Layoff stories: ‘Well, they decided to keep you’

Part of an occasional series of personal accounts by readers. This was written by a recently hired employee who survived the layoff.

It’s Tuesday afternoon. The oppressive weight of the empty desks to my left and right permeates my thoughts. My eyes blur in and out of focus as I stare at the slow and steady blinking of my cursor at the abrupt termination of a partially written sentence. Like a metronome, or maybe the pendulum of some unseen grandfather clock ticking towards deadline, that blink is perhaps the only constant I know in our newsroom.

My editor’s voice cuts through the haze of my swirling thoughts. “We have to do your evaluation.”

I follow her to a glass-walled office and sit with my back to the newsroom. Somewhere behind me are the empty desks, toppled Rolodexes and blank computer screens. I don’t want to look at them, but they fill my mind.

My editor slides a manila folder across the table — my three month evaluation.

I knew it was coming. I’d planned out questions to ask and suggestions to make and crafted feedback carefully to be as constructive as possible, but those thoughts were gone. Replacing them were images of cardboard boxes and empty desks scattered with business cards.

“Well, they decided to keep you.”

I looked at the words printed in bold letters in front of me. Something about feature writing and databases and initiative. I think about one of the Life editors I saw crying in the parking lot when I got to work that morning, and the empty desks to my left and right.

On the right was the business editor who liked my photos and once told me how she could hear my voice when she read my feature stories. On the left was the Neighbors editor who would chat about philosophy with me when we both worked late, and gave me tongue-in-cheek advice about how to succeed as a journalist. I’ll never forget them.

I sign and date on a line at the bottom of my evaluation. I think of my friends who also signed on the line that day.

“This means you qualify for health insurance now,” my editor tells me.

I wonder for how long.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: Another Cube, by San Jose Mercury News designer Martin Gee. It’s from his Reduction In Force page on Flickr — photos of the Silicon Valley paper’s newsroom after endless rounds of layoffs]

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