Recalling the indignity of being FMPd ... and fearing the ax may fall again

Last week's post about corporate tap-dancing around the word layoff -- 'Synergy-related headcount restructuring' and other euphemisms for 'you're fired' -- hit uncomfortably close to home for a number of readers. Henry Farkas, a senior Unix administrator for a Connecticut-based health insurance behemoth, sends along these thoughts:

I am an old IBMer.  My division was sold to AT&T.  Some years ago, AT&T enacted a series of layoffs.  They didn't announce that they were going to do that in so many words, of course.  Oh no.  They announced that they were going to "undertake a Force Management Plan."  Naturally, coming from a company that was once creative, I'd hoped for an announcement about some new innovation exploiting the conservation of linear momentum.

Alas, the "force" they were talking about was their "workforce;" they were going to force some "resources" out of work.  This immediately became known as being FMPd.  I survived several rounds, but was eventually FMPd -- on my wife's birthday.  I waited until the next day to mention this to her. It didn't help.

I'm employed again. I spent 11 months without a formal job, me, a well-respected performer (and, occasionally, an innovator) in what was once the most stable of fields; me, once the envy of most of my friends. 

But that's what happens when 4,700 people in the same field are relieved of their occupational responsibilities on the same day. That used to be a big number. But it pales in the light of this week's action by Citigroup.

I cannot help but wonder how and why Citigroup managed to employ 52,000 people that they have now decided that they don't need.

I've been working for a Fortune 50 for over 3 years now.  I like them, and they like me, but who knows how long any IT job will last anymore?

I hope I will never again have to come home and announce: "Honey, I've been FMPd!"  And I probably won't.  They'll pick a new euphemism.

Farkas tells me that he had another experience with being laid off much earlier in his career, "and I had a great new job within two weeks, back then." Back then being 1987. Few are so fortunate today. Farkas also wrote an essay about that brush with unemployment and it was broadcast on National Public Radio.

Here's hoping there is no third act for him to write about.

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