…which is not what I was expecting when my supervisor John, two coworkers, and I sat down for an unscheduled meeting with my supervisor’s boss Jason and the head of HR (human resources).
John and I had discussed what was most likely to become of our department (and us) in the immediate future, namely layoffs or complete extinction. A new president is coming to the university in July, an outsider, a person with a fresh perspective and fresh ideas who doesn’t know anyone at the university, has no personal ties, no long-term professional relationships, and who most likely doesn’t, and won’t see the value in the people I work with (or me) – most people don’t, even the ones who have been on the campus for a decade or more.
We have contractors on the campus who do the same job – two contractors, in fact. We are oversubscribed. So, John was expecting some layoffs and an even smaller department, and I was expecting Jason, or his bosses, to get rid of us and one of the contractors, to boot.
Out of the eight people in my department, they called five of us to the meeting. Strangely, coincidentally (?), the other three were off. And they laid it on us. Voluntary retirement. Incentive-based. In other words, they offered us incentives to retire early: a nice severance check and paid medical and health insurance after retirement (for a while). To be eligible, our age added to the number of years we have worked at the university had to be seventy-five (75) or more. I’m 54. I have worked here for 23 years, 24 in July.
I was accepting the deal mentally while they were still explaining it to us. A buyout is the best possible outcome for me. I really was beginning to believe I would be laid off this year or early next year at the latest. Or that we would all be “let go” with a couple of bucks and a short farewell speech with refreshments (which is normally how it’s done here). So, this offer, the first offer, is the best I am going to get; that is also how this works: they offer you some incentives to leave early and if you pass, you never get an offer that good again.
That thought, that reality, tipped my decision. But it wasn’t the deciding factor.
Underneath the generosity and consideration of the offer were two heavily implied truths: one, my department is being phased out in favor of subcontractors (it’s time to go); and two, my time has passed. My era, our era, is over at the university. We came, we served, we kept the place running, propped it up, despoiled it a little, and now the university, the institution, is being transferred to new hands.
New minds. New objectives. New directions.
The university doesn’t need us (me) anymore.
If they thought they did, they wouldn’t be paying us to leave.