Laid Off, Let Go, Reduced by/in Force

I cannot express how deeply, profoundly, I loathe the locution “let go” as a euphemism for getting laid off. I know I’m not the first person to notice the lameness of let go—it sounds like the person being let go is somehow being done a favor, like you caught a jarful of fireflies and your mom tells you to let them go.

People, after being let go, probably do not leave the building saying, “Free at last!” Some might. I didn’t. Being laid off sucks, but it’s just business.

Getting riffed (for reduction in force) sounds absurdly musical, as in, “the lovely guitar riff turns into a powerful hook that pulls you into the song.” But you can’t really get around ugly government-issued phrases like “reduction in force” and so getting riffed is an inevitable substitute acronym. It’s hard if not impossible to make the phrase, “reduction in force,” into a phrase that parallels “I got laid off.” “I got reduced in force”? I think not.

All of which is a lengthy preamble to this statement of fact: I got laid off. Yes, it was like The Godfather in the sense that it really was only business, and I’m grateful that the company was not the kind of company that reduces its forces a la The Godfather.

Of course, it didn’t really matter whether I agreed with the decision or the budget cuts that necessitated it, but I wasn’t the budget guy. I was the writer guy. And I was certainly not the only person to be laid off by the company. These are tough times in the “defense industry,” and companies are sincerely working to figure out how the heck they are going to deal with “defense” budget cuts. There’s simply no way around it, with soaring deficits and unpaid-for wars coming to an end.

I wish the company—which I deeply admire—the best. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with work there. I know they’ll figure it out.

But I don’t want to talk about the company, I want to talk about me—some would say it’s my favorite subject. So, what’s next?

It looks like I am going to become a publisher. I never really wanted to be a publisher, having worked in the industry for a few years back in the good old days (right around the advent of the fax), and there being plenty of people who do it way better than I. But just because others do it better than I do doesn’t mean I can’t do it well enough to make a book, if not a buck.

More on this in my next post.

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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

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