Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: REDUCE (11/05/15)
TITLE: Behind Closed Doors
By Judy Sauer
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“Helen, can you come in here?” Her boss, Madelyn, tells her, “Please close the door” and motions for Helen to have a seat.
Helen has an uneasy feeling inside. She heard others are called into private meetings. Now, it’s her turn. With stomach churning, “What’s up?” trying to sound perky and upbeat.
Without tilting her head, Madelyn peers over her reader glasses. “For starters, you are not in trouble. Let’s get that elephant out of the room fast.”
A massive sigh of relief sweeps through Helen. The headache that had started is now backing off. “That’s good to know. I can’t think of any reason why I’d be anyway,” giggles Helen. I guess all this office chatter about downsizing is getting to me.”
“You know how mentoring has brought us closer? We have become friends. I like how our talks are casual when one-on-one, yet we know when to put on our professional hats. This is one of those times. We all need to have reviews done for management by Friday.”
“Oh. Is something wrong? Like, I mean… Are we? I don’t know…you tell me.” Helen is fidgeting with her clothes—one of her classic signs that anxiety is setting in.
“Honestly, I’m not real sure. I’ve heard rumors, just like everyone. Only, this time, rumors are leading to actions. Frankly, it concerns me too. But we need to take this seriously. I have no idea what they are looking for, or even what the strategic plan is, but we must do our best. We must remain professional at all times—that means lunches, gabbing, etc., are out until we know where all this is leading.”
“Okay. I have an unsettled feeling right now.”
Two weeks later, Madelyn stops by Helen’s cubicle. “We need to talk. Please come to my office” she says with a quiver in her voice.
Once in her office, Madelyn continues, “I have some answers for you now.” Madelyn’s eyes begin to tear up. “Darn allergies.” She takes a moment to compose her allergy ruse. “Management has decided we have some tough decisions to make. They want our input now on their proposed plans.”
“What kind of input?”
“In the form of a survey. They have listed potential options. They want to hear the voice of the employees before making final decisions. What actions they take effect everyone.”
“Are we being laid off?”
“Good question. It is one of the possible options. This is highly unusual that management wants the employees to decide their fate. I have never heard of this before. My guess is they want to prevent lawsuits, and by getting employees to come up with the solutions, it keeps them out of a legal mess.”
“What’s on the survey? And, more importantly, what are the options they want us to decide on—or should I say, vote on?”
“Let’s just get down to it, and muddle through this together.”
“Just get to the bottom line choices. That’s what matters.”
“There are four options.
Option A is cut salaries by thirty percent.
Option B is decrease paid workdays to three, with no more overtime.
Option C is reduce staff by thirty percent.
Option D is a buy-out, and everyone needs to reapply for their jobs again.”
"What? No Option E?" Helen begins crying. Her pencil falls to the floor, and she is visibly shaking. She barely squeaks out, “Geez. None of these are good. They’re all awful. Is the company in poor shape financially?”
“I know, Helen, how harsh this sounds. It could be worse. They could have not given us this survey, and blindsided us with terminations. We need to remain composed. Here are some tissues. I know this is hard to swallow. It affects us all.”
Madelyn walks Helen down the hall. “We’ll work this out together. I’ll keep you updated.
Three weeks later, Helen knocks on Madelyn’s door. “Excuse me. Any news yet?”
“Yes, I just received it. Come in.”
As Helen shuts Madelyn’s office door, the message came down hard. “The company has decided to reduce staff by thirty percent, and those remaining must reapply for their jobs. This is difficult news to process. I recommend updating your resume. We won’t know everyone’s status until they decide to make the official announcement. This is how corporate America is moving these days.”
“Sad, but true.”
Fiction, yet inspired by true events.
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