This evening I was talking to someone from Lehman’s research department and I asked about his day at work.
He was surprisingly calm, asking what good it would do to get upset. He said he got an email yesterday to come to work today. So he rode his bike in from Brooklyn—as he’s gotten into the habit of doing—but when he went to the company gym to change, there wasn’t the usual bustle. Just “one intrepid soul on a treadmill.”
He spent most of the day doing the things his colleagues were doing. Packing, talking to headhunters, calling co-workers overseas to say good-bye. There was a lot of standing in conference rooms hugging and reading emails about how unemployment insurance works. Apparently, there was also a fair amount of putting Lehman-logoed coffee mugs and baseball caps on eBay. “I received a record number of invitations to connect on LinkedIn,” he said.
The mood, he said, wasn’t across-the-board dour, but he attributed that largely to denial. “Some people came in quite chipper,” he said. “They left sullen. You get into the physical environs and you open up your shelves, and there’s the marketing communication strategy, the little things they give you, awards and plaques. You take those sorts of things lightly when you receive them, but then somehow it has meaning when you’re going to be leaving that office or cubicle for the last time.”
He said most of all, things were up in the air. “No one knows anything,” he said. Communication is sparse; he’s received no emails from senior management. How long should he keep showing up? What, if any, severance will be paid? What should he do with his Blackberry? “Mine’s still functioning,” he said. “Where do you hand in these sorts of things?”
At lunch, people were spending down the balances on their cafeteria cards. Buying extra coffees and things like that. “Some people were still getting their buy-4-get-1-free coffee club punch,” he said. ” I thought that was optimistic.”