Tuesday, June 05, 2007

disconnections: losing touch

I've lived through my share of "reductions in force" and "restructurings" in my career. I generally came out on the other side feeling a mixture of elation and depression, suddenly aware of empty cubes, interrupted conversations and bigger workloads. Judgment had been passed, and I had been deemed worthy and that was that.**

But when you watch one of these "restructurings" happen at a former employer and learn that people you know and admire are numbered among the suddenly (and inelegantly) fired/terminated/riffed/"given a package", it's an entirely different sensation.

Different in part because you've already disconnected that part of you that could have been wounded by such an action. The lack of a personal stake makes the event itself a bit of a non-starter. . .Randy Newman put it best: "I don't care 'cause I'm all right".

But also different because you become truly disconnected from the cause you used to fight for with the departure of your comrades.

The competitors you used to worry about, the specific customers you used to love and agonize over, the politics, the constellations of ennui and energy that used to define your relationship with the company. . .you can be distanced from those and still care if the the people stay the same. You still care because these people hold an institutional memory of you, for better or worse, and that's a strong connection. The shared experience binds you.

But with the departure of the people you used to go to war with, there's less left to sustain your interest. Memories fade, life goes on.

I fear the disconnections created by the transiency of work diminish us, bit by bit.

**I know this opens the door to a comment from Ron on the dehumanizing effect of the corporate model, but that's OK.


Ron said...

Tsk tsk...you always underestimate my critiques...no such mechanical cliches as this remark ascribes will come from moi! I certainly don't mean this harshly at all, but aren't the rest of your own words a bit more dehumanizing than mere firing? Not that you would ask me anyway, being a Soviet non-person and all...

Christopher Painter said...

It's strange, I don't work at Macrovision and yet I found myself emailing all of my contacts to make sure they were all right.

Sadly some of them were RIFd. I wish them the best and maybe one day everyone will understand what `really` happened.