Copyright 2014 © Lew Sauder, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Lew Sauder
Holly Hewitt stared into space as she drove to work. The radio was on, but she didn’t hear it. When she arrived at the high-rise office building in the Chicago suburb, she didn’t remember the commute. Was there traffic? She had no idea.
She turned off the engine and sat in her seat. Her mind was racing like the wind in all directions. She trudged into the office building not even noticing the bright umbrella sky of early September.
The merger had been announced yesterday afternoon. Soon after the announcement, her boss Alex Price asked her to meet him in his office at nine o’clock AM. I guess I’m going to learn what it’s like to be fired, she thought.
It wasn’t as though she didn’t think she could find another job. She received calls from recruiters on a fairly regular basis. It was just that she liked her job and wasn’t keen on leaving.
Holly started working for Harrison Food Services (HFS) when she graduated from college seven years ago. She graduated with a degree in information technology and started working as a software developer. The leadership at HFS identified her as management material almost immediately. She wasn’t just a techie. She had excellent communication skills. She worked well with the technical folks and still could communicate with the business people. It wasn’t long before they promoted her to team lead in charge of several developers. A few years later, they began putting her in charge of her own projects. As project manager, she managed several small to medium sized projects.
Harrison Food Services was a national distributor of food products including prepared soups, dairy products and soft drinks. They were one of many companies that had courted Holly during her senior year in college. HFS didn’t offer Holly the highest salary, but they did impress her. They distributed many of the products that she used on a daily basis. But it was the people who sold her on the company. They seemed friendly but professional. It just felt like the best fit for her.
And for the last seven years, it was a great fit. She made some great friends there. That, she thought, would be the most difficult thing. She didn’t know how many people would lose their job that day, but they would all start going their separate ways. She knew they would keep in touch for a while. Then they would gradually get busy with their new jobs and their new lives. It just wouldn’t be the same. All of the employees were brought into the company auditorium late yesterday afternoon to announce that they would be merging with one of their biggest competitors, Lee Food Products. LFP was another food distribution company that provided dairy products as well as a full line of prepared ready-to-eat meals to the retail grocery sector. The president of each company had just finished holding a joint press conference to announce the merger which, assuming Federal Trade Commission approval, would be finalized on July first of the following year. The newly formed company would operate under the moniker of Harrison-Lee Systems (HLS). The announcement was as unexpected and sudden as an electric shock. Everyone walked out of the auditorium stunned. The president stated that no layoffs were planned as a result of the merger, but nobody believed that. Everyone assumed there would be some cutbacks. When Holly got back to her office, she saw the email from Alex asking her to meet in his office the next day. That email went through her with the ferocious force of a waterfall. She felt her heart in her throat. She began to shake uncontrollably. I can’t believe this is happening, she thought. The rest of the day was a blur. She had the presence of mind to back up her personal files from her laptop. She didn’t remember driving home or if she ate anything that night. She stood at her window overlooking the park until the sun descended in the west. When she went to bed, she couldn’t seem to stop her racing mind. When was the last time she had updated her resume? Who in her network should she contact first? It was all so overwhelming. Holly sat outside of Alex’s office the next morning at eight fifty-nine. His administrative assistant stuck her head in his office and asked “Are you ready for Holly?” There was no emotion in her voice to give Holly an indication of her fate. “Yes. Send her in please.” She heard Alex’s gentle voice from inside the office. She walked in and saw her boss sitting behind his desk. His credenza was filled with various mementos, primarily from his days of playing college football. Alex was a tall handsome man who continued to keep in shape, despite being at least ten years past his playing days. He always had a fairly serious look on his face and today wasn’t an exception. There was another man sitting in one of the two chairs across from his desk. There are always two people present when they fire you, she remembered. “Have a seat Holly. Thanks for meeting with me this morning.” “Sure.” Holly responded. Was there a choice, she wondered. “This is Sam Welch. He’s the CIO of Lee Food Products.”
“Hello Holly.” Sam said as he stood up to shake her hand. “Good morning.” She replied back. At least I’m getting fired by royalty, she thought. “There’s been a lot of activity over the past few weeks as we planned yesterday’s announcement of the merger.” Alex continued. “We wanted to meet with you right away to tell you that I’m not going to be your manager anymore.”
That’s kind of a weird way to tell someone they’re fired, she thought. “Oh?” was all she could force out of her shaky voice. “Holly, I’m being reassigned to an operations role. Sam is going to be the CIO of the newly combined company. He’ll be your new boss.”