The Lead Up
It was nearly 3:00 pm on a Thursday: time for the weekly all-hands staff meeting where 60 of my co-workers gathered to hear departmental updates. The IT crew set up the big screen TV to connect us with a dozen more colleagues in the Vancouver office. On a typical Thursday, we’d all trickle into the kitchen, grab a cookie, and listen to the CEO’s announcements, followed by updates from the department heads. But this Thursday was different…
My normal routine on Thursdays was to check in with my front desk staff and chat with them for a few minutes before the meeting. As I stepped out of the elevator, I felt an eerie vibe right away. Just before I got to reception, two very tall, thin men in suits walked abruptly past the front desk without saying a word, completely ignoring our company’s sign-in policy. (Our Chief of Security was with them, so I thought this was especially weird.)
My staff were shocked and super confused, they didn’t know what to do. I came up to the desk and they said in a panic: “Those men just walked in, they walked right past us without saying anything and they didn’t sign in! What’s going on?”
Of course I had no clue either. I told them I didn’t know and that we would likely find out in a few moments at the weekly meeting.
The Main Event
We headed to the kitchen with our ‘spidey senses’ going off like crazy. Some people were there that we’d never seen before: a tall, thin, white-haired, older (but quite fit) lady, and presumably her team. I heard whisperings from a few of my co-workers. “What are those people doing here?” “Who are those people?” Even the Chief Operating Officer didn’t seem to know. I looked at the big screen where our Vancouver staff were gathered and noticed that there was a group of strange people in their office as well.
Our CEO stood up at the front to speak. The first words out of his mouth were: “Today, we are shutting down operations of Seeker Solutions.” I don’t remember what he said after that, it’s all pretty much a blur. I saw he teared up a bit as he continued to speak for a bit, as a million thoughts ran fast through my head.
I felt a flurry of emotions right at that moment, but I tried to keep myself calm, composed and centered as best I could. I was sitting at the very front of the room: I looked behind me to see all of my coworkers. All I remember was seeing tears, mascara running down women’s faces, and a few people hugging.
The next thing I remember was the lady with the white hair at the front of the room, explaining what would happen next. She offered to answer any questions and one of my staff members asked: “Who will let all the people we’ve been dealing with know that we’ve been shut down?” The lady replied: “That would be a good question for the CEO,” and she turned around to look for him, but he was gone.
I remember feeling anger towards this woman, acting as if she knew how we felt, reassuring us that she knew what we were going through and to keep calm as she and her team helped us through this transition. (Yeah right, I thought…)
On a brighter note, something that I remember clearly was Carlos. We had been planning a staff chili dog event before the upcoming long weekend and I guess he was pretty excited about it. After the lady had finished speaking, he ran cheerfully up to the front of the room, grabbed the microphone and said: “Awww, well, I guess we won’t be having chili dogs now,” in a true Carlos sarcastic tone. Everyone kind of laughed as he broke the stunned silence. Then he gave a short, warm and fuzzy speech about how it had been such a great time for him, working with all of us, and how he would miss our smiling faces every day.
Several people stayed in the kitchen for a while, mourning, and saying their goodbyes. I saw a lot of strong faces and a lot of teary eyes. Everyone grabbed their severance and information packages at the back of the room. They were arranged in alphabetical order on a long table, with the team of people who were handling the shut-down standing behind. (At least that part was sort of well organized.)
Word got around for everyone to head over immediately to one of the local bars. At the time, alcohol for a lot of people seemed like a great idea. The group of us who were there spent time reminiscing, worrying, talking and reflecting about what had just happened and what would be next for all of us.
After the company closed, weeks and months later I saw many people floundering, looking for work. There were super talented people that took ages to find a position. There were some people who I thought were kind of douchey that found a position right away. Then there was that guy I mentioned in an earlier post, who reeked of such desperation that “he would do anything for anyone” and we all ended up avoiding him.
I realized that we just didn’t know what to do at the time., Everyone was panicked, crying, scared and spinning in circles wondering what would happen next? How would they pay their bills? Who would hire them? What would happen if they didn’t find something? Panic all around!
All these concerns are normal, but they don’t need to be there when you have a process that you know works. My goal is to show you a process, so if you ever find yourself in that situation (or a situation like it, where you’re jobless and alone) you can sit back, relax, and say “Okay: it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get to work, but I’m chill because I know exactly what to do.”
If you’ve got to the end of the post, wow. (It’s a long one, I know.)
I’d love to hear from you; have you ever been through a company shutting down? What was the worst thing, or the best thing, that came out of it for you? Looking forward to hearing your comments!
In Work & Life,