Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Layoffs suck: Mike Parker, 37

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 7:08 AM

click to enlarge Mike.jpg

Layoffs suck. Take it from my friend Mike Parker, who's been laid off three times in four years.

Parker started working at a major telecommunications company based in Overland Park back in 1996. (We've agreed to use thinly veiled euphemisms for Parker's former employers.) He started in Bethesda, Maryland, but bought a house in Lee's Summit when the company moved his operations to an office there in 1999.

Shortly after Parker moved to Lee's Summit, he was relocated again, to the company's main campus in Kansas. Suddenly, he had a half-hour commute, plus he had to start paying taxes in two states.

In November 2004, the company went through a round of layoffs, and Parker's job met the scythe.

"I'd moved up in that company," Parker tells me. "I started in customer care, worked my way through IT and then went up to networking. When I got laid off the first time, I think they did it because I was making too much money. When I came from Maryland, I was making Maryland money, and when I came out here I kept that. And they took care of that by laying me off. It was cost-effective."

In his job search, Parker was hired by a company that had an outside contract with Parker's former employer. That led to him being re-hired by the major telecommunications firm in October 2005. The company agreed to give him the benefits he would have accrued for a full 12 years of service, not just two.

But then Parker got caught in another round of layoffs. He was fired on Easter Sunday, 2008.

"When I got laid off again, I got another [severance] commensurate to 12 years, rather than two years. In that sense, it's not a bad thing," Parker says. "But I think there's too much of that going on, like, 'We need to save money, let's lay a bunch of people off and we'll hire 'em back when we need to.' They're using layoffs rather than using good management. When the CEO leaves for failing, he doesn't leave on good terms. It wasn't because he was doing a good job. And yet he left with an excessive parachute. I guess that's the corporate culture right now."

The 2008 layoff hit Parker harder than the first. "I was depressed for a couple months right after the fact, just wondering what I possibly could have done wrong," he says. "It was probably absolutely nothing. I would have felt better if they'd said, 'You didn't do anything wrong, we just have to let you go.' They could be more humane about the process. That was what hit me the most, I couldn't figure out why this happened to me."

Parker was unemployed from March through November 2008, when he landed a temporary job for a major tax preparation company headquartered in Kansas City. The job was supposed to last for six months, but the company overestimated how many employees were needed and had to cut people early. Parker's job ended up lasting only two months.

"They started laying people off, 20 a week," Parker says. He was let go on January 20. "They said I'd be able to apply for unemployment, but I want a job. I don't want unemployment. I really feel as though, I'd rather you guys undercut and hire more later, rather than hire 50 billion people and then lay them all off real quick, in two months. Six months compared to two months -- none of this is easy to plan on."

In Kansas, filing for unemployment is as easy as a phone call. In Missouri, Parker says, the line was busy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and he never got through.

Parker is grateful for this bit of luck: He had been out of a job only a week when a friend called and told him about another temporary job opening, this time at a major trucking company. The contract is just three months, but it could go longer, and there is the possibility he will be hired full-time. Even better, Parker says, the office atmosphere is awesome.

"You know when someone grows up in an abusive family, they think everyone's family is like that?" Parker says. "Then they go to their next-door neighbor's house, and everybody's hugging and kissing each other, giving out presents and cake and shit? That's how it is. It's a family atmosphere. Random people in the hall say, 'Hey, how's it going?' It's really how it should be. It's a great place ... I hope I can stay."

Just like an abusive girlfriend, the telecommunications company wants Parker back. A former co-worker has put through an application for Parker, for a position that is hiring again. But Parker doesn't think he'll be going back to the scene of the crime.

"Layoffs suck," he says. "I think that was really the biggest part of it for me. It's all in how you handle it. I didn't handle it very well. I just didn't understand: Why me?"

Got a layoff story you want to share? E-mail me.

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