At this big company, the last four years have been pretty bloody. "The IT department has gone through three reorgs and a purge, and is now going through a 'merger of equals,'" says a pilot fish who works there.
"My work group has suffered about 45% casualties in the four years, so any time my group manager calls a meeting for the entire staff at the end of the day, we panic. We know what's coming."

Early one recent morning, the group manager sends an e-mail announcement: Everyone is to meet at the entry to the office at 3:30 p.m.

That's all it takes to start the rumors flying. "We were all to be outsourced," fish says. "Or the entire staff was gone. Or we'd survive this purge, but at a reduced staffing level.

"By 2 p.m., we were all so worked up that no one could work. We were all discussing -- and cussing -- the new purge we knew would be announced. It was like a bunch of chickens.

"It was so bad, the group manager finally had to personally stop by everyone's cubicle to give us the news individually: The meeting was for a co-worker's 25-year anniversary and had nothing to do with current affairs of the organization.

"I think that was the closest I've come to participating in a group heart attack."