"They're selling the company." Allen's revelation drew reactions of shock and disbelief from the other members of our lunch party. Their reactions ranged wildly between excitement and confusion, celebratory high fives and agonized moans. One of the of the production supervisors declared he had called it months ago. On the other hand Dave, a young technical supervisor, threw his napkin down onto the table and expressed his frustration through a few choice obscenities; apparently he thought it was bullshit. I could tell it was a very emotional moment for him because when the waiter rather diligently came to the table to clear his plate, he shooed him away and removed the napkin, now drenched in hot braised chicken sauce, then continued eating.
I didn't remember it well, but apparently he and I bonded over the weekend. He was adamantly attempting to convince a young woman to leave the bar with him, her excuse of course was that she had come with a friend, so naturally I stepped up to the plate. He did end up leaving the bar with her, as I remember it, though, she stood about five feet three inches and easily cleared two hundred pounds. My girl was taller, with a very sturdy build, and may have actually been considered attractive had it not been for her utter lack of fashion and an acne problem she was way too old to possess. I swore up and down to the guys the next morning that when we left I told her about my recent breakup and went home in separate cabs; they weren't the least bit convinced. Either way, I had an excuse, I was shaken up and not in a healthy state of mind, unlike Dave who admitted it wasn't the first time he had gone home with one of the bigger girls who frequented that particular bar.
"That's what they told me, the deal's done." Allen confirmed as he took a sip of water and shrugged his shoulders as if to say that this time around, there was nothing he could do to make it better. I doubted that would ever be true. He looked at me and asked what I thought.
"They sold the company? Is that good or bad?" The innocence of my question drew an uproarious response from my lunch mates, I obviously should have known the implications of receiving this kind of news. I sort of did though. Unless we were bought out by a big corporation (we weren't), obviously there would have to be a merger of personnel between the two companies, and since production wasn't about to double, some redundancies would occur.
This was at least one basic concept I understood from the few survey level business courses I took in college. I could also guess that since we were the ones being bought out, they would be implementing their people into most of the unskilled positions, including, but not limited to, technical supervisors. On the other hand, I also knew they weren't about to let good talent slip away, which meant people who worked hard and made a unique impact to the company were safe; otherwise you have nothing to complain about as far as I'm concerned.
I was sure that wasn't what people wanted to hear right now. So I didn't mind fueling the flames by offering up my innocence as a bail out.
"Well what happens happens, we all work hard, I guess I'm not too worried about it." I concluded after hearing their case. The real reason I wasn't too worried about it was because I knew I offered a unique talent to the company as a creative designer, I was young and developing into a fine candidate for a number of senior positions, and my work had already impressed the company brass.
"College boy... Say that when you have a wife and kids, and a mortgage." One of the more disgruntled, soon to be ex-employees uttered. This conclusion was supported by a number faces around the table, it was safe to say my nonchalance struck a chord with the majority of the group.
"I think what the kid is trying to say is that we all bring a lot to the table and probably don't have anything to worry about." Allen interjected, rescuing me from what could have been a rather nasty exchange. I was gearing up to argue that I couldn't be held responsible for his lapses in judgment when making life decisions, and while I believed it was true, I'm sure he wouldn't have appreciated me calling his wife and children mistakes.
I nodded my head and confirmed Allen's assumption which quickly quelled the mood at the table. I didn't realize I could strike so many chords by simply not caring, I can't say I expected that reaction, but after having achieved it I felt a sense of rejuvenation. It was an odd form of elation. I had never been that close to expressing my true feelings toward anyone other than the cat, and even though it I knew it was a bad thing, I can't say I didn't like it.
Tensions surrounding the impending sale of the company grew steadily throughout the office all week. Despite the fact that Allen explicitly told us not to say anything to anyone else, the entire office knew by the end of the day Monday. Allen was clearly annoyed with the rest of the guys for their lack of integrity, except for me of course since I had no other friends to talk to in the office, and presumably couldn't have taken part in perpetuating that information. I reminded him of the fact that he was also told, explicitly, not to tell any of us about the sale; he failed to see my point.
I on the other hand, sat back and observed the scene, which was becoming more and more outrageous by the day. Everyone seemed taken by the idea of going above and beyond the expectations of their normal job descriptions to be noticed by upper management. One office manager even promised his entire staff that he would guarantee their jobs if they all wrote him a "strong and positive" letter of recommendation to the new ownership. Although none of the staff members believed him, they came to the conclusion that if they wrote the strongest letter, they would certainly be included in the manager's must-keep list.
Department meetings grew into spectacles of employees doing and saying anything to keep their jobs. Some took the risk of venturing out into the extremes of abstract thought, a path which often resulted in long, awkward silences. Others simply tried to go back to basics, one woman practically reciting the company's PR material from the employment manual word for word. Many of the workers even tried formulating the number positions that would be carried over from their departments and began ruthlessly competing against one another for each coveted spot. My favorite were the presentations, which were no longer just presentations, they were circus acts, introducing new levels of absurdity, including video, sound, lights, and high flying animations, which they dubbed "The Future Of..." You can fill in the blank.
What was most difficult to watch were the people who were absolutely certain to keep their jobs, interacting with those for whom the outlook was not so optimistic. Those who were sure to stay were excited about the prospect of a new direction for the company, integrating our specialties with those of our new partner company, and the infusion of money that almost certainly meant an instant increase in salary and bonuses. For those who's fate was not so certain, the sale meant something was being taken away from them, something to which they felt entitled, probably the reason they were on their way out in the first place. It left roughly half the employees walking on egg shells.
In the end, however, I suppose everyone had something to lose. Many of those who were looking forward to staying, were also concerned with what their roles would be under the new ownership, many of them also had friends who would be sorely missed, or simply dreaded having to adjust to a new atmosphere around the office. I overheard one of the project managers confiding in Allen that he was sure one of the office administrators was on their way out, and that he didn't realize how much he valued working with someone in that position who wasn't such a worthless prat.
Since I knew I would be staying, and I wasn't worried that any of my friends would be leaving, I had the advantage of carrying on business as usual, without the clutter of getting involved in the office politics.