So Wednesday, October 30, was the 1 year anniversary of my grama’s death. I was already a little on edge but planning to be as gentle as possible with myself and honor whatever came up for me (proper tribute to come). I went into work, planning to start my group first thing as scheduled. When I walked into the group room there were no clients, but the leadership team was waiting. They told me all clients were canceled and we were having a staff meeting instead. I knew it couldn’t be good.
A little bit of a back story. This has been a terrible year for the agency. In January we were pulled into our first traumatic meeting. They weren’t going to be able to make a full payroll and so our checks would be slashed by 30%. There were many other traumatic meetings about payroll days away that wouldn’t be met… a 10% mandatory paycut for all employees effective immediately for a period of 3 months… no 6 months… no indefinitely – hopefully we’ll get them restored when we merge with a non-profit monster… no they’re gonna keep you at this salary, this is the new normal… watching my coworkers quit… watching a pack of coworkers get laid off several months ago. It’s been really rough. And despite our regular advice, objections, and modeling as therapists about handling these traumatic announcements in a healthier way, they kept coming. Just last week a surprise policy change via email: “Use your PTO or lose it, it will not be paid out to you even if you give proper notice. Effective immediately.” No problem, I’m not going anywhere.
I stayed because I believed in the agency’s mission, because I loved my clients, because I deeply loved and respected my coworkers, my team. I stayed for the unusual opportunity to practice therapy while still unlicensed, for the ownership and leadership I took in the agency, for the extraordinary opportunity. I kept staying as I depleted my savings on the hopes that this would end one day soon and our salaries would be restored.
So on that Wednesday morning, we were told that the agency wouldn’t survive and would need to dissolve. In making a decision to pay bills or pay employees, they chose the staff and they said that we would continue to be paid, that we would become employees of the meganonprofit and someday in the future, a new culturally specific agency would be created. We would be a phoenix rising from the ashes. It was a sad conversation, we fought so hard to keep our autonomy, but the agency was over. We were told that we would probably not practice in this building again (not a surprise) and that we should finish up our paperwork and begin packing offices.
Thursday morning I got a text saying my office needed to be packed up by we needed to be out by the end of the day. In a daze I went in and packed up my cozy place of healing in kind of a daze. Late Thursday night I texted my supervisor to make sure we didn’t have a Friday meeting since we were just transferring to the new agency. I was told yes, we did, and come to the office at 10am.
It still never dawned on me what was about to happen. The Director kept it short and sweet. “This is the day I’ve been talking about. The time has come. I have your separation letters and I have applications for the meganonprofit.” It took several minutes for it all to sink in for all of us. I broke it down bit by bit and asked him to verify that’s what he had said. “We are being laid off. I’m unemployed. And I need to apply for my job at another agency.”
Another employee asked, “But basically you’re saying that our jobs are waiting for us at the other agency?”
“No. No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m no longer in charge and I can’t make any promises.”
We all filled out our applications in a daze. I went and found the director to hand mine in. He looked at me for a good 30 seconds with some kind of expectancy or question, I couldn’t figure it out. Did he want a hug? What? “Alright,” he said. “See you on the other side.”
And with that, I was unemployed. Totally dumbfounded and unemployed.