These words were among the first I heard that beautiful, sunny Monday morning in July 1977, when I arrived at work. Harsh? Cruel? Disheartening? Yes! Surprising? No, let me explain. The Michigan-based company where I worked had been designing and developing a new product in partnership with a customer and much larger manufacturer for months, and we were poised to launch production “Job One.” I had been an employee and the Senior Project Engineer on the development team for the previous 5 years, and because of the unique and unusual joint partnership arrangement, our customer would now own the knowledge that could let them go on to make newer and better products at their own factory – without our help. What was worse, our patents would expire in a few months, and the customer would be free to do its own thing without having to pay us royalties.
Actually, my first stop that morning was at the prototype development lab to learn the results of a test that I had conducted over the weekend. On my way there, a technician announced, “John, Sharon in Personnel is looking for you.” I figured I had better see what was up. Maybe one of my engineers was quitting, or I had to go to one of those infernal
Policy and Procedures meetings again.
As I approached the Personnel office, I found the Manager and my boss, the Chief Engineer, waiting for me. I sat down, and my boss immediately said, “We no longer have a job for you here, John.” (Not even an, “I’m sorry!”) Without hesitation, I replied, “Well...thank you, Bill. At least, I’m satisfied that I have done an outstanding and fantastic job here over the past five years, and I will be looking forward to new, better, and more challenging assignments with another employer. Thank you for the opportunity to work with a fine company and an awesome team of engineers. I hope it happens for me again, soon.”
I left them sitting there, with their mouths wide open, and a shocked and surprised expression on their faces. That was not the response they expected! Not even close.
Here is what they did not know: I discovered that our patents were expiring in a few months, and I observed that the division president and his “aids” were not planning to develop new products to fill the void after our current customers would design, develop, and manufacture these same things on their own. In addition, because my employer depended heavily on government contracts that were becoming scarce, I expected the people who could not be relocated to another division would be laid off. I figured that I could be one of them. So, in the previous months, I looked for another job, and secured one at a brilliant, new company in Cleveland. Ironically, that same Monday morning, my second stop was to be at the Personnel Office to turn in my resignation! I had already sold my house and purchased a new one in Ohio. Hence, my coolness when they fired me! Thanks, Bill.
So, what is your story? Were you prepared when a similar situation hit you? Are you prepared to be laid off? Should you be concerned? Think about it. If you are not the CEO, your job is almost sure to go to China, India, or some other country before 2020.
PS. I got $4400.00 in severance pay (then the price of a new 1977 Pontiac), and the entire global corporation I left was purchased by another company: It finally diminished to a shadow of what it once was.