You’re Never Ready

Very shortly after starting my job (perhaps within hours, but certainly within a couple of days) it became evident that my predecessor had been dismissed on Friday and I had started on Monday. Within a few weeks I learned that people were taking bets on how long I would last because there had been such turnover in the position. Seeing the environment I worked in – or at any rate, the character of the man who had hired me – there were definitely times I watched very closely to see if any young women came in to interview.

But I also started thinking about the manner of my departure, should there be one. I like to behave generously to my company, regardless of the circumstances. When leaving one job I left my half-finished expense report in my inbox. I didn’t forget it – I just decided it was my parting gift to them. (They must have discovered it eventually, but didn’t send me the money.)

Since there was no training and no continuity at all when I started my job, as soon as I started to get a handle on what I was doing, I created written procedures so the next person wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all over again. And once I got a colleague in the department and got comfortable enough to personalize my desk and bring in a mug, I created a document called “If I Should Happen to Leave Suddenly,” which listed everything I needed to take with me and everything I needed to turn over to her. From time to time I review and update.

I guess there are some people who might think that’s morbid. I just like to be prepared. I know that when something big happens, especially something like that, everything goes foggy. You might be thinking, “Okay, well, what needs to happen now?,” but the answers come too slowly and from very far away. Rehearsal helps. People in dangerous jobs must remind themselves constantly of what to do in an emergency so they can rely on instinct when it happens. In those situations, doing what it takes to survive isn’t thought of as being morbid. An extreme example, perhaps, but I think it translates.

Hearing the news today was as shocking as such news always is. My beloved boss was laid off this morning, but I’ve been assured that I am still safe. Just at that moment the memory of my own departure checklist sitting useless in My Documents struck me as immensely ironic, almost mocking. I had never thought of it in reverse. You’re never ready.

And yet the preparation was not useless. Having gone through the exercise for myself made it easier to remember several things that had otherwise not been thought of in her case, and if it had to happen I was glad of that, at least.

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