The Last Day

As regular readers will be aware, I have now been made redundant from my job and am, for want a better turn of phrase, a gentleman of leisure for the time being. I began to write this piece in my head on the way home after my leaving drinks, though I did not start to actually type anything until the Saturday afternoon. I wanted to write fairly close to the day’s events so as to not start forgetting this, as I am wont to do. However, the lack of immediate internet facilities has delayed the publication until now.

The night before my last day was somewhat ambivalent. I have been ready to leave now for a good couple of months and in my mind I had already left. I was simply playing out the time, trying to make sure all loose ends were tied up and that I was able to hand over everything that needed to be handed over. I got the last train I could get that would get me into the office on time, so I arrived duly at about 8:50 and decided to go for breakfast in the canteen. Others who were down there were puzzled as to why I had come in any time before 11am; after all, who can really complain and what could anyone do about it? One late morning is not a sackable offence, so I wouldn’t have been risking my redundancy package.

The point, though, was that I always wanted to be, and to be seen to be, straightforward, honest and transparent. As an accountant, I believe that one of the best virtues you can have is to be accountable. This is why much of the work I have done over the last year has been to remove levels of obfuscation that my predecessors had put in place over some areas of the finance function. Of course, there is need for confidentiality, so when dealing with salaries, I would always lock my computer even if walking out of the room for 3 minutes to get myself a cup of coffee.

So, having started my day on time, even though I had not much to do, I set about writing my goodbye emails and saving them in a draft folder, ready to go out later that afternoon. I had to rack my brains thinking of who I might have left out so as to not unduly offend anyone.

As it happens, I had some time off in the middle of the day to go and speak to some more recruitment consultants. These ones were based in a new building called Heron tower, which seems to have been overshadowed by the Shard (not literally, they are about a mile apart!) and which is one of the tallest buildings in the country. I’d never been in before, but it was a bizarre experience. Outside the door was a guy in a long coat and bowler hat, who wanted to know why on earth I might want to enter. Once I’d got past him and through the revolving doors, there was another chap standing between myself and reception desk. My intention was simply to walk past him, but he stepped across my path to block me, demanding who I was going to see. This chap more than the bowler hat guy, had a serious US Secret Service inferiority complex. It seemed that his entire job was to stand in the lobby with a little wire in his ear and look cross.

Having negotiated my way to the reception desk I was finally able to get to make known who it was I wanted to see. Though it wasn’t until I had sat down to wait that I realised the entire backdrop to the reception was a giant fishtank. I didn’t have a measuring stick with me but at a rough guess I would say it was about 50 feet wide, 12 feet high and 7 feet deep. It was full of large tropical fish. It was like a much bigger version of the tank my parents have, and with supersized fish too, though some did appear to be a similar species/variety/genus (please forgive me, biology wasn’t my strongest point).

Anyway, the meeting went pretty much as every other meeting I’ve had with recruitment consultants. Afterwards, I headed on back to the office post haste. I finished clearing down a lot of old emails, as I had checked with work that they wouldn’t mind if I deleted emails confirming that I authorised a supplier payrun in Luxembourg in September 2010.

Throughout the day, I had the occasional person come up to me and wish me well for the future, which was really nice. The odd thing about my role is that I predominantly deal with people across Europe and in the United States. I have very little to do with the people who physically work in the same office as me. That’s not to say I never interacted with them, it just wasn’t anywhere near as much as they had with one another. I was just the quiet bloke sat in the far corner near the finance director and who drank a lot of black coffee.

After sending out emails spanning a reasonable part of the globe, I again got quite a few nice responses. Some weren’t aware I was leaving. This was particularly annoying as there was a small delegation from the US who were coming to the UK this week (w/c 23 April) who wanted to meet up, since we talk regularly on email and on the phone, and I’m just going to miss out on the chance to meet them.

There was small presentation for me at 4:30 with a couple of speeches. I didn’t prepare anything other than a wisecrack on our forecasting ability given that I had been there for 27 months on a 12 month contract! Oddly, though, at that point I still had not been informed that I would definitely be made redundant. Officially, it was still the case that my role was at risk of redundancy. So I still had to have a meeting with HR at 5:00 to confirm this.

Now, it is a truism that you should never trust HR with numbers. This was no exception, as I had calculated how much holiday I was owed, and knew that they would pay me for any unused holiday. They miscalculated and gave the figure too low. I picked up on this in an instant. So even on my very last day, I couldn’t leave on time as I had to wait for the official letter to be redrafted. That said, the extra 2.5 days is worth a few hundred pounds so that’s the closest I’ll have come to paid overtime during my tenure there.

After all this was done, we eventually managed to make it to a bar, where many many drinks were consumed and which I paid for none. Considering when I left my previous job, only one person showed up, I was dreading another no show. But quite a lot of people came out. However, I was standing just behind one guy who I heard saying “who was this guy leaving anyway” which I think sums up how ‘high profile’ I was. But most of the finance team and IT were there, who I do speak to every day. Once the drinks got flowing and the tongues loosened, an interesting portrait was revealed about who really thought what of whom. This is not the place to spread gossip and how much the strength of feelings may have been exaggerated by alcohol is questionable. But I did get more encouraging feedback from folks with comments like “you’re one of the good guys” or “whenever I needed help, you were the one who provided it.” As the evening wore on, the advice got a little more tenuous.

Several of them didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed a proper holiday last year. When you have a line manager who ignores employment law, compounded with a vague HR policy, all I could take was the odd day either side of a weekend, but not a full week at any point in the year. So I’ve still only been on holiday twice in the last 12 years. At this, I was told that I ought to travel to Thailand and “bang as many women as possible.” This was the point to call it a night. I’m not quite sure how I was still standing at this point, as I had consumed considerably more alcohol in the space of 4 hours than is recommended for a week.

I managed to get on the last train home and well aware that I was at risk of falling asleep and waking up in Brighton at 11pm, long after the last train back from there, I sent a message on twitter and to my sister to remind me to change trains at a 10:40. Spot on time, my sister phoned. I hadn’t fallen asleep (I don’t think) but I was able to get home fine and then randomly watch an episode of Father Ted on DVD before heading to bed. However, I was wide awake and stone cold sober at 5am on the Saturday.

So as I come to finish this now at just after 10:20pm on Saturday night, I’ve been up for a fair old while and am pretty tired, so I shall head off to bed and think about scheduling this for publication later in the week.

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