Saturday, February 18, 2012

we're being pulled out like weeds

There's that moment of sobriety when you realize, "Wow, I just got retrenched." From the French, retrancher, a verb: the act of cutting off, of removing, of omitting.

Mind you, it's not as if I'm even working full-time. I did that in April 2008, almost four years ago, and when I moved back home, the job moved with me, albeit in a part-time, hourly capacity. But I didn't mind. There's something about finding the work you enjoy, the work that you know you are good at, that you are comfortable in. And I enjoyed my job, for the most part, even though I was shifted and shunted from one position to the next.

Shift, a verb: to change, to transfer, to displace.

Shunt, a verb: to switch.

I learned about this, oddly enough, through social media as well. Colleagues on Facebook from the other side of the world were already hinting at it the night before. I thought to myself, staring at the small black print on the screen, that there was shit that was going to go down the morning after. And sure enough, as soon as I logged on to IM this morning, my friend Rabbit (not her real name) already said that yes, it was true, the whole office was going to be shut down. My direct boss had been working in the company for eight years; my other boss was one of the first handful of employees that were hired when it was first starting out. Even Rabbit had been there at the beginning; and now she's here at the end of all things. We were all being let go.

I think what saddens me the most is how things were handled on the side of management. There was talk, on the official press statement, of people being "moved around", of letting go of products that were no longer necessary to the company. I'd like to think production and community management are necessary to a product that relies on producing content, on managing a community. I'd like to think that people who have devoted three, four, five, six years making and creating and loving the job deserve more than a 24-hour notice to vacate their desks. And I think that the public, the people who have made the company what it is right now, deserve a semblance of transparency. Yes, things will be closed. Yes, people have been told to leave. Yes, things are changing - and it's not for the better.

Change, a noun: The act or instance of making or becoming different.

The thing is: people understand change. And it's good for companies and strategies to change, because it keeps them healthy, it keeps them relevant, it keeps them going. Y'know, like the Energizer Bunny. But to change things too fast, too soon, without due course or proper recompense, is also not the best way to treat people who have given their all to jobs they love. Because, see, that's the thing with love and passion and care - they can't be outsourced to the cheapest third-party company.

In my mind, it's not even "Oh no, what will I do?" Yes, my Plan B is slightly accelerated. Yes, this means I will have to be more mindful with my money, to save more and spend less. But it's about seeing colleagues and friends go, it's about seeing a company culture collapse under pressure, it's about knowing that there are secrets being kept and people being hurt by the actions of a few people. And this is not what we signed up for; this is not what this company is about. It started from a genuine place of caring and creating a community, of telling stories and teaching and providing a space where being different is okay. But now, it's about meeting targets and setting limits, about numbers and volume and metrics. And when we leave, in a month's time, what then? What is this thing that is being created?

Because I think that, whether online or in real life, you have to claim responsibility for your actions. And what I read today from the press release is that nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions. And this sends a message: yes, we did something we're not proud of, so we will hide it behind empty words and meaningless platitudes. We're "moving people around". We're "restructuring". These words do not mean anything. The only direction we're moving is out the front door, with nothing more than the clothes on our back. We were never thanked for our work.

And really, this is all that people with the passion for their work want: we want to be acknowledged. We want to be told, "you did a good job". We want to be thanked for what we have done for you, for them, for ourselves. Because all the other words are meaningless.

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