Confessions of a Benefits Manager: Candid is put at risk

You know when you get the feeling something big is going down? Well, I’ve got one of those right now.

Confessions of a benefits manager

The Higher Beings have been having extra meetings, and not even Big Bad Boss seems to know what it is about. A data room has been set up in the large conference room, but only managers from the top floor have been seen to go in, not even anyone from HR. And it really is fishy; I found a confidentiality agreement on the photocopier, which referred to ‘Project Cod’. Anyone who has worked here for long knows that mysterious projects with fish names are generally divestitures or at the very least redundancies. Acquisitions are usually given wild animal code names. I don’t know who comes up with these names but they are consistent if not imaginative.

The worrying thing is that the reward team doesn’t know anything about this ‘Cod’ project. It is strange because we are always at the sharp end of culling exercises; we draw up severance pay costings and surreptitiously find senior managers’ employment agreements without anyone noticing. I like to think we are the secret agents of the HR team.

It isn’t long before we find out just why we have not been told anything this time. When the HR director for corporate functions calls my manager to a meeting, Big Bad Boss comes back looking haggard. The jobs of the whole reward team are at risk. They want to slim down European headquarters and they are even considering running all the specialist teams out of the US or India. He hands me the formal notice letter. There will be a full-blown consultation process, and we will all have to re-apply for our jobs. You can be a star player on the high potential list but still be put at risk. Geez.

Lazy Susan bursts into tears when she hears. Actually, I am not convinced she is all that bothered; I am fairly sure she just wants an excuse to go home early. The sales are on after all. She gathers all her magazines and other junk on her desk and leaves, still sobbing. I can hardly argue.

Severance pay preparation

Not given to bursting into tears at work, I burst into action. Quickly, I copy all the severance plans I have worked on in the last couple of years to my own flash drive. I know the US will think they can get by offering statutory redundancy pay, but I’ve seen the richest leaving packages around here, and I don’t intend to accept anything less than the best.

I also copy all the best documents I have ever worked on so I can take them to my next employer. I update my CV and check my LinkedIn profile. It feels so much better to be prepared.

Finally, I put my salary details into the redundancy calculator that I created for the last mass lay-off. I’ve been with the organisation for a while now, and I am rather impressed by the resulting number. With that kind of money I could do many things: I could pay off a big chunk of my mortgage; I could go on a world tour; I could get a new kitchen. Suddenly, the idea of leaving seems quite attractive. Changing jobs is a chance to start again, to reinvent yourself as someone better and more experienced. I might even wangle a pay rise out of it. Yeah, bring it on.

Waning communication and motivation

Then it all goes quiet. Weeks pass. No more letters. No more communication. It is hard to stay motivated with a sword of severance hanging over my head. Lazy Susan is even more lazy than usual. Big Bad Boss is, well, just as bad. The workload goes quiet too. No one is asking for reports at a moment’s notice. We are not even asked to many meetings. I feel like an outcast and I haven’t even gone yet.

Put to the test

Then we get a request to provide a bunch of data about the Danish location for Project ‘Sardine’. What is uncomfortable is that they don’t ask us to work on it; just to send it off. To India. I can guess what this is. This is a little test for our esteemed Indian HR colleagues. I pull the data, and start to make the notes they will need to know to do the job properly. Things like the holiday pay calculation required to get to proper salary data, and the special terms of the senior management employment agreements. And then I stop. No one has asked us for that level of detail. So, let’s just see what happens…

Later, I suggest that Big Bad Boss calls the Higher Being in Denmark just to ask how it is going. She confirms they have a small business unit for sale. Big Bad Boss suggests they should check any calculations carefully because we have not been involved this time. Bravo, Big Bad Boss. I wish he always followed my instructions so carefully.

It is a few weeks before we get given Project ‘Sea Bass’ to work on. I feel a bit bad because it is to scale down the HR team in India and move specialist operations to our European headquarters. Our Higher Beings are fickle about their toys just like spoilt toddlers; one minute they love us, then they rattle us, and the next they are throwing us out of the pram.

Honestly, sometimes I don’t know if I am coming or going.

Next time…Candid learns to network.