I work for a fairly large and well-known company, and we began retrenchment a couple of months ago.
Finding out people you know lost their job is heartbreaking, but playing an active role in the process is even worse. It’s been a grueling two months of speaking with employees of various positions and tenures telling them that their employment with the company has been terminated. If it isn’t obvious yet, I’m part of the human resources (HR) team.
I haven’t been in the HR field that long, only a little over a year. This was quite a difficult task since this is the first time I’d ever have to do something like this. The conversation itself wasn’t that difficult since there was a standard flow to it: Tell them about the state of the business, the impact of COVID-19, and how we plan to recover. It was managing the emotions of who you were talking to which was the challenge. Their reactions were also pretty standard. There were some who got angry, questioning the system which chose them and why it had to be them who had to leave. There were some who became sad. Then there were those who remained quiet throughout the meeting, still in shock from what was just said.
After we’ve broken the news, we’d have them speak with our on-call counselors, to help them process their emotions given the life-changing news they had just received. While a few of them agreed to take the session, most of them just preferred to go home and deal with it by themselves.
Little did I know I’d be having the same conversation again, but this time with me as the employee. This did not come as much of a surprise, since I was new to the company and there were a lot of us in my team. So downsizing only made sense. I received the call to come in because we had to have a discussion on what was happening in the company: They’d tell me about the state of the business, the impact of COVID-19, and how they plan to recover. I already knew what receiving this call meant, and I prepared myself for the coming conversation. I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before even though I already knew the purpose of the discussion, having given it so many times myself.
I came in the next day and sat down, my superiors in front of me. It’s funny because before the conversation formally began, one of them greeted me with “I’ll really miss having you around the office,” which just confirmed the reason I was called in for the discussion. I kept it light and cracked a few jokes, because I was one of the first scheduled that day. I didn’t want to make things more difficult since they had to give more of these difficult conversations later. I thanked them for their time and for the opportunity I had with the company. I chose to speak with a counselor before I left; I didn’t cry during my session. It was just a simple conversation on what my next steps would be. I couldn’t really say much, because I had no real concrete plans for myself yet.
On my way home I called a co-worker, a close friend of mine. I knew he wasn’t one of the people to be notified. I called to say goodbye and to thank him for the support he had given me during my time with the company. He then started crying, which finally broke me down. I also started crying. Then I started receiving calls from other co-workers telling me that they were also part of the retrenchment, and more tearful goodbyes ensued.
Crying in that moment for myself, the people I would no longer get to work with, for my co-workers who lost their jobs, I remembered I shouldn’t be sad because at least the unemployment rate is only at 45 percent. Thank you for lifting my spirits, Harry Roque. I, along with my co-workers and the millions of other adult Filipinos who’ve lost their jobs, thank you. We will be thinking of this great achievement for which you were so grateful while we stand in line at the DOLE and SSS offices filing for our unemployment insurance.