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How NOT To Quit A Job

June 5, 2013

I want to go into Computer Science. Any advice?

Get used to getting laid off.

Computer Science, or Information System, or any number of techy careers are often listed as some of the best paying in business. What they don’t tell you in college is that every high-tech company does layoffs. . .Pretty much without exception. Microsoft has done layoffs, Novell, used to do layoffs in December to make their end-of-year numbers look better. Kind of made for a sucky Christmas. I worked for a Church IT department and THEY did layoffs. Everyone does them. But, you never forget that first time.

In December of 1993, WordPerfect was out of cash. No one really knew that except a few of the executives. They quit stocking pop in the break rooms, and then in December they sent out an email that shocked us.

In an attempt to become a more efficient organization we will be doing layoffs shortly after the first of the year. We realize how disruptive this can be. We will share more information as it become available.

Welcome to the real world.

As you can imagine, it was a shock for everyone. What we didn’t know was that WordPerfect was in the process of being acquired by Novell. But, we had too many employees to be profitable as a single company, let alone being added to another company. At the time, we kind of, sort of hoped maybe they were finally going to go public. But, even as we told ourselves that, we knew it wasn’t true. But, we hoped it was. Shortly after the news hit the public, I got a phone call.

Rodney? This is Heather in Microsoft’s HR department. David Ladd asked me to give you a call and ask if you are still as happy with your job as you were when we talked back in August?

I would LOVE to come and talk to you again!

This time I didn’t worry too much about trying to keep it a secret. Not that I’d succeeded last time, but I hadn’t figured that out yet.

I flew out on a Thursday, spent all day Friday interviewing and Microsoft made me an even better offer than they had several months earlier. This time the salary was $39,000 and they bumped the stock options up to 1200 shares. I still didn’t understand their purpose. In fact, I tried to negotiate a larger salary when I should have been talking about more stock options. I was going to join the Microsoft Mail support team.

About 2:30 in the afternoon my wife, who also worked at WordPerfect called me.

They just sent out an email saying that they will be taking volunteers for the layoff. Volunteers will get the full severance package. They have to inform their manager on Monday.

This was a very good day. I got another job. . .and it was with MICROSOFT! They were going to throw in a $10,000 moving package. Both my wife and I could get the layoff severance. The layoff notice was scary, but things were turning out great.

Yes, I’ll be happy to accept your very generous offer.

Great. We just need to know your start date. Get that to us as soon as you can. Welcome aboard!

Mom was going to be SO happy.

Monday morning my manager was out of the office, so my wife and I went to see the director.

Edward? I’d like to volunteer to be part of the layoffs.

Oh? We weren’t planning any cuts on your team. So, what are you planning to do?

There are times in your life where you reach a crossroads, and a word one way or another can make a difference in ways you never anticipated. What I should have said was, “I’m going to explore my options.” Or, “I haven’t decided.” Or just stayed quiet. Instead, I told the truth.

I’m going to Microsoft.

It was the wrong thing to say.

WordPerfect was at war with Microsoft. At least in their mind. I just announced I was going to go work for the company that was driving this one into bankruptcy.

I’m not even sure how we separate you from the company. It would be easier if you’d just steal something and I could fire you. Ha ha.

What do you say to that?

I’ll have to check with HR. Ah. . .go back to your desk and I’ll let you know.

My wife was a support operator.

I’d like to volunteer as well.

You too?

Seriously, he was surprised that she wanted to leave with me.

As a SWAT team member I had accounts that I worked with. I’ve talked about How I Saved The EPA, they were still my account. Allstate Insurance was another one of my accounts. The email administrator there was also one of my references to Microsoft. I called to let him know that I would no longer be working with them, but we’d plan a smooth transition to one of the other SWAT Team members. Another crossroads, again it was the wrong thing to say.

A week went by. Seriously, I told them I was leaving to go to work for a competitor and they let me come to work for a week. I cleaned out my desk. I deleted my email. I saved out any documents I wanted to take.

Finally, a week later I got a call from Edward.

The VP of HR would like to see you in her office.

Is this “the meeting?”

No, I don’t think so. But, bring your keycard.

In his defense, he wasn’t a natural liar. He also wasn’t particularly good at it, to his credit.

I didn’t expect a big party or anything. But, I’d saved some big accounts. I’d helped show that the SWAT team concept was viable. I’d done some good work. I expected a handshake, a “good luck, see you at the conventions” and to be on my way.

What I walked into was My Manager From Hell, all over again. Only the actors had changed. My chair was in the middle of the room, the VP of HR was there. The corporate attorney was there. The HR Rep who’d run our mandatory “sign a non-compete-or-get-fired” meeting back in August was there. And my director was there.

We’ve got a problem. It seems you’ve been trying to recruit accounts for Microsoft while you’re still an employee for this company. If you go to work for Microsoft we will sue you and we will sue Microsoft!

Well, THIS was unexpected.

(This is the third of a five part series on Leaving Utah: How I left WordPerfect and Went to Microsoft. Part One described Saying No To Microsoft. Part Two explained What Happened to the Pop In the Break Room? Part four will explain how I became a pawn in WordPerfect’s war with Microsoft, And My Brother Got To Be A Knight.)

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