How to survive the deadly TGL virus strain

Just as young executives all across the firmament were feeling snug – and, indeed, smug – about their five-figure campus placement, admiring the froth of their cappuccino, and prepping with the help of this paper you find holding in your hands, something ominous has struck – TGL, or The Great Layoffs.

No sooner had everyone got past the Year of TGR – The Great Resignation – TGL out on the streets, crashing into office buildings like Godzilla on Benadryl. It’s happening all around – to a friend, a friend’s friend, an ex-colleague – the Pink Slip is the new predator virus in town. If you and I are still employees in a multinational CoC (Corporation-of-Consequence), chances are we are perilously on the edge too.

There are feelers from the ecosystem all around you. From the receptionist’s ‘Good morning’ to the subordinate’s response and the boss’s cryptic WhatsApp message, or even the security guard’s greeting. As you walk into your daily Kurukshetra, you feel that each one of them knows your fate. Everyone but you.

And your friend in HR? Oh, don’t even bother. Chances are extremely high that she won’t look you in the eye, not in the corridor, not near the water cooler. So, walk in and deal with it. You are On Your Own. Welcome to OYO Pink.

But like Industrial Revolution 4.0 (no one is original anymore), TGL ain’t anything new. It’s been happening since the turn of the century with #PinkSlip, except that in those days, the operation was covert, no social media, and certainly no Sunday column about ‘downsizing””rightsizing’ or whatever euphemism they used to use for the sack.

It was smooth. It was the start of the 21st century when reality TV was still a novelty, and getting fired was part of that show – optics, drama, compassion and compensation. With the phone call finally arriving, dire as they come.

Each ‘episode’ would begin somewhere in the latter half of the day, when a coffee-maker eerily beeped marking the fact that hunting season had just opened. It was that time of the day when VP Cons – vice presidents of convenience – would huddle into the boardroom and pep each other for a hard season ahead. And then the lists were drawn, like the ones Jacobins prepared of the aristocrats during the French Revolution lined up for Madame Guillotine. Make no mistake, this fumigation process was undertaken after months of planning, pre-production, HR research to execute minimum morale damage and maximum human retrenchment. Sharks were entrusted with the job of using the right sound bites to ‘get it done’. And soon, it was the secretary’s job to call in those marked for the day. The work floor was expected to work more, talk less. It was the Emergency, of its own sort.

The executive, too, was expected to walk in with a confident gait as if going in for a promotion. After which came the ‘your time ends now’ moment. The sharks/VPs would draw out a list of reasons for such a ‘tough decision’ that had nothing to do with the personnel’s competence, reasons ‘beyond our control’. And then the five potent words: There is no other option.

This was followed by a note of compassion and compensation – a severance package that meant a salary package of a month or two. It was so well-timed that just at this point, our HR friend would slowly slide a standardised letter of resignation to be signed by mutual consent. The departing goose would have confided that it was ‘a great learning opportunity for me’ and confirmed that ‘I have resigned’.

But take heart, ye brave-hearted young executive who has just joined. It’s a Sunday, don’t fret, even the HR guys are off today (unless you work at Tesla). It’s time for a diversion. Take a good look at the stock options and the share market when the bourses open tomorrow and relax. TGL happens to other people.

(The writer is a graphic novelist and co-author of We Mean Business: 20 Women Entrepreneurs, 20 Stories)

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