The Layoff

While I was living in New Zealand, I was still working remotely for my employer back in the US as a contractor.

Things had not been very good with my project for a while. A few months back, my company acquired a smaller company called SolidFire, and not a few people pointed out that it didn’t really make sense to have SolidFire and also the product that my team was building. It reminded me of that scene from Firefly, where Mal tells Kaylee he wants her to work as his mechanic. His current mechanic, standing right there, says “what do you need two mechanics for?” and Mal turns to him and says “I really don’t.” Morale was very low. Most people had stopped working and were either waiting to find out what would happen or actively looking for new jobs.

Me? I decided to take a vaction.

Vacation days were kind of under-the-table for me as a contractor. US contractors, of course, are not given vacation days. However, in New Zealand (which is noted for not being a fascist plutocracy) employees are required to receive paid vacation time every year. But the my company’s system was not set up to track contractors’ vacation days, because we weren’t expected to receive any. My manager didn’t really care either way and trusted me to do my job, so I would just tell him if I was taking vacation or sick time and track it myself.

Anyway, at this particular juncture my manager cared even less than usual about whether I was taking vacation, because nobody was working anyway. So I decided to take two weeks of vacation and go to the South Island, a story which I’ve told many times.

A few days into my trip, I got a call from my manager. Given that he knew I was on vacation, I figured it wasn’t going to be small talk. And sure enough, he was in the unenviable position of laying me off and then being laid off himself right afterward.

The VP in charge of the project was going to make all those calls himself, but my manager refused. He asked that his final act as manager be to inform each member of his team personally. I’d always liked my manager, and my respect for him only grew upon hearing this.

I resolved to put this out of my mind and have a great trip anyway, and surprisingly I actually did!

Another downside of being a contractor is that when you get laid off, you don’t get severance. You just…don’t have a contract anymore. To their credit, in recognition for my over eight years of service to the company, they told me they were keeping me on the books for another month, so I would continue drawing a paycheck. This was unexpected and surprisingly kind of them, though when you consider that my co-workers were all getting three months of severance, one month for eight and half years seemed a bit stingy.

In any case, for the first time in my adult life…I was unemployed.

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