When the Other Shoe Drops: Part One

Guest Author:  Donna Moulico-Hall

the other shoe drops, waiting for the other shoe to dropWe have all had situations where we wait for the other shoe to drop. It usually is a sense of something inevitable and not necessarily pleasant.

The idiom comes from New York City in the late 19th century and early 20th century when the bedrooms of apartments were stacked on top of each other. People could literally hear workers taking off their shoes and dropping them onto the floor.

I worked at my company most of my adult life. I had survived numerous rounds of downsizing or workforce reduction as well as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and company splits. Since I was employed, I sought to find roles for others when they were notified of downsizing.

I created a company-wide job requisition report and made it available to whomever requested it.   I was hoping for good karma; someone who would look out for me the way that I had looked out for others in the past.

Recently, I had a sense that something was different. Things got very quiet. We had experienced a workforce reduction in early May and usually there was only one per quarter. But my manager stopped talking to me and was delaying the launch of my programs. 

The Writing on the Wall

In the middle of June, the other shoe dropped. Shortly after 9:00 am on a Monday, my manager called me in to read from a script (she mentioned that there was a legal script); my role had been eliminated as part of a financial restructuring.

The Writing on the Wall, expectations, other shoe dropsMy job was now to find a job within the company—if possible. If I could not secure a new position within two weeks, my employment would be terminated along with my benefits. My manager emphasized that my work had gone away, and this was not a performance-based decision. I was devastated even though I had a sense it was coming. I understood that it was a financial decision, not a personal one, but when it happens to you and your family, it is deeply personal.

Being laid off is an emotionally traumatic and professionally humbling experience. But I was determined to remind myself that life is truly rich, and my ‘job’ is a small part of my total life experience.

Balancing Emotions

That first night we had dinner with friends. My focus was on affirmation, not anger or sorrow.  That evening I learned one of my most poignant lessons during this process. I am surrounded in love and support by family and friends. I am not alone in this journey. Most adults have experienced at least one workforce reduction during their careers.

mixed emotions, handwriting on the wall, layoffEach day I prepared for my departure from my company. Each evening I did something that involved family and friends as a reminder of my blessings. We celebrated my mother’s birthday.  I volunteered at a local food pantry and homeless shelter.  We had dinner with my former manager and colleague and spouses. Their message to me was how fortunate I was to have lasted as long as I did. In fact, they said it was not a question of if you would be laid off from this company but when.

Saying Good-Bye

During my last week with the company, I sent my farewell message to colleagues and provided up-to-date contact information. I spend considerable time researching the cost of health insurance and the options available to me and my family. Admittedly, that was the most immediate cause for concern.

My husband and I decided to travel to Maine to enjoy our summer camp. We left the day before my official last day of work. I would finish my tenure in Maine. However, while travelling to our camp towing a boat, we experienced electrical problems with the truck and lost all power. We were stranded. To add insult to injury, it literally started to pour on us as we were outside tending to the vehicle and the boat. I think my reaction was ‘really??!?’ and maybe a bit more profane language.

The Donut and the Hole

Five stages of giref, Elizabeth Kubler-RossIn reference to Susanne Skinner’s recent blog post about The Donut and the Hole, I looked on the brighter side of things. We were safely in a large parking lot and away from all traffic. We were able to rent a vehicle to get our belongings to our camp. We brought our vehicle to a dealer for repairs. Lastly, we had friends and family help us to collect the boat and bring it to our camp.

It was on that note that I ended my tenure with my company.

What’s Next After the Other Shoe Drops?

In early summer I find myself unemployed for the first time in my adult life. Losing a job is a major loss and there are five stages of grief to process through. People who have been on this journey have told me to take some time off before initiating a job search. I need time and distance to decompress and to re-center my equilibrium.

This Beats Working…

loons, lake, lake house, MaineI am in shock about how callously and suddenly my tenure had ended, and I still harbor some anger. But it was the perfect time of year and place to sit back, take a deep breath, and recover. This time is a gift. The only loons I was going to listen to were the ones on the lake. My mantra that summer during various outings and experiences was “This beats working.”

Next Wednesday:
Part 2:  Getting Back on that Horse: Beginning the Job Search