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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Institutional Mourning

Preface:  I wrote this on November 1, 2014, and at the time it just didn't seem, well, "right" to publish it.  It was far too raw.  Well almost five months later and I still have my doubts about the posting, but the thoughts and feelings behind it are genuine, so why not post it?

* * * * * * 

November 1, 2014

It has been a long week...a very long week.  And a very long month as well.  I'd like to be able to say that the month ended on a positive note, but that wouldn't be true.  Yes, I did some good work during the week, and while I'm glad for that, it all pales in comparison to the anguish I've felt for two co-workers who recently lost their jobs.

These are (not "were"..."are") GREAT people, and sometimes the system just really, really stinks.  You can define "system" any way you want by the way, but in the end it's the outcome that just leaves one feeling down, regardless of the players.

Now I've never been on the receiving end of a layoff, but I've unfortunately had to be both the person making the decision and delivering the layoff far too many times (which is precisely measured as being exactly "more than once"), although that wasn't the case this time.  These kinds of things are difficult on the person making that decision, gut wrenching for the person delivering the message and obviously worst for the recipient.  There are no winners in events like this; at best there is a hope that the days in the future will be better.

Does this kind of thing happen far too often?  Yes, indeed it does.  But then we have to get back to the "system", as there is this fine line in American business where the best desires to be good, decent human beings intersects with the hard  realities of budgets and the like.  I do feel, deep down inside, that American business forgets that one of the things it does...that it is supposed to to employ people.  That imperative is at as high an order as such things can get, and yet it seems that it is often also lost in a race to minimize budgets and maximize profits.  Those of us who work in the private sector can't be too disingenuous about the system though, as we are all a part of it.  I can't completely divorce myself from the organization that laid off my colleagues while at the same time enjoying the same benefits that the same organization provides to me; that's like trying to blame just my hand for stealing a bunch of lemons from a Korean grocer.  Screaming moral outrage while accepting money from the source of the moral outrage is just a tad bit hypocritical for my tastes.  That doesn't mean that I have to like or approve of it; what I do have to do though is live with it.

Well what else can I do?  What can any of us do when we have friends and colleagues who are negatively impacted by job changes?

First and foremost, I think we need to be decent human beings.  That means not dancing on the desks of our former co-workers (figuratively and literally, and sadly that does happen).  That also means remembering that it's the basics in life that count the most:  empathy, understanding, compassion and helping our friends out with the best of our abilities.

I will also note that it's times like this when I am glad most of my professional career is now behind me.  I could easily work another 15+ years into the future, but that's going to be far less than the 25+ behind me.  Some might find that thought to be sad....but...I sometimes find it to be simply a relief.

I'll end this by paraphrasing something that one of my co-workers said to me this week:

"Sometimes at work it's difficult to understand where the line between 'colleague' and 'friend' resides.  However when someone loses their job, that difficulty goes away, as what's left is the 'friend' part."

As the younger folks note, #Truth.


Mad Max said...

My wife worked for THE major insurance company for a little over 30 years back in the late 90's. Let me say that again, over 30 years. Always had good reviews and got along with all. Just before she would have qualified for retirement (Didn't have the age + time) they let her go. I'm sure what would have been her meager pension was used to "Help" the company continue on.
What a great company!

Stephen Albert said...

"Mad Max",

Thanks for commenting, and I am sorry about your wife. I can certainly understand being angry and disappointed over losing a job after so many years.

- Steve