I had to crunch my way through the snow to get to work again this morning. There had been a fresh fall over night and light powdery flakes were falling as I walked. I watched them melting on my black coat. The early morning sun made the ice crystals glitter. My breath hung in the air in front of me in little white clouds. I had a feeling of dread at what I was walking towards, a tight knot in my gut.
We’d been told we would each be called into a meeting with Robert to be told if our jobs were at risk or not. It was hell sitting at my desk all morning, trying to work and watching people go in and out of that office. I could tell by their faces as they came out whether their news was good or bad. If it was good they came out trying not to show their relief and happiness. It’s a bit insensitive to be grinning and punching the air when some of your colleagues are losing their jobs. The ones getting bad news came out in tears. They were being sent home on gardening leave, given a chance to appeal against the decision.
When Mary Elliott, the customer services manager and the only person in the customer services department, came out of the office wiping her eyes my stomach lurched. If her job was at risk none of us were safe. She went back to her desk and I could see she appeared to be working. My stomach calmed down, maybe they were tears of relief. A few more people went in and came out. Then I saw Pat Page, the HR Manager, go over to Mary’s desk and speak to her. Mary was shaking her head and looking really distressed. Alfie was watching too, we frowned at each other. What was going on? Finally Mary stood up, plucked her coat angrily from the stand by her desk, put her red silk scarf around her neck and picked up her handbag. Alfie mouthed something that looked like ‘what the fuck?’ Pat was guiding Mary gently by the arm as she passed our desks and I could hear Mary say, “but I have lots of work to do.” The whole office was watching from under their eyebrows, pretending they weren’t. We must have looked like a huge nest of baby birds with our mouths open for food.
My heart sank then. Mary was being made redundant! How could that be? How could the company operate with no customer services department? I’m not saying I thought my job was safe up until that point because I didn’t, I knew anything could happen, no matter what Commando said, but I did think the marketing department was least likely to be hit. For a tour operator marketing is the key to success. Dream Factory is a small company with a big industry presence because of the work we do. My reps have won awards, my educationals generate masses of press coverage and bookings and that’s just the part I manage. If Mary was gone though who knew what was going to happen?
Finally, just after a lunch break I didnt take, it was my turn. I wasn’t sure my legs were going to carry me the six or seven steps into that room. I sat in front of Robert and waited, hardly daring to look at him.
“This has been a very difficult process,” he said, “and this was one of the most difficult decisions of all. I know how hard you’ve worked and the results you’ve got. I want you to undertstand that this is not a reflection on you at all…”
I was gone.
I hardly remember what happened next. I’m not sure I even really heard what else he said. Something about outsourcing marketing to an outside company I think. I may have thanked him. I do remember going back to my desk and looking at the half finished stats on my screen. I debated whether to save my work or delete it. I deleted it. I swept the half finished educational itinerary lying on my desk into the bin. I opened my drawer and took out a few personal possessions. I got my coat. I began to walk out. Gigi came up to me, her face looked like Munch’s scream. I just shook my head and walked past her out of the building. I couldn’t bear to stop or talk. It never occurred to me at the time what his words meant. It wasn’t just my job it was hers as well and Galina and Alfie too.
I’m not sure how I got home. I didn’t start crying until I walked in the door and saw Commando’s shocked face. “Not you!” was all he said and I fell into his arms sobbing.