One morning in October, there was a board meeting. Mid-session, my boss slipped out of the meeting and into my office. He shut the door and said, “the board meeting went really bad. We’re going to have to let you go.”
I was told that I would work for the next two weeks, then get two weeks salary as my severance package. Through my veil of shock, I got my boss to throw on the company’s laptop that I’d been using for the last couple of years. Although I didn’t need the laptop, I wanted to walk out with whatever I could.
The two weeks that followed were some of the slowest (and lowest) of my life. The founder of the company refused to acknowledge me. I was supposed to spend my time wrapping up my work, but didn’t care anymore. Every morning, I would wake up and do a mental countdown, followed by an internal pep talk, “Eight more days, you can do it!” The time crept by.
On the next to last day of my employment, I decided that there should be a going-away lunch with my coworkers. I had been to other lunches of this sort where the company had picked up the tab. I told the HR woman that I’d like to have a lunch and that I would like to put it on my corporate card. She shot me down and said that I couldn’t put it on the card and that it was inappropriate for me to ask. I didn’t think this was a big deal and proceeded to plan the lunch anyway, intending for the attendees to pay for their meals.
The HR woman got all riled up and flew into a VP’s office. She told the VP that I was running around the office, waving my credit card in the air, and proclaiming that the company was buying us all lunch the next day. Rumors started to fly and my boss got word of this. He came into my office and took away my corporate card. I felt like some sort of criminal. The company had taken away my job and my little remaining dignity was quickly following.
It was that same day that I was called into a meeting with my boss and the VP. They wanted to know why I was cleaning out my office. When I told them I was preparing for my last day, they informed me that I was supposed to work for another two weeks. My boss denied ever saying I would work for two weeks, then get two weeks severance. I didn’t have anything in writing to back up this conversation. Not being able to hold things in check anymore, I cried in the meeting and told them I could not work for another two weeks. I felt completely degraded by the company I had worked so hard for. My severance package, which was meager to begin with, was taken away. I was told I had “misunderstood the initial layoff conversation.”
This was the lowest of my low at the company. I was labeled as a criminal, misled, and outright lied to. I was walking away from my job with nothing but a laptop I didn’t need. No severance, no nothing. I had a month of health insurance left and felt lost and confused. On my last day, I felt numb inside, then quietly walked away. The only triumph I took with me was not losing myself and becoming one of them.