Thursday, April 13, 2017

Corporate Obscurity

It was toward the end of a dozen years with a multi-billion dollar corporation that I found myself on a list of employees whose value to the company had come into question. The unfortunate group was assigned to a "special project," which may sound like something desirable that would distinguish or redeem us. Not so for the corporate professional whose contributing days had run their course.

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.
Still, most of us took on the responsibilities with chins held high, our stiff upper lips pursed into dogged expressions, and our noses planted firmly on the grindstone.

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.

The rumors of upcoming layoffs floated among us in the evenings when we gathered for the dinner meal. Those were times when the most desperate tried their hardest to find a listening ear, to work out some deal to keep themselves on the payroll. Doomed alliances were pushed to the limit by intense competition for any safe place left within the organization.

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.


  1. Hello Peg - What an interesting story. The corporate world is not for the faint of heart. I can't (won't) tell you how many times I was 'let go' because common sense or honesty, was not the order of the day. It always surprised me how the self interest of some boss, was held in higher standing than that of the profit of the company.

    1. You're right about the corporate world, Mike. It takes a lot to withstand the barrage of restructuring, reorganizing, reduction-in-force and downsizing efforts of the organization as well as the profit motives, ethical and non. I'm glad to have regained my life and taken off in a new direction with writing. Nice to have you drop in for a visit.

  2. It's wonderful that the hard work was credited for what it was, trying to help the company.

    1. Hello Deb, Thanks for the visit. Not everyone made the cut on this exercise but those who did were rewarded. It was another year before I fell into another "pool" of excess resources.

  3. Dear Peg,
    I am envisioning a memoir from you. I recently read that a memoir cannot be your whole life...rather a focus on a theme or a time period (decade).
    A collection of your career life lessons and experiences would be fascinating to me and countless others.
    Glad this experience was a positive chapter. Brava to you and your colleagues for your determination and courage. Love, Maria

    1. Sweet Maria,
      Your ongoing encouragement keeps me writing, now, whether people want to read it, that's another story. Thanks so much for your continued support and inspiration. Hugs and love, Peg

  4. So often in corporations particularly when one corporation merges or buys another the end result is loss of jobs. It sounds like you and your teammates survived at least that challenge of the day with the company in which you were employed. Nice that you got special recognition for your efforts.