Out in the Cold

August 30, 2004

It has been almost four years since I was last an employee. In that previous iteration I was working for a company as an actual employee, consulting was not a part of the mix. There was a small, dedicated staff in the "front office" who dealt with our benefits; you could walk down the hall and ask questions about benefits, costs, et cetera.

In the current employment iteration, I am once again a consultant. I've never even seen the "home" office. I only vaguely know where it is located. I've seen my "boss" three times. The first visit was post-hire but before I started work, to hand in paperwork. It was a pleasant enough visit; both Michele and I found the company president personable enough. The second meeting was my first day on the job. It lasted all of five minutes. The third was equally short, he just dropped off my first paycheck and left.

I have had no real contact with him or the company since. Recently there were some layoffs at my site, including two fellow consultants working through the same firm. I expected to get some kind of email or phone call assuring me that I was okay. Nothing.

This afternoon a total stranger, a woman I have never met or heard of before, showed up and presented me with a health insurance form to fill out. I explained that I had already done this once before, back in June. She replied that our company was thinking about switching, and that I needed to fill this out and submit it no later than tomorrow. Lovely. No prior notice, no information, just fill this out, and oh, by the way, do it right now.

Also today, I got a series of cryptic emails about a new account I had signed up for. I was almost ready to hit the "report as spam" button on my gmail account when I saw that the URL contained the name of my company. Hmmm. It appears we now have a rudimentary intranet. Again, no detailed information, no heads up, just an abrupt message in my in-box.

I understand completely that being a consultant, working for someone else's company, means you are just a set of billable hours. I have worked in this capacity on and off for several years in my career. I had just forgotten how cold is was out here on the pointy end of the consulting stick.

I realize I currently feel out of control about my situation here. Layoffs a mere six weeks after the start of the project do not bode well. And the assurances that everyone is okay now, coming from the same people who engineered the layoffs in the first place, do nothing to ease my concern. Having two poorly communicated changes in my employment context, on top of no communication about my status in light of changes at the client, is only adding to my anxiety.

I realize that no employment situation is safe and stable anymore. Certainly not one in the high tech consulting industry. Even so, it makes the opportunity percolating in Springfield look all the better. That job maybe just as out of control feeling as this one, but they haven't had the chance to keep me in the dark. Yet.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.