One of the downsides of working at a company like Microsoft is when the rumor mill starts churning with claims like “Microsoft is planning on slashing 15,000 jobs on January 15th”, it’s not so easy to ignore.  Running across headlines like these on every mainstream media and Microsoft spectator blog can really cramp your style… especially when you’re the sole breadwinner in your family.

My husband is a stay-at-home dad for our 2 year old son.  We made that choice when I got the job with Microsoft because while we’re by no means comfortably well off, we can afford to live on one income for the sake of having our son’s earliest years be filled with one-on-one attention and not pock-marked by constant battles with every illness that makes its way through most daycares; we already traveled that path when he was an infant (I swear the poor kid didn’t know what it felt like to not be sick for the first year of his life).

Thinking about what being laid off would mean for us has been a thought that I’ve been pushing out of my mind ever since I first heard the rumors.  Our group has been reassured that cutbacks will be through not filling roles left vacant by attrition and perhaps ending some 3rd party contracts early… but I don’t feel comforted.  Granted, I’m in the search space and Steve Ballmer has repeatedly expressed how important moving forward in search is to Microsoft’s overall strategy, and the new deals with Dell (Live Search as the default engine) and Verizon (serving mobile ads) that were just announced as CES should make me feel a bit safer…  but I don’t. 

If anyone in my group were on the chopping block, I would be seriously surprised if we’d be told that up front.  Doing so would no doubt set off a domino effect of panic and back-up planning with job searches and even interviews to cover the just-in-case scenario… not a situation that would be good for the big M as they could wind up losing some of the top talent that wouldn’t have been laid off to begin with.  No, better to bypass all that panic and speculation and just spring it on us.  Better to let us think we’re getting that pay bonus next month; the one we’re planning on using to pull ourselves out of debt with, and then yank the rug out from under us with layoffs.

These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.  We don’t have a back up plan.  We don’t have savings.  We moved out here to WA state, clear across the country from family and friends so I could take this job.  If this job goes away, we are screwed six way from Sunday with no money to pay the mortgage, no money to move back to New England and… no money.

While I am happy to report that the infamous Jan. 15th date came and went with no layoff announcements, the Wall Street Journal did report that layoffs could happen as early as next week.

Fingers crossed.