While having breakfast in a restaurant, I eavesdropped as a loyal employee lost his job. I won’t mention the town, as that scene happens in any town, too often nowadays. Probably not over a rooty-tooty pancake ‘n’ ham, as it happened this morning, but the instant it became clear what was happening, I understood why this was being done over breakfast: A scene in the office avoided, questions averted, no work disrupted, and breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day. It wouldn’t even cost the company a lot to get rid of the employee.
This is a right-to-work state, there are 27 of those in the U.S. The name comes from the fact that if you work at ABC company and the company forms a union, you cannot be fired. That’s what right-to-work means. It also means you are an employee at will. You can be fired for any reason or no reason. And that was exactly what was happening in the next booth.
While I was eavesdropping on this life-shattering conversation, it became obvious that the boss had done this more than once. He kept repeating the same phrases.
“You’ll get over this, it’s not the end of your life.”
“You’ll find another job quickly.”
“You’ll look back on this and laugh.”
No one was laughing at the time, and the employee was in shock. He kept citing statistics of the fine work he had done, the deadlines he had met, the extra work he had taken on and completed successfully.
It didn’t matter. Nothing he could say made a difference. The decision to have him gone was made before he arrived to meet his boss for breakfast. I wondered where he would go for the rest of the day, how he would tell his family.
Listening in, I remembered one of my clients telling me that she was indispensable. I smiled as I listened to the certainty, and two months later, I nodded my head as she cried, “They can’t do this to me. I’m the only ones who know how to run the program.” And yet, the program ran, and she was out on her ear, out of a job.
It can happen to you. Somewhere, someone reading this and smiling. Secure. You work hard. You are really indispensable. You have traded family life and balance for the job security. You gave up nights with your kids to cement security with your company. You are fooling yourself.
That’s what the guy at breakfast thought. That’s what I thought right before I was laid off at my last corporate job.
Everyone is replaceable. The company that demands your time and your life and your loyalty does not return that loyalty. They pay you and that, in their minds, is all they owe you. America is all about money and dedication and being “passionate” about your career, but less so about the other side of the coin.
I wish our corporate culture were a bit more passionate about loyalty, and caring and being reasonable. So, while you are reading this, what would you do if your job disappeared today?
If you are a perfectionist, this is particularly for you. . .perfectionism is about control, and you are far less in control that you think.
If you don’t have a plan about what to do if you are dumped, now might be a good time to think about it. How much of a financial cushion do you have? How much would you need if it took you six months to find a job? What jobs other than the one you are doing now are you qualified for? What wold it take to make you competitive in your field? When was the last time you updated your resume?
Take a look at your co-workers today. One of them will be gone in three months.
–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach. She won’t be dumped from her job because she owns the company. But she keeps changing her goals. See what she does at QuinnCreative.com