Layoffs take a toll, even on survivors
Those consequences are, unfortunately, long-term. The psychological fallout of surviving a layoff lasts six years, according to the study published by the Institute of Behavioral Science. And the effects of surviving multiple layoffs are cumulative.
The effects are cumulative? Wow! That sure explains a lot. This is a relatively long post but it may be worth some amusement should you wish to continue reading.
I moved to Seattle in 1988. I worked as a software programmer at a small consulting company for 18 months. It went under and I was laid off. I'm going to assume that being laid off is at least as bad as surviving it. Therefore, add six years to my fallout clock.
In 1990, I worked as a software programmer for a Japanese landscape company. 18 months later our US branch was shut down and I was laid off. Add six more years to my fallout clock. That brings me to 12 years of fallout.
In 1991, I started work at Sierra Entertainment. It is there that I hit the layoff fallout clock jackpot lottery.
On April 3, 1997, Sierra announced that the staff of the old company headquarters in Oakhurst would be reduced by almost 50%, relocating about 90 people to CUC Software’s facilities in Torrance.
Add six years. That's 18 total.
The irregularities were in the area of several hundred million dollars and when the news was announced and the real numbers revealed in the end of September, the Cendant stock instantly plummeted to about one fourth of its former value. As a result, the company was sued by its shareholders and the former CUC management team was terminated.
The CUC management team was terminated. Considering that I instantly lost several years pay in the form of worthless stock options, I'd like to add six more years of fallout. We're up to 24.
In March 2001, Forbes and Shelton were indicted by a federal grand jury and sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission, accused of directing the massive accounting fraud that ultimately cost the company and investors billions of dollars. Sierra and Davidson were among the many Cendant subsidiaries that had been used in the irregular bookings and Cendant had already announced its intention to sell off its entire computer entertainment division when the news of the accounting fraud came. Sierra was one of many companies that suffered great losses because of this affair even though it had been totally out of the management’s hands. Many of its employees lost their pensions, their net worth and even their jobs. The following years would be filled with aggressive endeavors to restore the profitability of the company.
I certainly felt my net worth drop. I'd sure like to add another six years, but not because of that. Instead, I'd like six years simply because we hit the front page of the Wall Street Journal for a solid month due to fraud. However, since it isn't technically a layoff, I'll keep the total years of fallout at 24. Fair is fair.
On February 22, 1999, they publicly announced a major reorganization of the company, resulting in the shutdown of several of their development studios, cutbacks on others and the relocation of key projects and employees from these studios to Bellevue. This decision was made by Sierra's own management, not by Havas. Studios that were shut down included PyroTechnix, Books That Work Inc. and Synergistic Software. Headgate was sold back to its original owner and the publishing of Sierra's InterAction Magazine was discontinued. About 250 people in total lost their jobs.
Six more! We're up to 30 years of layoff fallout now.
But the shutdown that received the most attention was that of Yosemite Entertainment. With the exception of the warehouse and distribution department, the entire studio was shut down.
Same layoff. We're still at 30.
40 people, critical to the development of Babylon 5 and Middle Earth (the other projects were dropped) were offered to relocate to the company headquarters in Bellevue and continue with the development, and eventually about 30 people moved from Oakhurst to Seattle.
They aren't laid off yet. I'm just warning you in advance. Some of these people will soon be walking by my office door and joking about "Dead Men Walking." Keep in mind that they survived one round of layoffs, relocated, but will get laid off anyway. We're still just at 30 years of fallout as it relates to me though.
But the bad news did not even end there.
Of course it didn't!
At the same time, legendary game designers Al Lowe and Scott Murphy were fired.
We're still 30. It's part of the same layoff. Things appear to be stabilizing. Or are they?
Layoffs continued on March 1, when Sierra fired 30 employees at the previously unaffected Dynamix, 15% of their entire workforce.
That's 36 years of fallout.
In June 1999, Ken Williams shut down TalkSpot and laid off its employees.
That one doesn't count since it didn't really enter my thoughts. Ken Williams already left Sierra.
This reorganization resulted in even more layoffs, eliminating 105 additional jobs and a number of games in production, including Desert Fighter and Pro Pilot Paradise from Dynamix, Babylon 5, the much awaited game started at Yosemite Entertainment and Orcs: Revenge, a Berkeley Systems title. This was announced on September 21, 1999.
Sweet. We made it to 42 years of fallout. What's 42? For those who have seen the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it is the answer for everything of course. It explains why I am writing an Illusion of Prosperity blog. It also explains why I actually quit my job. I was 35 years old and had accumulated 42 years of layoff fallout. I figured that was probably enough.
These final cuts eliminated most of Sierra’s prominent development teams and projects, and so 1999 proved to be the last year that Sierra developed any of its major titles in-house.
Ask me if I have any regrets?
On January 23, 2001, Vivendi announced the closure of its division Flipside.com’s Bellevue offices, costing 39 people their jobs.
I'm already gone. No more fallout.
In early August the same year, WorldStream Communications was one of the many victims of the dotcom crash, and the company was forced to shut down and laid off its 87 employees.
On August 14, 2001 Sierra On-Line let the axe fall on Dynamix for the final time and closed the development studio for good. 97 people lost their jobs.
Seriously. I left.
148 more people, at the main offices in Bellevue, lost their jobs on August 15, 2001.
Is it just me or is this getting a bit silly? Why didn't these layoffs happen as part of the previous day's layoffs? That's 12 years of layoff fallout for the survivors, when it only needed to be 6 years.
Layoffs continued on November 9, 2001. Sierra laid off more than 39 employees at the headquarters in Bellevue, which included Bellevue’s entertainment teams.
Did you sense the trend? Did you see that layoff coming?
Even with quite a few recent successes, Sierra’s long history came to a close with a few short strokes in 2004, Sierra’s 25th year of business. Cost-cutting measures were taken, due to parent company Vivendi’s financial troubles, and due to Sierra’s lack of profitability as a working developer: Impressions Games and the Papyrus Design Group were shut down in the spring, and about 50 people lost their jobs in those cuts;...
How about that one?
...180 Sierra-related positions were eliminated at Vivendi’s Los Angeles offices; and finally in June 2004, VU Games laid off most of Sierra’s final employees at Bellevue, which cost over 100 people their jobs, and dispersed Sierra’s work to other VU Games divisions. Other titles, such as Print Artist, were discontinued totally; The Hoyle franchise was sold to an independent developer. In total, 350 people lost their jobs....
Or that one?
...The lights went out at the offices in Bellevue, creator of hundreds of memorable Sierra titles and home of so many memories for all of Sierra’s fans, for the last in time in August 2004. Vivendi announced that the Sierra brand name and logotype would still be used on VU Games products, run out of VU Games headquarters in Los Angeles.
Or finally that one?
I worked in those offices in Bellevue. Had I survived until the very end just imagine what my layoff fallout clock would have been? Better still, imagine what I would have named this blog, lol.
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