The Day I Was Laid Off

Off I went, an unemployed man, on Workers’ Day Eve. And I was thankful for it.

April 30th, 2011 seemed to be just another day at the office, compounded with the expectation that we would have the usual Worker’s Day holiday of May 1st, and then, perhaps, an outing at a local restaurant paid by the company in order to celebrate it.

However, it all changed near 5 pm, when I was wrapping around my workday. Three coworkers –two talented designers and my immediate boss– were called into the manager’s office, one by one. When they came out, each of them had serious faces. And then they called me in. I went, supposing what would was about to happen, but still hopeful that the reason would be something different.

It wasn’t. At the office, one of the managers –a very capable lady– with tears in her eyes told me that she was so sorry, but I was to be laid off. The numbers weren’t good, she said, and there was no way they could keep me. She assured me that every effort was done to see if I could be retained, to no avail. She asked me to wait for the HR officer of the corporate parent who would do the actual severance paperwork.

When the manager began to tell me the bad news, something happened. I felt relieved and thankful. But why? Well, there were several reasons.

I was thankful for the job I had. I was hired as a creative in an advertising agency. I had the opportunity to learn a whole new trade, to meet new people, to know much more about media, people, entertainment, and business, than I already had.

In addition, I succeeded in my job. I engineered, implemented, and worked as a chief copywriter of a campaign who won one of Paraguay’s most prestigious advertising awards. And this was a first for the agency. Overnight, the agency was the focus of the collective envy of all Paraguayan advertising agencies. And I had more than a hand on this achievement.

Moreover, I was thankful for how I was hired. I was hired on the spot at a time when I was desperately looking for a job, at a pay that was equal than of my former job. And I was a phenomenon: a copywriter at an ad agency, hired after I turned 40 years old. When I was laid off, I told that manager and also the HR officer that I was very thankful for that. And I told them: “tell M. (the owner) that I will never forget that he gave me a job despite my age.” To be honest, I was hired by one of the managers, a person who is a great friend, but the owner had to concur and I was being paid with money from his company, so I thanked him. A lot. I am certain that they did not expect me to be thankful for that fact, so they were pleasantly surprised.

And also I was thankful for the fair and understanding manner in which I was laid off. There was no distrust, no hostility, and I was paid a full severance package as prescribed by the Paraguayan law. As a lawyer, I knew that the company could try some loopholes in the law to pay me less, but they didn’t. The severance package bought me some time while I was looking for another job.

I must recognize, however, that I was thankful because this meant the end of that job. Certainly I was an award-winning copywriter, but life was hard at the agency and there were some aspects of the work that I positively hated. For starters, we worked in an open-office layout. I had to endure everything, and my coworkers had to endure me. The air conditioning didn’t work well, and the office could get hot. It was hard to get some focus and concentration with all the sensory noise.

All the noise and the tension of having to be there slowly began to get me. I began to dread having to go to work. I stayed after the appointed exit time on most days, because I could get at least one hour of silence and quietness. I slowyly became hypersensitive, overreacting (internally) to every tiny little bit of discomfort that the office gave me.

Soon after my layoff, I began working under very different conditions. The new job allowed me to work from home, at a better pay. It wasn’t perfect, of course; but it was doable and I felt much better.

That day, as I walked out of the office, I realized that one could be thankful for a layoff, and I was for this one. God was in control in many ways; and He showed me that fateful day that He is faithful.

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