Monday, February 11, 2013

The Benefit of Being Downsized

Since 1990, when SUNY Plattsburgh decided it’d had enough of me and awarded a diploma with my name on it just to get me to leave, I’ve worked for 12 distinct corporate entities. That’s an average of one new employer every 1.9 years.

In fairness to me, not every one of those new corporate entities involved a job change. For instance, I was employed by three different corporate entities in the same year while working as director of sales of one hotel in Durham, NC. The hotel’s first management firm was bought out by a second management firm which was, in turn, let go by the hotel ownership which created its own management firm. Simple, right? That’s the kind of year you keep your butt out of the wind and hope nobody more than one level above you knows you even exist.

Having worked for 12 distinct corporate entities, it’s easy to categorize them by degree of enjoyability. On a scale from 1 to 5 (1 being “Made My Spirits Soar Like an Eagle” and 5 being “Made Me Pray for the Sweet Release of Death”) the breakdown is as follows:

  1. Made My Spirits Soar Like an Eagle = Two Companies
  2. Put a Little Spring in My Step = Three Companies
  3. No Impact on My Life Whatsoever = Three Companies
  4. Caused Me to Reconsider My Stance on Assisted Suicide = Two Companies
  5. Made Me Pray for the Sweet Release of Death = Two Companies

Of the bottom two, one was particularly bullying and disrespectful to its employees. You know something’s wrong with your place of employment when you enter the office each day amazed at the fact none of your coworkers has been arrested, or at least investigated. Abuse of power, conflict of interest, unethical business practices, unjustifiable business expenses, questionable investments – the place was a training ground for all of the things you shouldn’t do when running a business if you want to avoid jail time.

Amidst the humanoid detritus that mostly ran this soul-sucking company were a handful of decent people struggling hard to remain decent. Every now and then, one of them would fall victim to the corporate axe, or worse, divest themselves of the virtues that made them decent and join the scheming backstabbers in their game.

I thought, naively, I could remain impermeable to the never-ending parade of injustices perpetrated at that company. “I am one of the decent people,” I would tell myself.

The problem was the decent people huddled together in a cowering mass to bitch and moan about the backstabbers. We became an underground army of gossipers, whisperers and kvetchers. Even when the backstabbers weren’t giving us something to bitch about, we could pull from a vast catalog of past offenses to rile our indignation. We were unhappy, dissatisfied, bitter as tonic water, yet convinced we could hold on to our humanity in spite of every effort of the backstabbers to break our spirits.

Near the end of my sentence, I ran into a former coworker who had been fired some months earlier. He was one of those pleasant, honest people who knows what needs to be done and how to lead by example to motivate others to help him achieve it. I had felt poorly for him when he was let go. He had been wronged, which I expressed to him as we spoke. He smiled contentedly and gave me one of the best pieces of advice anyone has ever given me.

“Mark, get out,” he said. “You think it doesn’t affect you, but it’s corrosive.”

Not long after that brief encounter, I was restructured out of my job. The powers that be called me and six other people into a meeting after lunch and gave us two-hours to clean out our offices. It was the first time I lost a job, and it was frightening, but looking back at it now I am able to appreciate how much of a gift they gave me.

Like an abused pet, I had come to believe I deserved the treatment I received at the hands of those soul-suckers. What was I, anyway, other than a simple drone scurrying this way and that at the whim of its queen bee? Had they not restructured me out of the organization, I might never have moved on to better things.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

1 comment:

  1. I have worked at places where we would meet in the parking lot every night and crab and moan for an hour or so--too broke to go to a bar and do it, too paranoid to do it inside our place of employment.

    What prompted this stroll down memory lane to hell?