May 15, 2009


Lilacs., originally uploaded by iMachias.

Our lilac bush in the front lawn is coming to full bloom today. It looks beautiful and smells wonderful. Lilacs are my favourite flower and one of my favourite scents. I believe this can be attributed to Grandma City, for she had numerous lilacs in her backyard and there was always a vase of fresh cut lilacs on the kitchen table at this time of year.

Lilacs always remind me of Grandma City. I miss her.


Today is my first “Workforce Reduction Day” under the effort to cut expenses at the company I work for. Salaries were cut by 10% across the board, and this is accomplished in my department by having one unpaid day off every two weeks. The days rotate in a systematic schedule so that there is complete fairness regarding the availability of three day weekends. I think that the manager of our department handled the matter well and came up with the best scenario to handle all of this. I have a lot of respect for my supervisor and the manager of the department. I’m happy to work for them.

Today is also the first pay day under the new plan. I’m afraid to see my paystub and the resulting impact of the cutbacks.

We have a company wide calendar that lists who is out of the office on any given day and we were given the task of listing our unpaid days off. I was one of the first to do so, and I listed each day as “WFR” (for WorkForce Reduction). Many others followed my lead and did the same. A few days later we received work from upper management telling us that instead it should be listed as “STO” , STO meaning “Scheduled Time Off”.

I took a little issue with this. And, surprisingly (?) I was vocal about it.

Here’s the thing. I believe using “STO” sugar coats the whole issue. I understand that the company is doing what it can to stay afloat and everyone reminds me that I wasn’t part of the layoffs that happened a few weeks ago, but still, I am now bringing home 10% less a week PLUS I have to work an additional four hours a week before I’m eligible for over-time when I’m on call AND I have lost my “pager pay”, the few extra hours I received for being inconvenienced with carrying a pager and being awoken in the middle of the night with random notifications. This pay cut has brought me below a threshold I had in my head, both financially and psychologically and quite frankly I don’t believe the issue should be sugar coated. It is a serious issue and by using the generic “STO” it seems like the issue is being swept under the rug and the company is operating as normal. But we are not operating as normal. Workloads have been increased, the stress level has tripled at the least, morale is very low and quite frankly we are doing everything we can do to just hold the place together and take care of customer concerns, let alone be happy about the whole thing.

I’m big on symbols. I find meaning in everything. I could document my time off with the slang term that’s starting to find it’s way into our corporate speak and refer to my day off today as “Punishment Time”, but I didn’t because that’s not appropriate. WFR says exactly what it is, WorkForce Reduction.

I understand that the powers that be are doing everything they believe they can to keep the company afloat and I guess I should be happy that I have a job in today’s economic climate. But I believe the situation warrants the respect and gravity that is actually present here, and this little sugar coating of changing “WFR” to “STO” is ridiculous. To even think that management had a meeting to discuss this and then told our supervisor that we needed to change our calendars is absurd.

It’s a little thing and I know that. I did the right thing and changed my calendar to “STO” like a good corporate (half-a-) cubicle resident1.

I may be there only 90% of the time now, but I still deserve 100% of the respect.

1 When we moved into our new headquarters in August 2007, new cubicles were purchased (along with all new office furniture) for the entire population of the building with the exception of our department. Our area, a separate room from the rest of the office, was given the old cubicles from our previous building (along with the old chairs) that are actually two quad areas, four “half cubicles” with two walls surrounding a common pole. Talking on the phone with a customer without the benefit of being surrounded by four walls lends itself to a LOT of “huh?”, “what” and “could you please repeat yourself, I couldn’t hear you”, not exactly the sort of thing a customer wants to hear when they are trying to get technical support on their technology based product.