Each of us knew this was a make or break situation. We were in the pool given a monumental task that we knew was destined for failure. There was minimal chance that when the task was completed that success would lead us to a new position within the company. We were living in limbo land.
There were participants from many departments of various levels, grades, and specialties, yet, despite our wins in the past, we now faced that dreaded outcome: "separation from the company" which would end our careers.
Our job was to inventory company assets scattered through the facilities of its outsourced transportation company and find discrepancies in the millions of dollars of equipment that had gone missing from the books. For the best part of five weeks, we traveled from city to city across the United States serving in the heat of blistering warehouses in Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Florida and other, more obscure towns.
The members of our team, for the most part, grew closer through our mutually shared yet unspoken knowledge of upcoming doom. Each of us hoped somehow to distinguish ourselves in some creative way and regain our misplaced importance to the corporate entity. Our futures depended on making the right impressions with those token "safe" employees who joined us from time to time to interject a sense of validity to our efforts. If only we could make the right connection, impress the holder of an open personnel requisition, perhaps befriend someone who could keep us afloat in a top-heavy, overburdened ship with excess cargo.
As we toiled in our unaccustomed manual labor roles of the temporary assignment, we brushed elbows with Vice Presidents and departmental leaders whose objective during their brief tenure among us was assessment of team members.
As the hours, days and weeks passed, the stays at adequate but less than luxurious hotels continued. We sweated, washed our clothes in motel laundromats, ate take-out food, sang songs and whistled while we worked, and grew as close as our tenuous situation would allow. When we concluded our round-about inventory tour, our diverse team members returned to their respective home bases and awaited our fates.
To our immense surprise, the project was deemed an unqualified success. We located and documented millions of dollars of elusive inventory and turned our ill-fated mission around. Many were able to secure jobs in new areas within the company. Our assignment became a test of our adaptability to change. Those who were able to embrace the uncertainty and plow through were awarded a cash bonus and handed an engraved plaque of recognition by the Senior Vice President.
It was a memorable moment in the trial by fire of the corporate worker.