The first thing I notice about the organizational chart on the desk is that it doesn’t have my name on it.

It seems like a glaring omission, at least from my point of view. The director of Human Resources is looking closely at me looking closely at the document. She has a sympathetic expression, but her guard is also up. My boss keeps talking inexorably. It is practiced, intentionally steady. It’s a way she has never really talked with me before.

They haven’t actually said the words yet, so I free up some space in my brain to consider the situation. This is probably how I’d do it too, I think. Stay on message, explain the decision making process before dropping the hammer. Describe it all in terms of the business motivations that have necessitated this “organizational change.” It’s not personal, and I understand that.

I take quick stock of myself. I find that I have this bizarre desire to be practical, cooperative and maybe just a little bit stoic. If this is going to happen to me, I decide, I’m going to leave them saying to each other, “Wow, he took that really well. What a pro.”

Then we get to the moment of truth, the three of us, together each wishing in our own way and for our own reasons that this wasn’t the way of things. In an odd way, everyone in the room is trapped in a painful moment not of their own making. She looks at me while trying to remain professional and sympathetic at the same time.

“Your position has been eliminated.”

I’m going to fast-forward to the end and reveal up front that I am, in fact, still employed with my long-time employer, although in an entirely new role. The promises I would receive on that late November morning — assurances that this had nothing to do with my performance, that they were interested in finding a place for me, that I’d have time to look for a new role, that they wanted to work with me — all of that turned out to be true. There were a few days that seemed a little touch-and-go, but overall they delivered.

Of course, in that moment, when my fingers went a little numb, and it felt like an electric shock hit me in my gut, everyone seemed to freeze in that pregnant second after it had actually been spoken, waiting to see what would happen next. I don’t think I’ve been so closely examined and watched as I was right then. Would I get angry? Would I be shocked? Would I plead? Would I just lose my mind?

Nothing happened, and then suddenly we were all moving again, and there was conversation about various details and possible ways this could all move forward. That’s where the promises came in, and where I smiled placidly as I felt myself jackknife through all kinds of feelings.

If you’ve never had a business tell you, for whatever reason, that your services are no longer required, then it’s hard to explain quite what that moment is like. Of all the first reactions I could have had, the most prominent one was this odd kind of embarrassment, which was almost worse because this wasn’t about my performance or the way I did my job. Suddenly I just felt like some evaluation had been done and everyone had come to the conclusion that I was the most useless to carry forward, the most expendable. I knew that over the coming days and weeks people were going to feel sorry for me, and that was in itself a horrible thing. I don’t want to be felt sorry for. That’s not who I’d spent five years of my life trying to become.

People wrap their identity into all kinds of things. We do it all the time as gamers, and we do it as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, geeks and nerds, and on and on. Suddenly I was coming face to face with how much of my identity I’d wrapped into my work, and how I wanted others to perceive me had become how I had decided to perceive myself. In a moment, that was being taken away.

As I wandered out of the office and back to my own, or at least the office that would remain my own through the first of the year, I thought of having to tell the people who reported to me, and then the people that reported to them. I thought of having to tell my wife, my friends. And, all these people who I knew would help me, stand at my side. I didn’t want any of them to know. If I could have thought of a way to hide it all away at that moment, just fade from this into whatever the next thing was without making a big deal, then I would have. But the truth was that I needed the help. I was going to need people at my side.

The next month was awful. All the things I’d been working on no longer made sense for me to work on, and for the same reasons, it made no sense for me to start something new. My job was to find a job, and that’s something you can only do so much everyday. I applied internally for some roles, one or two that genuinely interested me, and the rest of the time I sort of sat at my desk and waited for something to happen. I came in late and left early, and no one noticed, or cared. I started to just work from home. "Work" should probably be in quotation marks in that last sentence.

Word came a few weeks later that I’d been offered the internal job I’d wanted most, and I expected it to be a monumental relief, but instead it’s been a sort of slow climb back up to speed. I had so thoroughly processed what had happened that, when it was over, I was more numb than overjoyed. People would say how I must be so relieved, and I would agree enthusiastically because that’s what they wanted to hear. But I didn’t feel it.

It’s only been this last week or so that I feel locked back in and productive. Only now do I really feel like I belong again, and even that is still tempered with this reserve of wariness I hadn’t had before.

Looking back, I see myself going through stages of reaction, from panic to resentment to disappointment to resignation. It’s not quite like grief, or at least not classically so, but it was every bit as painful. If I’m honest, I’m not totally over it yet. I don’t know that anything that big and impactful can be totally over until I talk about it.

And now I have.


Holy crap Elysium, reading up to the jump I felt really terrible for you. Glad things have worked out, but i don't even want to imagine how scary that was.

I've always tried not to tie my identity or too much self worth into my job, but now I'm a husband and, soon to be, father losing my job is one of the scariest things i can think of.

Sean, its was grief. Trust me, I lost my former career (my dream job and one I couldn't return to) in a very cruel way and spent years recovering from it. Honestly, I probably didn't until I got my current job. During that period I lost someone very dear to every parent. While the grief from that is not of the same magnitude, I can say with absolute certainty that its somewhere along that spectrum.

Perhaps the great Christy Moore can explain it better

Because I'm a horrible person, one of my first thoughts before clicking over the jump was "Well, that explains those sudden hours in EU4".

Glad to know everything turned out alright, and hopefully your new position will do you well.

Because I'm a horrible person, one of my first thoughts before clicking over the jump was "Well, that explains those sudden hours in EU4".

Entirely accurate, but ... yes, you're horrible for thinking it.

I really like that you were able (really, I should say "willing") to write this article without any resolution to this point. The story isn't complete, probably won't be for some time, and when it finally does reach resolution you would probably perceive and write it in a totally different manner. I enjoy seeing people's mental processing in the moment, especially the moment of vulnerability, and you captured that exceptionally.

And I also wondered how much of that extra time went into gaming ;-p

Wow, Sean, I knew you were going through some stuff late last year, but I didn't realize it was that. I'm really happy for you that you managed to land on your feet. Best of luck in the new role!


I'm a little disappointed that you didn't hit me up for a few games of chess in the interim, though. :P

I went through the same thing last year... twice. They fired me, rehired me the next day, then did the whole thing again four months later. No matter how it works out, that moment is gut wrenching. Glad things are going okay for you.

I always enjoy your writing. Thank you for sharing this with us. We all, sadly, will probably be in your situation at one point or another. It's just how the world works - we're sometimes cogs in the output machine, BUT there are always a ton of positions to fill.

Glad it worked out for you in the long run.

This time last year, they fired my boss, and dissolved the business unit under him. Supposedly, his final request was "every one of my reports lands softly". There were only 4 of us, and that stuck for 3 of us.

The "partner marketer" landed in Marketing, the "partner manager" wound up with the same job, when management created a group with the same name directly under Sales, and I (the "technical guy") wound up under Support. The last was moved directly to Sales, and due to a personality conflict with management, was let go a few months later.

This is where I spent the better part of a year not really having any direction, guidance, or challenges - just "show up and make it look like you're doing things". I fell into that same trap of coming in late, leaving early, taking long lunches, "working" from home - and not a single person cared.

I mean, I cared - I know how much I'm being paid, and the calculus didn't add up. No one was asking me to put in more than I was worth, but at the same time, no one was letting me do my own things to try and make up that balance (there's a big culture issue here, where change and innovation can only come from the top-down, and individual initiative is actively discouraged).

Eventually, the group I was attached to wanted me to be doing things that just didn't make sense for someone with my experience and pay rate, so I started shopping around for internal opportunities, and moved on to a new group. I'm happier, but also working harder than ever, but that's par for the course when you now do Services work and need to deliver projects on time for clients.

Once upon a time, I worked in a large company whose software plans weren't working out. I thought the company was solid, just not my role in it. So I got myself transferred to a team that I knew would be canned and thus would get severance, so I could comfortably look for my next job. Two months later I was brought into a room with about 30 people, and given the elimination speech. I should've been thrilled, as the severance was good and it was actually according to plan. Yet I still went through a surprisingly vast range of emotions, include uselessness and doubt. Kudos to you for having the strength to keep it together.

Thank you for sharing Sean and I certainly hope that writing this does bring you some closure.

I'm glad to hear you feel you've landed in what may ultimately be as good or a better situation. Following the closure of my office many years ago, I started my company. As painful and surreal as it was at the time, I'm certainly the better for it and hope you'll be able to look back with the same feeling.

Only fired once. I think I have felt a lot worse at jobs that I didn't get after an interview than I did for losing that one though. Was always able to get a job after leaving a place, or finishing an internship or temp job. But that one time when I finally didn't get the job I applied for when I had every other time was more shocking to me. And then it happened a few more times, feeling worse every time. Something about never being wanted to start with bugs me more than being let go. I mean nothing lasts forever, right?

This rings so true. My job of 10 years was eliminated in 2008. At the time I felt these exact range of emotions. Not until I read this did I really put a name to it, but ...uselessness. I didn't want to be known as useless or discarded. Such a sad emotion to feel.

Andon wrote:

This rings so true. My job of 10 years was eliminated in 2008. At the time I felt these exact range of emotions. Not until I read this did I really put a name to it, but ...uselessness. I didn't want to be known as useless or discarded. Such a sad emotion to feel.

+1 to that. My post got eliminated 2 1/2 years ago, and I'm still looking for a new one. I never realised how much your job, or lack of one, defines who you are and what you are worth in the eyes of non-family members.

Well, if things ever don't work out you've got a job in writing.

Yeah it really sucks. I've been going through that since April last year. It all ended on 31st December. They actually ended up offering me a place for four months because, as it turns out, my project was vital to the company and I was one of only two people who knew it inside out. I turned them down because:

1) F**k them.
2) They would lock me in to the contract and I'd miss out on any potential opportunities in that time frame.
3) I had come to loathe the company over those eight months and everything they did to myself and the other 50 people that were affected by their rash and incomprehensible decisions.

I knew that I couldn't ever go back to work for the same company - I'd lost all respect for the upper management and all faith that the company was a going concern and that rational, apolitical decisions could be made going forward...

That gut-wrench and (for me, almost) random emotions you talked about, yeah.... that was horrible, only sitting in a meeting in our open plan office with friends who'd just bought a house, had a baby and gotten married weeping openly beside you - trying to console them and convince them (and myself) that everything was going to be okay. I felt like crying but then I thought who would be strong for everyone else? Then I wanted to laugh but, hey that would be a little crazy right in the middle of everyone feeling like crap.

Luckily, I've managed to find a part time job working at a brand new start up (I begin on Monday, actually) that might eventually transition into a full time job...

Yeah, 2013 was great for gaming. A pretty sh*t year for a lot of people...

Glad you managed to get through it, Sean.

Holy heck. That sounds like it was written for me. I went through the exact same process at the end of last year. I (and about 5% of the rest of our 400+ employees) was singled out to have my position discontinued. I went through exactly the same thought processes as you.

Luckily after a bit more than a week of being 100% sure that I was leaving, my position was offered back to me (someone in another office resigned, leaving a skill gap which meant they still needed me), but my confidence was still hit hard. I went through various forms of depression (and survivors guilt) even after I was saved from the chopping block. It took me a long time to be productive in my role again, and I've only just started to feel recovered from the ordeal.

My thoughts go out to you (and to the other commenters in similar situations). Even though most of us are "safe" now, it is still a major chink out of our mental armor.

Glad to see you have landed on your feet Sean. I've not been fired but have been restructured and it was a completely agonising experience that was timed with the arrival of my first child. So anxiety attacks and depression hit hard. They classily told us where we were going via a web form on the intranet. Really held our hands with that one.

Funnily enough it happened again in my new business unit two years later. A rerun of symptoms occurred but I was a little more proactive and steered myself to where I felt would best suit my goals and skills. But it was still a harrowing experience that I would not care to repeat.

I think many of us who eschew business ownership and entrepreneurship (especially by your 30s and 40s) have security as a major driver for whatever reason. We need a degree of comfort to achieve great things (for us). Having that security upset can be a major disruption and send us into our negative spaces (I get anxious and depressed, Sean plays A LOT of EU IV).

I think it swings the other way. I moved on from large government organisation to small consulting business and things were great and then tough but bearable when the GFC first hit. However as budgets were tightened for our client base we got really quiet. I was often alone in the office with nothing to do and no prospect of seeing sales work pay off. I played a lot of CK2 then. Not my finest moment but an understandable reaction to enforced lassitude.

My brother went through something similar, but less anxiety-filled I think since he's a bachelor. And he ended up pretty good in the end because they laid him off, paid him 2 months severance, and less than a month later gave him a new position on a different team within the company. So he basically just kept on working but with a 2 month bonus.

Hope things work out for you. I know I'd be sweating donuts if the same happened to me right now.

Elysium wrote:
Because I'm a horrible person, one of my first thoughts before clicking over the jump was "Well, that explains those sudden hours in EU4".

Entirely accurate, but ... yes, you're horrible for thinking it. :)

Color me horrible too, because that thought also went through my mind.

I'm glad to hear that things worked out, and I hope that this new position is at least as satisfying as the one that was taken from you, if not more.

I went through a similar situation a few years ago at the company I work for. Within the department, there were two small teams, each of which covered a different vertical. I was the manager of one of those teams. When the company decided to combine these two teams into one, the manager of the other team was given the manager role of the newly assimilated team. This was primarily because that person worked in the company office, whereas I work remotely in a different state (which is not uncommon at this company), even though that person was hired 2 years later than me.

(Side note: the working relationship between the two of us before the change was fine for the few times we actually needed to communicate, and became even better after the change, as we then communicated a lot.)

Thankfully, I never feared that I would be losing my job, because (1) I knew that I was a valuable asset for this relatively new and growing company, and (2) I had recently been made an actual, legitimate employee after working on a non-dated, non-expiring contract for the previous 3 years. So when I got the news, I was allowed to essentially make my own new role within the department, which I did. I've been working in that role ever since, and I enjoy it more than the role I had before the change. So, yeah. Things worked out rather well in this case. Crisis averted!

It's interesting to step back and look at how my work identity fits into the rest of "Me". Who would I be without the cubicle dwelling, coffee break, plan all the things life that has been my life for the past 8 years?

I had the pleasant experience of having my position eliminated the same week my first son was born so I can sympathize. For me, it ended up being a wonderful combination of spending the first 6 months of my oldest son's life at home with him, and eventually getting a job with far better benefits and a much larger sack of money. Eight years later with a herd of children, I can't imagine what would be running through my head in that situation.

Glad to hear it's working out for you, and thanks for sharing. Even thought I know it's fairly common, it's interesting to see how others have dealt with it.

Been there...and for better or worse, wear a uniform because of it. The new work suits me in a technical sense but not in its professional...culture (I guess?). The service demeans people without thinking about it, especially if you aren't 20 years old anymore.

Glad it seems to have worked out for you. I cringe when hearing about people going through that.

This really hits home for me, as I just recently lost my position at the company I was with for 15 years. I have no prospects right now, and while my wife is still working, it's quite a stressful situation with two kids and a mortgage.

Sean, be sure to know you'll always will have a job in the Writing department. I hope your career success continues in this new direction you have chosen to take so we the GWJ community profits with your maximum verbosity each week/month/year, whatever the column schedule is.
I am taking a big step on my professional career this new year of 2014, two weeks ago I signed my resignation to my current employer, with whom I been very productive and happily employed(good salary, work times, benefits, etc.). I took this decision after working in the same field(civil engineer) knowing the ups and downs of the industry(construction) since 1998 when I graduated, and now I am making a "U" turn in a completely different field.
Making this big change was a family decision(my two kids also participated in the change), the offer came without looking for it and like a Christmas gift on 24th december morning. I start on the new job after responsibly finishing handing over my current duties on 20th January.
Wish me luck, I will need it.
(sorry for my grammar, as you can see English is not my native language or writing my strength)

Jesus jiminy, my blood ran cold when I read the tease. Having someone tell you that you're not necessary to the integrity of an enterprise is some harsh medicine. That's especially true if you're at all invested in the group you're working with, or the job.

A few years ago, my boss started taking down some responsibilities that I had picked up -- basically I was pulled out of the theatre I help coordinate to file papers. It was a painful thing to go through, because the ol' boss didn't understand that I was essentially being given more work (managing a schedule of student volunteers AND being on-call for when they encountered a snag) and little say in how to do it.

It was a really trying time for me, and I pretty much went through that sucking emptiness that you describe, just kind of wafting into and out of work every day. It eventually got better (the boss left), but now I'm kind of stuck in what feels like a dead-end position that is fun, but not really paying my bills.

Even if it eventually "works out", it's hard not to feel a bit rejected about it all.

Going through this right now, without the happy ending. Almost all the jobs in my department were shipped to India, and we were made "redudant." Going through a long, dark teatime of the soul right now with two kids and a mortgage to worry about and skills tuned to a shattered industry (book publishing).

And this, my friends, is Gamers with (and, hopefully only occasionally, without) Jobs. I've been lurking for a several years now, but it's as good a time as any. Thanks for providing a place for us to deal with our issues both in game and in life. Glad to hear you've landed safely! How do you take your coffee, sir?

Strong writing, sir. Thanks for sharing!

Sean, that is some serious emotional whiplash you have endured; thanks for writing so eloquently about it and putting it out there. You transported me back to my first experience of termination, back in the Employment Massacre of 2008. I was telecommuting to a job (in Minneapolis coincidentally) - having just separated from my first wife and moved to Seattle - and when I got the call that I was being terminated I had to take another call from the moving guy asking where exactly to drop my shipping cube. There was no reassignment, and I spent pretty much all the next year in Seattle unemployed (though miraculously on unemployment). I didn't have kids and was effectively a bachelor, so that was all stuff I could ride out, but you describe amazingly well the confusing mass of emotions that comes into play.

I did get that job back, though it meant returning to Minneapolis for a non-telecommuting job which I couldn't have any expectation of keeping...(we are talking about being a junior employee in architecture here). Sure enough, lost the job *again*...but not before I ended up finding the person who would turn out to be my second wife and with whom I live happily ever after (sometimes playing video games)! Stuff gets bad; it gets better. You might not always get out what you put in, but I think it's related.

Also, I think the site has been infiltrated by a somewhat confused AI.

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