Times are tough, no question. There have been more layoffs in the past six months here at ProVantage Solutions than in the previous five years combined. Salaries have not increased to match inflation. Revenues have fallen off sharply. I do not need to tell you that the road ahead looks long and dark. But be brave, my friends: There is light at the end of the tunnel. Through it all, somehow, we will middle-manage.

I have tentatively scheduled a meeting for Monday the 29th for the purpose of compiling and preparing a report on potential strategies we might implement to ameliorate the situation. I can't say for certain if we will get the conference room for that day, as Doug is hoping to use it for an exploratory committee meeting on the possibility of upgrading the company from ISO 9000 to 9001, but I've put in my request. If we can't get it, my goal is to definitely meet by Wednesday the 31st, the latest.

That meeting, actually, is the main reason I have called all of you here today. This is the informal meeting that precedes the formal one on the 31st. We could hypothetically have the formal meeting now, but Sharon is out of the office, and I'd really like to have her at the formal.

But to summarize my message in advance of the larger meeting, I want to say that we will face long, hard days in the coming months, days when we feel that the company will collapse at our feet. Days of tribulation and jammed copiers, days of seemingly insurmountable middle-management crises. Resolving the System 9 upgrade dispute between accounting and tech alone will take many long meetings, reports, and memoranda.

You will all have crosses to bear. Ruth, I know how badly you wanted to hire an assistant to handle the night deposit and miscellaneous filing. God in Heaven knows you deserve that much. But it will unfortunately have to wait. All the years you've been here, through every challenge and setback, you've always middle-managed, and I just know you'll do it now, too.

Kenny–brave, brave project coordinator Kenny–you have committed tremendous time and energy to streamlining interdepartmental communications, presenting the systemic improvements in report form, and getting that report stamped by all the department heads. Even on those days when you worked until you looked like you'd drop, you would always walk that extra hallway to get Dave from Human Resources' okay. How I wish you could finally get your own cubicle and computer instead of just the desk in Larry's office. But for the time being, you'll middle-manage to get through the lean times just like the rest of us.

By tightening our belts, ProVantage Solutions will pull through these dark times. We will weather the storm with dignity and strength. Though we shall scribble memos with cost-cutting Bic Round Stics rather than the Uniball Visions we once enjoyed, we shall scribble them proudly. If we must, we will cut Post-It notes in half and write that much smaller. Even if we must use a single paperclip to hold 40 sheets together, we will scrimp and conserve every resource, right down to the last ebony particle of toner.

No one employee can bear the burden that is upon us alone. No temp worker could shoulder this great weight. You cannot outsource courage. But as a team, we will prevail. And in the process, we will learn a great deal about ourselves and how to resolve office crises in a swift and non-disruptive manner.

Exactly what will change, precisely what will deliver us from this long, dark night, I cannot say. But we must have faith, faith that we will middle-manage against all odds. Faith that we will keep this company running smoothly and maintain open avenues of communication between departments. Faith that the decisions made by the board of directors will be implemented in a timely and efficient manner. We have the mettle to put other departments to shame. We will not actually do this, because it would be bad for company morale, but make no mistake, we could.

And if any of you find the weight too heavy, if you feel yourself slipping, if you see no relief in sight, you know my e-mail address and should always feel free to articulate your concerns and remit them to me. Just make sure not to do so between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, because the server will be down for maintenance.

We will do all of this, and we will be rewarded one day. There will be a tomorrow, and it will be bright, filled with company picnics and after-work get-togethers at J.P. McMuggery's. Company nights at Zany's Comedy Club shall come again. And there will one day be smiles around the water cooler. The laughter of children will fill these halls one glorious Take Your Daughter To Work Day. And there will be Christmas parties and Casual Fridays. And, when the storm clouds have gone and the sun has returned, there will be new, young employees who know not of these dark days.

But until such a time comes, let us turn our faces toward the soft, comforting glow of the Xerox machine and know in our hearts that if we can middle-manage just a little while longer, better days lie ahead.