We all met in his relatively large office as requested at 8 am sharp. Dressed in our style less business casual costumes, with note pads in hands, some with coffee, we engaged in nervous small talk and meaningless office banter. We all had inflated titles; salaries, bonuses, stock options, but our leader edged us out on all fronts. Balding red hair, pasty pale complexion, tiny glasses, fabricated gym build, God-fearing man loaded with self-righteousness, he looked at us and said in a southern twang, “Boys, today is the day of reckoning”.
Like most of the employees, our tragic hero probably pulled into the office parking lot between 8:30 and 9:00 am – just as he had done every weekday for over ten years. His wife packed him a little lunch in a nap sack, just as she had done every weekday for over ten years. It was a Friday. Eight hours of work and he would be free to enjoy the weekend with his wife and two little girls. To him, it was just another Friday morning. He would take the elevator to the fourth floor, put his nap sack in the employee fridge, grab a cup of coffee, say hi to a few other employees in the kitchen, walk to his director sized office, boot up the computer, look at the most recent e-mails, check his voicemail, review his calendar, and then begin to prioritize his day.
I was one of the fortunate puppet leaders. I didn’t have to lay anyone off in my department, but I was given an assignment. My job on this Black Friday, in which over ten thousand people were losing their jobs, was to assist another puppet leader with one of his sackings. He would deliver the news read from a corporate published script and then call me when he was finished and move on to his next sacking. My role was to stand there while the employee packed up his things and make sure no corporate property was damaged or taken. I was required to obtain the employee’s corporate security card, office key, and escort him to his car. I didn’t really know this employee, our tragic hero, but I had exchanged words with him on occasion in the company kitchen. I didn’t really know what he did at work, but he was a nice intelligent looking gentleman probably in his mid forties and he managed a handful of employees.
By the time I arrived at our tragic hero’s office, the damage was done. He had begun the process of packing his things away into a card board box. I sat down on one of the chairs in his nice office. I watched him pick up a picture of his two little girls. He looked at it for a moment, let out a deep sigh, and said, “ten years…and for what?” He put the picture in his box. At this moment, he realized that his decade of work was perceived worthless. Ten years of energy and youth spent and consumed resulted in zero perceived value. All along he had been deceived. Each year he had gotten a raise. Each year he had received positive reviews. Over time he had been promoted to greater responsibility. The company and his work had become a dominant piece of who he was. His identity and sense of self-worth had morphed into an exterior entity — an entity that appeared to have a mission, a soul, a purpose. He gave this phenomenon his being and in exchange it gave him money and a sense of belonging. On what was expected to be a typical Friday morning, in a single soul crushing moment, the truth was suddenly revealed.