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David Eddie's Damage Control

I'm getting the axe, but still in charge of the Christmas party Add to ...

The question

I have been informed that as of the new year I will be laid off. Our office is small and only I will be sacrificed for the long-term benefit of the company. My severance is three months, all of which I must work, albeit some of it at home. The thing is I am the person responsible for organizing the Christmas party, which is on my credit card. I do not want to go and pretend to make merry, however, my boss indicates that if they still need my services after my severance period he will take me on as a contract worker. Considering the possibility of finding another similar job in that three-month period is unlikely, and I will probably need to take advantage of the contract work, should I begrudgingly make nice and go to the party?

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The answer

I love (and by "love" I mean "am never-endingly dismayed by") the casual inhumanity of (some) bosses.

I can't believe your boss is forcing you to a) organize a Christmas party, b) put it on your credit card (so what, you have to hassle them for restitution later?) and c) show up and make nice when you're going to be on the street shortly thereafter.

If this were an old Batman movie, I'd say, yes, organize the party: Organize it in such a way that, halfway through, the doors snap shut, sealed from the outside, and the musicians, in reality your henchmen, don gas masks, while a green mist begins to emanate from the vents.

Then you, having snapped, would leap, or be lowered, from the rafters in the guise of your new alter ego - an ultra-villain named, say, the Pink-Slipper.

From pink slip, get it? For a costume I'm thinking a postal uniform (because you've "gone postal"), a clown wig (as in, everyone treated you like a clown), pink slippers (self-explanatory) and an Uzi (in case anyone tries any heroics).

Then, cackling with bwa-ha-ha-type laughter, you'd explain to your coughing colleagues that the green mist enveloping them is a nerve agent that would leave them paralyzed, able to communicate only through blinks and dependent on Boy Scouts to feed them for the rest of their lives - and only you have the antidote.

And you would hand it over only if they give you a severance package of $10-million and a fuelled-up plane ready to take you to an undisclosed location.

But, alas, this isn't an old Batman movie. It's (sigh) reality. Therefore, my advice runs as follows:

It's time to start hustling, son. Not after Christmas. Not in 2010. Right now, while you still have a job.

I've hauled the following chestnut out in this column before, but I'm going to recycle it here because it's perfect for your situation.

Once, when I got axed from a TV-writing job, my plan was to wait until the job finished, in two weeks' time, then start looking for work.

But one of the producers convinced me not to wait but rather to start looking that very day. He told me a story of phoning up an old colleague in the midst of a job search, and the colleague asking him suddenly, halfway through: "Are you in your bathrobe?"

When he admitted he was, the old colleague said: "I can tell from the sound of your voice, you know."

Better, far better, he explained to me, to phone people from work. So, with the sound of a busy newsroom in the background, and a wife pregnant with our third child, I started working the phones.

By the end of the two-week period I had three job-offers. The jobs weren't ideal, but they were jobs. I needed the money, and I could figure out where I was going from there.

Now, you said in your letter you didn't think you could get another, similar job in three months. Horse feathers! If I can do it in two weeks, while working a frenetic newsroom job, you can do it in the time allotted to you, too.

You may be thinking: Yeah, right, it's tough times; easier said than done.

But a focused person can accomplish anything. Samuel Johnson once said: "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

You best believe that statement applies in your case. Your boss has (metaphorically speaking) pulled the hose out of your space helmet. You don't have much time. Start hustling up what my father used to call "a J-O-B," preferably one even better than the one you have now.

Then, at the party, when everyone comes over with their Schadenfreude-filled faces, putting pseudo-sympathetic hands on your shoulders and saying, with eggnoggy breath: "How're you coping, [Your Name Here] Are you gonna be okay?"

You can fire back: "I'm great, actually. A much bigger, better company has offered me a much bigger, better job. I'm starting in February."

That'll gas them, especially your boss, as surely as a green mist emanating from the vents. And you can exit, holding your head high and laughing into your mask.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, will be published in the spring of 2010.

I've made a huge mistake

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