Your Job Isn’t That Secure

While having breakfast in a restaurant this morning, I listened as someone lost his job. I won’t mention the town, as that scene happens in any town. Probably not over a rooty-tooty pancake ‘n’ ham, but the instant it became clear what was happening, I understood why this was being done over breakfast: No office scene, 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.

pancakesWhile 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.
you’re fired 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.

That’s what the guy at breakfast thought. That’s what I thought right before I was laid off.
Everyone is replaceable. The company that demands your time and your life and your loyalty does not return the same. 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 3 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 Photos: pancakes:, drawing:

Pretend Allergies: Controlling the Environment

My friend Anna (not her real name, of course) was eating lunch with me in a restaurant. I ordered a salad, and she asked the waiter if the salad dressing contained nuts. He said it did, peanuts. Anna wrinkled her nose, still an incredibly cute look for her, and said she had a peanut allergy, and could he make sure that her salad had walnuts.

The waiter looked uncomfortable and said that he couldn’t guarantee the salad had never come in contact with nuts. Anna said that a restaurant needed to pay more attention to the medical needs of the customers, and ordered soup.

peanut in salon“I didn’t know you were allergic to peanuts,” I said.
“I don’t like them,” she said, “But the waiter won’t care about that, so I say I’m allergic.”
“Why would you say you are allergic to something you aren’t allergic to?”
Anna shrugged. “So he gets it. Otherwise I have to argue.”
While I ate my salad, I wondered about the client who claims to be allergic to perfume, and asks me not to wear any when I come to visit. Last week I forgot, but she didn’t say anything. In fact, she was wearing perfume. Angel. I am not a fan, but believe in letting people wear whatever perfume they want. Allergy or control freak?

How about my friend who says she is allergic to wheat? How can she eat pasta? I assumed it was spelt, but that doesn’t explain the hotdog on a bun I saw her munching while strolling down the street with her kids. Is this wheat allergy seasonal?

It seems that lately a lot of people I know have medical alerts–allergies and sensitivities. For a while I gave up having dinner parties because there was no meal I could cook that would satisfy all the allergies my friends have–chocolate, strawberries, nuts (ground AND tree), soy, milk, wheat, cheese–aged and new, corn, rice, and eggs. At one point I canceled a dinner party because I could not find enough food that would be OK’d by the vegan, the celiac, and the lactose intolerant who was also allergic to soy. (This sounds like the beginning of a great joke, doesn’t it, “a vegan, a celiac and a lactose intolerant walked into a bar.) In fact, liquor (non-wheat based) might have been the only thing I COULD serve. When I sent around the email canceling because the three menus I had would not please the whole group, I got back one suggestion that I cook all three, and label the dishes with their ingredients (umm, no.) and one retraction of a former allergy. The dinner was back on.

I would be a lot more concerned if I knew these allergies were real. Some of them seem to be control issues or simply a way to get attention and have other people take care of you. And how will I know the difference? And when will I stop caring?

Yes, some people have serious allergies. I once worked for a man who could have died from a single pignole. This isn’t about that. It’s about people who manipulate through fictional allergies for their own enjoyment or their need for attention. Do you think a pet would help? Unconditional love? Oh, you can’t have a pet? Oh, sure, allergies.


–Quinn McDonald is a writer with hay fever who is allergic to one of her cats, but not the other two. She is thinking of becoming a vegetarian. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

Move, Chapter 4: Not Knowing

I’ve written several blogs on “not knowing.” Not knowing is a wonderful way to admit that you don’t have to be in control all the time. Except now that I am trying to organize a move, I hate not knowing. I looooooove control! So I made a list. Controlling people makes lists.
*I don’t know how long it will take to sell the house, how much it will sell for, or how long it will take between contract and sale.
*I have no idea how or when to buy a house there, and make the closings work out. This would be easier if we had a truckload of money and could buy before we sell. But that’s not how it works.
*I don’t know where we will live in the Phoenix area.
*I don’t know how to get the cats from here to there once the house sells.
*I have not the slightest clue on what to take as a bare minimum to stay in someone else’s house. I need to start a business there.
*I don’t know how to make a list of what my husband has to do while I am gone and the house has to look perfect so someone will want to buy it. That list is long, and it’s going to look like I’m nagging, no matter how I write it.
*We’ve shared a car for seven years. I don’t think I can live in Phoenix with just a motorcycle. I’ve thought that problem to death. Cars, even used ones, aren’t cheap.
*I don’t know how to get the plants across the country. My corn plant was a gift from my son 30 years ago. Do I have to ditch it?
*I’m shedding so many things, will I regret that?
*How do I handle bill paying while I’m there and he’s here?

So I made a list of everything I was worried about, things I couldn’t solve, couldn’t figure out, and whose logistics make my head wobble and fall on the floor.

Once the list was made, the whole thing wasn’t so horrible. It turns out I don’t have to keep every worry fresh in my mind. Writing it down helped me quit carrying around a bag of worry. If I have time to worry, I can take a look at the list.

Some things will solve themselves. Others will become clearer when they come closer. Some things, no matter how much I want to, I simply can’t control. So I can give up worry.

Having a “I don’t know” list is actually a good idea. I had no idea it would work as well as it has. I’m still struggling with control, but the worry has slipped to a quieter nag instead of a full-pitch head scream.

The list may get longer, but it will help me cope.


–Quinn McDonald is a writer who is moving across the country. She is not in control. But she is using chocolate to cope. (c) 2007. All rights reserved.

Thinking. . .Processing

Rene Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender recognizes him and says, “So, Rene, do you want a martini?”
“I think not,” Descartes replies.
POOF! He disappears.

The web is a funny place. For the last month the most popular website on WordPress has been I Can Has Cheezburger, a site to which people submit pictures of their pets, complete with funny captions. The captions are written in pet language. Yep.

What amazes me is not that the site exists, or that thousands of people caption and send in pictures of their pets, which, according to the site’s rules, become the property of the site’s owners who can do anything they want with it (including advertising their site or making money without royalties to the owner.)

Nope, what amazes me is that the rules for the pet language , which are not easily found on the site, are being followed by everyone who submits a picture. I am amazed. I haven’t seen so much strict rule following since I arrived at the airport in Berlin. You can’t get people to move out of their lane when a blaring fire engine is behind them and Cheezburger has ’em lined up speaking ‘kitteh’ and ‘lolcat’ fluently. Amazing.

thinking blogger goldChris Brown, over at Branding & Marketing has awarded me a Thinking Blogger Award. That’s it, over this paragraph. (And it explains the joke at the beginning of this post.) I found out by accident because I am a compulsive blog stats checker, and saw people traveling from her site to mine. She reads my blog from time to time, and gave me the award.

It’s nice to get to know Chris in this “tag-you’re it” game, not because I love being honored, but because the rules of the game say you have to honor five other people similarly. Now, while I run from chain letters, hyper-circulated jokes and twee pictures, I find this challenge interesting. Because I’m passing on five sites that have good content. I can’t resist. There are 100 million websites in the world, and five good ones are hard to find.

Paul Lagasse’s blog at AV Writes is the thinking person’s writer. He writes in a clear and engaging style and is an amazing life hack.

Indexed by Jessica Hagy proves that you can make Venn diagrams interesting and funny. I would have taken bets on that before I came across her blog.

Heather Blakey runs The Soul Food Cafe–a fascinating spot for writers, artists, and others who want to share their work and creative ideas. (Truth in writing disclosure: I’m a member.)

A community blog, wikiHow will help you do almost anything, from learning how to make a tropical breakfast to How to Deal with an Existential Crisis.

Doug Johnson runs DIYPlanner, a guide for life hacks. If you need organizational tips that are also fun and inventive, it’s your place to visit.

Here are the participation rules for the Thinking Blogger Award:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
2. Link to the original post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, certified creativity coach, and journal writing teacher. See her work at
(c) 2007 All rights reserved.