Are You Waiting to Be Laid Off?

Back in June, when I was writing a blog for Harvard Business, I was thinking a lot about folks (including my former colleagues) who were waiting to hear whether they’d “get the axe” at work. Eight months earlier, I had quit my full-time job to pursue some long-neglected passions, but most people I knew were still plugging away in full-time positions that they needed to keep. For some of them, the almost-certain prospect of layoffs had been looming for what seemed like an eternity. So I submitted a blog post that attempted to give a voice to people forced to play this all-too-familiar waiting game.

The post was a little unconventional because, well, it featured an original poem of mine. I do write a fair amount of poetry, but this was something of a parody of my own style, even though I thought it kind of fit the bill. Not surprisingly, my editor didn’t go for it, as it was off-brand for the website. Not to mention that Harvard Business was gearing up to announce its own layoffs as June (and the end of the fiscal year) wound down, and the timing would have been a bit too perfect.

Now, with the calendar year winding down and some people (perhaps not as many) still awaiting news about layoffs, I offer up that odd little poem from June. It is what it is. Happy new year.

 

Lay Me Off

As the end of your fiscal year

approaches, your hands are nearing

my neck, your knife in reach

of my knees.  Because I cannot walk

on my own, I am stiff

for the sound of your severance —

crisp for the snap

of executive fingers.  A clean break

 

will not crack me — my skull

has already quit this corporation.

 

Let me go now, I urge you.  But please

do not thank me for my labor, give lip

to my service.  Platitudes fall

flatter than a pink slip,

slice rougher than any across-the-board

decision.  You have slowly taken

my years, but — please —

lay off my ears.

 

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About Steven DeMaio
Steven DeMaio teaches English and math at the Community Learning Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences in Somerville, Massachusetts. He also works as a freelance editor and writer. This is a continuation of his blog that ran for 10 months in 2009 on HBR.org.

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