Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Pre-retirement Present - You're Downsized!

As you may know, I'm one of the lucky ones who was able to tell their corporation "goodbye" because I was tired of the BS. I loved my job, but my boss changed and all of the sudden I started getting a lot of "direction" that I had somehow been able to succeed without for many years. When my new boss called and asked me "How many of your people have volunteered" to take the latest voluntary reduction in force package, I said "I may take it." He said, "You can't do that!" I said, "I meet the requirements and I'm gone." Best day of my life.

Today I'm visiting my children in Phoenix, and I'm glad to be with my 8-month granddaugher. She's always happy - wakes up with a smile on her face. My two sons are doing fine. One is a music therapist who works with autistic children, and the other teaches 8th grade math in the "combat zone", a largely Hispanic area with lots of crime. The first son came here as a top salesman for a Fortune 100 company, the second has been a banker and a successful head-hunter. Now they work at jobs that they love and don't have to read 50 emails every day.

But today our visit was saddened by the news that the other grandfather, a man my age, was "downsized" from a bank one year before he would qualify for retirement and medical benefits. This news came one week after he received a "superior" performance report, and he had recently been awarded a nice trip for outstanding work. The reason given was that his job was redundant due to a consolidation, so he had to re-apply for it. It seems strange that such a "superior" performer would not be chosen to fill his current position, but such is life in the brutal world of U.S. corporations. I'm pissed. He did not deserve this shabby, life-changing treatment after doing his best and exceeding the requirements of his (actually, not "his") job.

Ten years ago when I was managing a large staff, my boss and I conspired to keep older workers on the payroll until they qualified for benefits they had spend years working toward. I remember walking into one fellow's office and saying "______, you're fired!" His response was, "Thank you very much!" In those days some people, at least, knew that individuals were due respect for the contributions made over years of following the direction of corporate masters. But times have changed.

To all who are working for a large corporation: don't ever forget that you work for "you". When you get your paycheck, remember that you and the corporation are "even". They will not hesitate to kiss you goodbye when it suits their purposes. You should be equally ready to kiss them goodbye. Keep your eyes open for positions that suit your skills and reward you better. Act like an entrepreneur even if your skills best fit a corporate life. Never for a moment consider the effect of your departure on a current employer or the tasks you are involved in, because that large employer won't consider the effect on you of their decision to toss you on the scrap heap for a reason you will never understand. That's the way it is in the new economy.

Good luck, grandfather! Don't look back unless you have a good case for an age discrimination suit. Bitterness, which initially tastes so sweet, will eat you up. Just go out and do what you have to do, even though you don't deserve to be in this position. Let me swear at the bastards that did this to you, and try to work for more humane work laws in this brutal country.


Ron Davison said...

Great advice but not easy to take. I remember an older guy I worked with who'd once had about 50 people reporting to him. He was asked to come up with a list of 10 to layoff. He did. Later, he was told he'd have to come up with another list of about 15. He submitted a list with his name on it. Asked about it, he said, "I'm less important to the company than the guys I'm leaving behind."

Anonymous said...

I first ran into this when I was a teenager working my first job at Sears. They had a secretary two years away from retirement, so they moved her to the automotive section selling tires on commission. She'd worked her whole life in the office, and knew nothing about cars- they were hoping she'd be so miserable that she'd quit.

It didn't work. The guys there sort of "adopted" her, and made sure she was well taken care of. (They called her "Mom.")

Later I found out that the way the treated her was pretty much corporate policy. The older workers were all put through hell.

Somehow this country has come to a point where only the stockholders matter. It sucks.

BB-Idaho said...

Wonder if it's unfettered capitalism? Over thirty years, I watched my company's mission statement evolve: three critical
words moved around..employees, customers and shareholders..when I left, shareholders were the only remaining goal. The name and function of Personnel changed to
Human Resources along with being a place for employee questions to a place of fear and loathing. Ah,