, project managers, etc. I don’t think they are done yet, either. I think there will be at least one more round at the end of the year. And other companies are affected, too – architects, landscapers, title companies, other developers, etc. I know a lot of people who have received the dreaded pink slip.

The company has been super helpful and cooperative; not unlike them at all, and totally unlike other companies. They have given people anywhere between two weeks to a couple months of notice, they are handing out severance, and they have allowed people to arrange their schedules so that they can go on job interviews during business hours. The Director of Human Resources has helped people update their resumes and facilitate interviews.

Fortunately for me, I currently work in the commercial department. Our department manages retail shopping centers and office buildings, and we are currently developing a mixed-use community that will combine retail, office, and residential. It’s a really neat area and I’m excited to be able to see all of the work that goes into it.

So what’s the problem, you might ask? The company is being humane and I still have a job. There are a few problems that I have, some that are completely unrelated to the company, but personal issues of my own.

First, the lay offs. As I said, I’ve worked for this company for nine years. That is a long time these days, more so because I am pretty young and I don’t know anyone my age who has been at their job for nine years. My husband has been at his job for seven years (almost eight?). To be fair, though, he was in college for awhile and I had already been working. And also to be fair, this was my first job and it really just stuck. At this company, they had so many loyal employees. Many of the people who were laid off worked for the company for a very long time. My boss, for example, worked for the company for 24 years! And another lady worked here since she was 18, her first job, too. Now, at the age of 34, she gets laid off. For sixteen years she worked here and only here! I’m seeing the potential future for myself in another seven years.

I know that this is business, it’s not personal. I know that people want to, need to, make a profit. But I would have gladly VOLUNTEERED to get laid off in order that someone else who had seniority could keep their job. And I know all about I make less than that person so they are saving money with me, blah, blah, blah. But that’s how I feel.

Second, I see decisions being made that have to involve spending crazy amounts of money, and I don’t understand it.

For example, there was a (very large) display in our lobby that advertised one of our communities. Right around the time of the third lay off round, within one week of it I would say, they change the display! And this is not like replacing a poster or something. There are construction workers, furniture, a designer, and all kinds of stuff involved. I’m like; do you THINK that the cost for this display could have saved the job of one employee for a few months?

Our department, which I have been assured is doing fine, normally takes a holiday retreat and goes to a local Indian Casino. Overnight plus your spouse, all expenses paid plus $200 cash (said to be for the purpose of gambling but we save ours and buy something else!). Well, due to the current situation, we chose to not do the trip, out of respect. It’s called tact people.

Other fine examples are: 1) We are still having our holiday party, which is held at a swanky local restaurant. Hosted by the company, we are given tons of food and as many alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages as we can drink, and prizes are handed out like $50 gift cards to Gap, Pottery Barn, Home Depot, etc. 2) The Director of Marketing, who is the joke of the company, made up this contest to have employees and their families create and submit the cover of the company’s holiday card this year. Every entry receives a participant award and the winner receives a grand prize. 3) Company bowling was hosted earlier in the year with $50 cash prizes for several categories (i.e., highest score, lowest score, most improved score, etc.). 4) The receptionist was laid off and they have two of the executive assistants help out two days a week, but they hire this temp to come in up to three times per week and they say it’s because they don’t want to have to pay for benefits or insurance. A couple of other temps are hired to do things around here, too.

Third, as I said previously, I have worked here for nine years, and I would have volunteered to give up my job so that someone else can stay. I’m ready for something new. Almost two years ago, my husband and I went to a counselor for some marriage problems we were having. It took a good six months to work everything out, which was actually much faster than I thought it would take. But we have continued to see him and we work on marriage issues as they come up and other times we work on individual issues. One of the more recent issues is that I have never thought I was smart. But I am! Very smart! And he helped me realize that. I can basically do my job with my eyes closed, and there isn’t that much work to do. I’m too smart for this job and I’m ready for something new. Those two things combined make it very hard to like it here.

Finally, I have never been one for making friends.

When I was growing up we moved around a lot, so I never had any long term friends.

Then in high school I was a terrible friend. I lied all the time to everyone and cheated on my boyfriends.

People from church were always older than me and one older friend from there had a daughter in her tweens who developed a MAJOR crush on my (new) husband. She would hold his hand at church, and call him at work after she got home from school. When my husband and I brought this up with her mother, she totally flipped out and said that I was being too jealous and that it was a harmless crush! She basically scared the heck out of her daughter and said that I hated her and that we didn’t even want her looking at my husband. Friendship ruined.

It wasn’t until I started going to therapy that I found a pattern in my friendships. I would remain reserved in the friendship, not letting my protective barrier down, and then I would find the other person’s “fatal flaw” and would consider the friendship terminated. No second chances were given so that I wouldn’t get hurt.

When I started working here I thought I had these great friends. I worked here for four years before I found out the truth when I went on maternity leave and nobody tried to keep in touch with me. NOBODY. And I really tried to keep in touch. I quickly found out that they were just co-workers who loved to have fun and so it seemed as though they were friends. But when I was no longer available to have lunch all the time or go out for drinks every Friday night, I was no longer part of the “circle.”

Did I learn my lesson? NO! When I came back from maternity leave I was all protective at first, and not really being personal with anyone, just doing my job and being professional.

Then a couple of people were hired and this one girl and I clicked. I soon realized that she was extremely self centered (fatal flaw) and never asked me how things were in my life. She was also very drama oriented (fatal flaw), everything caused drama. So I backed off and put my protective barrier back up.

Someone else was hired and we REALLY clicked. Both Christians, we had the same values, young and married. She didn’t have kids but she loved kids so she liked to hear all my stories about my kid. One tiny red flag (fatal flaw) was that I could never get her to do anything after work. I suggested shopping on the weekends or the movies and she always wanted to be with her husband. I can’t be away from him for any more than I have to she would say with what sounded like real pain in her voice. I thought okay so they’re madly in love. They’ve only been married for one year; it’ll wear off. Then I thought I’ll include him on the invitation. Why don’t you two come over for dinner, or let’s all go to the movies. That didn’t work either. Something was going on at church, trips to visit family, or something else.

Since I have grown so much in therapy, I decided to pursue this friendship despite this fatal flaw. I make a conscious decision to continue to be friends with this person in spite of what I saw. I gave up on the hope of spending time outside of work with her and just truly enjoyed our friendship in the work environment. We had lunch all the time, went to each other’s houses for lunches, went out for lunch, talked during work, so much that both of our supervisors mentioned it to us during our annual reviews! We had so much in common that wasn’t even related to work, and we had the same sense of humor, which was so rare for me to find in a female.

Then she got notice that she was getting laid off. I didn’t think that was a possibility because she was the receptionist. What company can live without a receptionist (see item number 4 referenced above)?!? I was devastated. I thought this is it, I finally meet a girl who I click with and now we aren’t going to be friends anymore. She assured me that we would remain friends. Over and over again she told me that it would be okay. I was more upset about her losing her job than she was! So the time comes and it’s my first day here without her. Fortunately I have a friend of hers here with me, and we become closer as we reminisce about our friend and discuss the unfairness of everything. At first, my friend stays in touch, but only through e-mail. Eventually the e-mails become more scattered and I receive the occasional text message. She still doesn’t have a job (she’s been gone since May), but claims to be sooooooo busy all the time. I know that she sleeps every day until 11 a.m. or noon. Then she looks for a job, runs any errands she has, cleans the house, makes dinner, etc. until her husband comes home and then I know I don’t even exist anymore, based on previous occurrences. There is no time for me in between the waking up and the husband coming home.

She doesn’t call me on the phone and when I call her we don’t speak for very long. I just went over to see her yesterday but our conversation was not the same. She says I can’t wait until I have a job and we can have lunch all the time again. I wonder why we can only have lunch together all the time when she has a job? You say, well, going out to eat is expensive she can’t afford it. But we went to each other’s houses all the time and brought our lunches from home. I feel like I’ve been hurt and I vow to never overlook someone’s fatal flaw again. The protective barrier goes back up.

And as much as all of this is a personal issue for me, I find myself blaming the company for laying her off. Because I put myself out there for the first time in a VERY VERY VERY long time, and I tell myself that we would still be friends if they didn’t get rid of her. So my first experience back out there was a bad one and now I just want to retreat into my shell and never come out again.

I started looking for a new job awhile ago. I find that there are very little jobs available in the town where I live. Due to all of the unemployment, employers probably have their pick of the litter when it comes to hiring. They can have all of the college degrees and work experience they want for a bargain because people just want a job. So I look every day and apply to the things I like. I follow up and have been on a couple of interviews but no job offers yet.

So here I am in my rut. Unhappy in my job, ready for change, no friends at work, feelings of resentment towards the company (no matter how unjustified they might be), and I don’t know how to get out of it. Me versus The Rut.