When I wrote Loyalty and Layoffs, I knew it was mostly a post about what loyalty shouldn’t be, and I wanted to follow it with a post about what loyalty should be at a company. But then Lucy over at silverlining13.com wrote this reply:
“I know certain management that had to tell me were quite sorry it had come to this, but I was one of over 120 others that had to be told that day. I actually felt for the managers who had the unpleasant task of telling everyone and I even said ‘I don’t envy you right now, it must be the worst part of your job’.”
— Lucy at silverlining13.com
And I realized that loyalty, and boundaries, and jobhunting, and all the other things I wanted to follow up with needed to take a back seat for a couple of posts. I ended my last post with the words “Get medicine. Start saving yourself.” My next post is about the medicine; right now I want to talk about the Headsman.
First I want to say that I’ve been in Lucy’s shoes. (They pinch; I’m not cut out for heels.) I have actually told two managers that I felt worse for them than I felt for myself.
I can’t advise Lucy on whether or not saying that was good or bad. I know the first time I said it, I was so invested in the company and the team that I really did feel like I was apologizing to the headsman for making him swing the axe on my own neck. It didn’t occur to me for years that this was not a healthy approach to my own self-interest.
The second time, though, was just a few years ago. I’d been freelancing for years by that time, and I’d accepted a full-time job working with an old friend. While I was there, I worked hard and became good friends with our manager, but I never stopped working on my safety net. I didn’t know where I would go if I got laid off, but I knew I had a hundred doors to knock on, so I was utterly unafraid of that prospect. When the day came that half our team got laid off, and I got included in the list, I gave my manager a sincere hug and said “It’s been a great run. I’m not happy to be going, but don’t worry about me. Today’s going to suck a lot more for you than for me. I’ll have another job before quitting time today. And tomorrow you have to start fishing everybody’s morale out of the gutter.”
So, Lucy, I don’t know if your loyalty was healthy or unhealthy, but the affection you had for your coworkers and managers is beautiful. That’s the right kind of loyalty. We love the people we work with, and losing them triggers real grief. I think that’s healthy and wonderful and utterly human.
I can’t bring myself to call that wrong.
Next week I’ll talk about the medicine.