Suck It Up! By Mike White. It started innocently enough. “Hey, Mike, can I see you in my office?” Muscles tensed at the base of my skull...

It started innocently enough.

“Hey, Mike, can I see you in my office?” Muscles tensed at the base of my skull. It was a benign question but one that always sent shivers down my spine. Was it the box of sharpies I took home? Had I been burning too many CDs? Could my slacking be near lethal levels?

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer boss. He never doubted my abilities and cut through corporate bullshit for our office—as much as he could with this company, that is. One thing he didn’t do, however, was call me into his office.

“Relax,” I told myself. We had just gotten an email from corporate the day before about some cockamamie bonus checks we were supposed to receive by month’s end. My boss probably just wanted to give me the bottom line of how little I could expect. Our office had been kicking ass all year but that didn’t mean diddly when the other foundering branches were counted in the mix. So, how badly was I going to get screwed this time?

It was around Eleven AM but I found our office’s refrigerator stocked with beer when my boss took a detour and offered me a cold one. This friendly gesture certainly took the edge off.

Door closed, beer open, leaning back in the cushy seats I stated, “First off I’m not quitting.” It was an old joke but it never failed to at least get a chuckle. The former occupant of my boss’ office had kept close tabs on all of the employees and could smell the idea of jumping ship better than a blue tick hound. He had called me in there and questioned my company loyalty many a time-so much that it became a joke among my co-workers.

“No need to quit, Mike,” my boss began. He informed me that our company, Immersant (we changed our name a few months ago to that horrible title as if it’d put us on even ground with Scient and Viant—two major league web developers), was changing direction. He used the term “globalize.” The plan: Immersant would concentrate on offices in more heady locales like New York, Toronto, Rio, et cetera. Apparently, Ann Arbor with its University, research center and plethora of web shops is not considered “global” enough. Thus, the doors would close on October 1, 2000.

Let it be known that Ann Arbor was the only branch of Immersant that to made any sort of profit-the precious New York and Toronto offices are cesspools of profitability. The Ann Arbor success came in spite the morons at the corporate level who come up with brilliant business decisions and don’t even know how to send an e-mail, much less run a company. Let us not forget that in our modern business environment that the location of a business should not matter. We had proven that time and again successfully completing projects based in Cleveland, OH and Providence, RI. This didn’t seem to matter to the corporate knuckleheads.

Of course I was one of the last to know/figure out that the company was closing its doors. It’s not that I’m kept in the dark—I’m just a little naïve when it comes to these things. It wasn’t rose-colored glasses that kept the shadows of doom from looming over my overly-tall cubicle walls. Rather, I had been pre-occupied with trying to fill up my days with useful activities as my weeks consisted of ten minutes of work during forty hour weeks for the past eight months.

Hats off to my boss for taking me aside and letting me in on the secret that everyone seemed to know. I walked out of his office, stunned, beer in hand. I found a large gathering of soon-to-be-former co-workers discussing recruiters, job openings and the like. Someone bemoaned that there could be no time more opportune for this corporate back-stabbing to occur for me than two weeks before my wedding. Oh, yeah, there is that, isn’t there?

To declare that the rest of Friday was “strange” is an overwhelming understatement. Most folks proceeded to get more than a little pissed-in every sense of the word. The oddest thing had to be just how...natural...this move seemed. Known as Bowne Internet Solutions two years ago, this company sent half of its employees to a bar while they fired the other half (see CdC #9). The only real difference this time was some warning and the fact that we didn’t have to go out for beer.

Of course, we were not supposed to know any of this. My boss went out on a limb by telling us. If word ever got back to corporate that he actually gave us all some warning like a decent human being, he would have been canned on the spot.

By the middle of October, I wondered what it must feel like to be the die in a Boggle Bubble? At every turn, players smack down on that bubble and throwing the die helter skelter to determine where they can go and what they can do. To working at Immersant was to be that die. Upper management kept smacking us down.

With October 2nd fast becoming a distant memory, rumors began flying. Word was that the office would stay open until the beginning of November. The story shifted and became certain people staying so long. Days later, things shifted again with the closing date now in the middle of December. For every “concrete” message we received, three or four ethereal ones were bandied about.

“Just hold out until October,” “Just hold out until November,” “Just hold out until December.” Upper management held out severance pay like a carrot on a stick. They reminded me of sadistic kids burning ants under a magnifying glass.

Waves of panic washed over the office. At no time did upper management or any of their human resources lackeys ever confirm our fears. When my boss confronted his “superiors” about the rampant anxiety of his employees, he asked them for advice. “What should I tell them?”

The reply? “Tell them to ’suck it up.’”

With that lovely statement of sincerity and concern, resumes flooded the marketplace. Upper management had the gall to wonder aloud why employees were leaving. Where’s the loyalty?

Upon my return from MicroCineFest 2000 (see CdC #13) I started a new job. All the while I made sure to enter my hours in Immersant’s time system. I deserved that damn severance check and was determined to get it. My feeling was that Immersant should have to pry the money I was due for putting up with their bad decisions and loss of employment from my cold dead fingers.

By the middle of my first week at my new job, however, that severance slipped through my fingers. From out of nowhere, my boss received a call from his “superior”—he gave my boss a warning that anyone “double dipping” would find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit with my boss bearing the brunt of litigation. The jig was up. My boss requested resignation letters from all the staff members who had gone on to other jobs. Perhaps one or two folks left, the lucky few, may or may not get some sort of severance pay. But I wouldn’t count on it! The only thing I know with certainty is that Immersant won’t last forever. I just wish that I still had the inside track for this incredible comedy of errors!

So, yeah, between trips to Austin and Baltimore, a job hunt, and waiting for that severance check, this issue ended up a little late. Apologies to everyone concerned, especially folks who thought they’d have articles or stuff reviewed in this ish. Man, it got mighty full mighty fast. Here’s hoping that that’ll make putting CdC #13 together all the easier.

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