Out Of Office

Book signings used to terrify Tom, but they’ve grown on him now. The scent of paper, the intimate gatherings, the relaxed ambiance… 

Nothing like his old office days. Sterile, perfunctory, hectic …

As he contemplates his good fortunes, a reader takes him out of his  stupour:

“I love your books, Mr Sinclair. May I ask if you always knew you’d be a writer, or was there a defining moment?”

Tom thanks him and delivers a well-rehearsed line:

“Not really one moment, but a few nudges that I ignored to start with. But I’ve always loved stories, crafting them is like therapy for me so it was only a matter of time until I totally gave in”

Short and sweet, keeping some mystery. 

But the plain truth is not so straightforward. It all really kicked off that fateful day almost a decade prior. The memory is still vivid.

The fluorescent lights flickered overhead, casting a sterile glare on the framed motivational posters lining the hallway. Tom paused in front of the one that read ‘Teamwork Makes the Dream Work,’ a bitter irony considering how isolated he always felt in that place.

His legs were threatening to buckle as he reached the meeting room. It’s not every day that you’re summoned by the general manager and the HR lady.

Daniel motioned for him to seat opposite him. Lynn showed her teeth. A forced smile.

Detached as ever,  Daniel didn’t miss a beat.  “Tom, this was a tough decision, but it’s all about staying lean and competitive as an organisation. We value your contributions, but your role is being made redundant.”

Lynn attempted to cushion the blow:

 “It’s about right-sizing for future growth, taking a run-up to jump higher and further. Of course, we are happy to provide you with references and help in any way to assist you with the transition.”

The rest of the meeting was a blur. An attempt to appease him with a “generous” farewell package, some empty promises to help him find another job.

Tom’s head slowly dipped, his shoulders hunched at the realization that the conscientious “can-do attitude” at the office, the extra work done at home, all was for nothing. With a defeated sigh, Tom shuffled out of the meeting room, his heart a lead weight in his chest.

That evening, his friends rallied around him. A little bevy at the local pub.

They sat around him at the table, as if to form a protective circle.

Emily was the first to comfort her friend. “I’m gutted for you, Tom, sounded like you loved that job…”

“Yeah…The job wasn’t a problem. Just the human element…The double standards, the double speak…”

Sarah offered her take, with an enthusiasm that bordered on inappropriate: “Toxic office culture then. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Dave felt the urge to correct her: “Nah. The unfortunate reality is it’s all politics, mind games, and such. You gotta see through it.”

Tom protested, “I have no interest in that. Why can’t we just do the jobs we’re hired for?”

Dave replied, “It’s not enough, mate! You gotta make yourself look good, play the game enough so they don’t take you for a fool and make you a doormat.”

Emily interjected, “Not everyone thrives in that kind of environment, David! Ignore him, Tom, he loves drama.”

Tom nodded silently. His shoulders hunched, he barely made eye contact. The brave face had slipped.

The following days, he went through the motions of job search. With each rejection, his motivation dwindled. It seemed the world was confirming that only the game players were rewarded. Those who were not masters of deception or perception got left behind.

He started withdrawing from his friends in favour of his diary and social media. 

Per chance,  A post caught his eye: a former colleague shared an article about a local tech company’s soaring valuation during layoffs.

Tom’s jaw dropped as he learned how his now ex- manager, Daniel, had been systematically shedding “dead weight” by firing employees in favour of cheaper ones.  Highly questionable morally, but perfectly legal. It made the company artificially more attractive for an acquisition. 

Tom’s blood ran cold. He was one of many who lost out in the change. Not because of poor fit or performance. Just pawns in a calculated game of corporate greed.

A wave of resignation washed over Tom. Why bend over backwards to get back into that world? He didn’t know what the future held, but he knew this: the game was rigged, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to play anymore.

Still, bills needed to be paid. Tom opened his laptop, bracing himself for another demoralizing job search. Just then, a notification popped up. It was a message from Sarah, his youngest friend.

“Hey Tom,” the message read, “I know things haven’t been easy, but a friend of mine at a local startup called Green Shoots is looking for a freelance writer. They’re a cool company with a great work culture, and I thought you might be a good fit. Would you be interested in checking it out?”

Tom stared at the message, a flicker of surprise igniting within him. Maybe, he thought, the game wasn’t entirely rigged after all.

With a newfound spark of hope, he clicked on the link Sarah sent.

Tom is glad he took this chance.

This set him on a more fulfilling path, to eventually writing his first book” Out of office, Into Real life- Lessons From Getting Laid off “.

He often reflects on how his life might have turned out if he had not lost his job or if he had refused Sarah’s helping hand.

We like to attribute all our successes to ourselves. It’s called the self-serving bias. But serendipity sometimes makes the greatest contribution.

Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit” goes the latin adage.

Man proposes, but God disposes.

Beaming with a renewed sense of gratitude, Tom goes back to his book signing.

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