Top Signs Your Employer is About To Close Its Doors

It’s what Bennigan’s did. It’s not bankruptcy, as in Chapter 11, which can be fun what with deck chairs all shifting around as the lifeboats capsize, but rather bye-bye, as in you show up for work and there is a padlock on the door and some hastily written sign with a disconnected cell number on it. If you didn’t see this coming, it’s because you didn’t know what to look for. In order to keep you just as informed as the important people who think the big thoughts in the big offices, we here at Modern Thrills have composed the following manual on what to look out for.

1. The Late 20s Banker.

Manifestation: A tall young man in a suit appears unannounced in your reception area. He is from a bank and asks for an executive, but says that it is not urgent. He seems to be trying to get a glimpse past the buzzer door. Mostly, he seems to be paying attention to other people coming in and making sure your magazines are current.

Meaning: Your employer’s accounts are really winky. Junior here has been sent by panicked banking higher ups to see if you are actually still in business. He’s not really empowered to do or say anything. He’s just happy it’s not an empty building. If encountered by an executive, he will claim to be just pressing the flesh. This is an absolutely certain sign of doom if Junior has come from an out of state bank. Sadly, if your employer is particularly cagey, this may be the only sign.The rest of the signs are far more obvious.

2. The “Due Diligence” team.

Manifestation: It’s just a standard audit and nothing to be concerned about.They should be done in a few days. It’s some “due diligence” required by one of the investors. We are reworking some of our credit facility and this is a part of the process.

Meaning: In the computer age, real auditors are seldom seen haunting the offices of going concerns. Only frightened creditors will send goons in to give the place a colonoscopy. In general, your firm has no credit facility left (is broke) and the creditors are deciding between taking virtual possession of functioning assets and simply shutting the place down.If they start counting disk drives in computers or unopened liquor or foodstuffs in storage, shut down will take place in 24 hours.

3. Dude in The Blinds.

Manifestation: It’s an apparent maintenance man, complete with jump suit, hanging around the blinds of your office. He’s slowly going from corner to corner. He may even ask if all of your outlets are working. His work takes all morning, although he doesn’t seem to be fixing anything or even calling anyone to fix things.

Meaning: This man is a subletting consultant. He’s here because he can’t read a blue print. In fact, his only actual skill is using “modern amenities in a cosmopolitan setting” creatively in advertising copy—and in overestimating spatial relations. Unbeknownst to your clueless employer, very little office space is ever sublet. Being a subletting consultant is a lot like being in the cremation business: all it requires is advertising on one person’s part and desperation on another’s. If your red ink hemorrhaging employer is willing to go in for this, they will probably also waste dwindling resources on...

4. The Menial Consultant.

Manifestation: If you work in real estate, the auto industry or manufacturing, the presence of consultants is nothing to worry about. They are as much a part of the game as the uncomfortable chair you are sitting in. For the rest of us, they are vultures waiting to pounce at the bones of our meaningless waking lives. Beware especially the little woman with the laptop who seems to be keeping her own hours and taking up residence in the place where the temps used to be. Beware doubly if she never seems to be meeting with anyone.

Meaning: This woman is an outsourcing sales agent. Her job is to compose thrilling spread sheets defining how much money can be saved by shipping to festering masses of people overseas the jobs of everyone required in some way to use a phone or the methods of general accounting. She may also be tasked with keeping a straight face while explaining how all mail room functions can be done by another firm using the exact same personnel you currently have on staff—all through the magic of not paying them benefits and, probably, a lot less money. You know you are near the end when the powers that be are willing to let Missy the pert and personable receptionist be replaced by an Indian five thousand miles away.

5. Budget Bifurcation.

(Also Known As: Good Bank/Bad Bank.)

Manifestation: Declaring that a money sucking intractable problem, such as a non competitive technology, miscalculated residual loss, or monumental contractual deficit spend, simply will no longer appear in budget calculations. We’ve put it in a box by the door and will never think of it again. Instead, we will be focusing exclusively on the remaining portion of our business which isn’t gushing red ink all over the place. This is always in tandem with a wholehearted push to ‘monetize’ process parts such as research (opening the mail), servicing (answering the phone), billing (sending people an invoice) as well as outreach (selling crap off our internet site no one has ever seen.) Sadly this leads to a free form flight of inputs (customer involvement) away from nickel and diming cheapskates who want to charge for opening the mail, answering the phone and billing you for their services. And then there’s the $76.98 fuel surcharge, which at this point is the oldest running joke in business.

Meaning: Once the Reality Fairy gets her magic wand back she is going to ram it up someone’s ass hard!

6.Comptroller Leave of Absence.

Manifestation: You didn’t know who the guy was. Or what he did. Or even that the firm employed Potsie from Happy Days. But now he needs to spend more time with his family for some reason.Simultaneously, all “Quality”, “ISO” and “Six Sigma” programs have been cancelled and their personnel redeployed to front line areas.

Meaning: All personal secrets have lost value. In good times, the Comptroller is a ghost pay-roller, a person kept on staff because he has the naked pictures of the right people or because he is an owner’s son-in-law. Once their heads are firmly in the guillotine, management has little fear of the Sword of Damocles, and thus Potsie is sent packing. Ditto quality program people, who are essentially just brown nosers who have sidetracked themselves into lives of endless meetings and email. These suppositories have now repositioned themselves to whence they came in misguided hope that they will be the last to be gassed. If you feel the need to slash tires, this is the time to do it.

6. Reaffirming Our Integrity Policy.

(Also Known As: Bring Your Gun To Work Day.)

Manifestation: Remember that packet we asked you to sign when we first hired you? Well, we need you to sign it again.It’s just about how we can read your email, listen in on your phone, open your mail and run credit reports on you. Nothing to worry about.

Meaning: Few managers can read, so you should have little fear about having your email examined too closely. What they are looking for is forwarded porn—which they can fire you for with cause and deny you unemployment. What this is really cover for is a witch hunt on your background. A DUI, issuance and/or violation of Protection Order, defaulted student loan, failure to make child support payments or bankruptcy can, depending on your state or industry, be grounds for justified termination. For you hourly workers, there is also the phone and timesheet audits. The theory in operation here is that anyone who has been employed for any period of time has violated at least some of the rules. If they have the time, they will find each violation. Luckily, time is pretty short if they are engaging in this tactic.


Manifestation: As opposed to preprinted envelopes and boxes, you now have stickers. As opposed to a nice raised, printed business card, you now have stickers. There are stickers on your phone. You no longer have stationary. The corporate calendar with the hot chick holding power tools has been replaced by a general wall hanging of flowers with a sticker on it.For every sticker within ten feet of where you sit, there is a 5% chance that your firm will be closed within the year.

Meaning: Stickers are actually more expensive than printing in any quantity, however facilities managers are generally left off the retention bonus list during shut down time. For this reason, they often start ordering up a lot of blank office supplies which they can easily spirit away for their own purposes. Don’t be surprised if your coffee and package delivery vendors start to change every month. Boxes of software may show up in the mail room and then, after having been left unclaimed, disappear. For bonus points, an assigned parking program or construction project may be started.

8. The Denial Email

Followed Shortly by the Forward Planning Meeting.

Manifestation Part One: The human resource manager would now like to accuse you all of group insanity. Within the first three sentences she will use a permutation or synonym for ‘childish’ at least twice. In the body of the second paragraph will appear attempts at using the words ‘change’ and ‘challenge’ as both a noun and a verb simultaneously. Finally there is an invitation to Big Gumby’s compulsory all employee forward planning meeting. Attendance, it is noted, will be taken. Email any questions you may have for Big Gumby in advance to HR and every effort will be made to have you terminated before your 10:00 AM break.

Manifestation Part Two: One last chance for mid level managers to suck up hard. They really can’t help themselves. It is to networking what necrophilia is to sex. Pie charts! Bar graphs! ROI projections. S1 planning: lies. S2 target plan: wishful thinking. S3 estimates: fantasy island. A commitment to watch our knitting is evoked. Suddenly, a question about a meaningless statistic is answered by Big Gumby stating that “The telemetry and triangulation for that is not knowable.” (The iceberg through our hull can best be described as ‘jumbo’, oh captain of the Titanic.) Well, that’s it. Nothing to see here, gang. Get back to work. And take the stale donuts with you.

Meaning: There are only two types of people in the world: Big Gumby and the Non Big Gumby.

For Big Gumby: You are one of Apollo’s Elect. Honey and venom jet freely from thy bung hole. Fear not, for you shall fall up. As a positive, you may now add a bullet point to your resume justifiably highlighting your aptitude for making unpopular decisions. (That were also wrong.) No one is ever going to question why you stood by silently as so many all thumbs, two left footed minions steered your previous charge into flaming quicksand banks. The people who are going to hire you next are undoubtedly all serial practitioners of travesty surfing themselves. Please time your inevitable success so that having a wife thirty years younger than you is legally feasible. Otherwise it just looks tacky.

For Non Big Gumby: You suck the pole of sameness. The moment you sat down in a cubical to do the exact same job as the person who is sitting next to you, is the moment you lost the game. No, an MBA or Cooking School are not the answer, unless the question was “what did I do with that $60,000.00 that I do not have?” Ditto Law School, but for more money. God has cheated you.

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