Nobody likes to think about them, nobody likes to talk about them, but they're something all too common these days: layoffs. Today we got a reminder of that at my office, as the axes swung due to a company-wide reduction in force.

Up until this point, most of the departures from my workplace have been either due to redundancy as a result of the corporate takeover four years ago, the aftereffect of canceled projects, or cost-cutting by outsourcing work or moving it to different offices. Some were temporary employees whose assignments were no longer justifiable. In a few select cases, there have been retirements made possible by the aforementioned corporate takeoverâfor those individuals who had been made partners in the firm, it was a very profitable sale.

Today was different. The losses were much more evenly distributed. The ax felled both recent hires and long-term employees, in a variety of positions. Some will be missed; some were long past their sell-by date. We lost one notorious time-server who was more noted for checking email, creating useless forms, playing solitaire, and eating ice cream than for doing any actual productive work, but we also lost some very solid people. One had a law degree and was studying for the bar, and was just a few months shy of being fully vested in the retirement plan. Another was a married mother of two, whose job provided her family with health insurance, while yet another was the only truly bilingual Spanish-speaker in the office. They will be missed more than I can say.

Those of us who are left occupy only a small portion of an office designed to hold at least eight times as many people, sixteen times as many if you count the second shift that has been abolished. I half-expect to hear the wind whistling through the cubicles, while tumbleweeds blow by. As it is, I feel a bit like a survivor of a shipwreck, gazing upon the half-submerged hull lodged just offshore, wondering why I survived and when my time will come. It is good to be employed; it is sad to know that one's continued employment comes at such a terrific cost to others. And we wait for the ax to swing yet again.