Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pink Slip

For months, trying to juggle job, home and Mother had been an issue. If I had to choose one word to describe it, it would be guilt. I felt guilty when I was at work because I felt as though I was neglecting my familial obligations, guilty over the job when I had to leave work for one crisis or another (Mother made so many trips to the emergency room for a while I thought I was going to be on a first name basis with the entire staff), guilty that I would let the small staff left to me down if our bosses in Dallas got wind of what was going on, but guilty that my bosses were paying me for a job I didn't have my head totally wrapped around. A secondary word would be: relieved. I didn't hide what was happening from anyone. I was pretty up front about the situation if only to save me and the staff from any recriminations later if I wasn't. But, I knew my tiny little department wasn't their biggest fish, so we could fly under the radar to a certain extent. I wasn't working just for fun, after all. I did like my job, but I needed the income, so everyday that slid by with me still being gainfully employed was something to be grateful for. But, truthfully, I knew something would have to give eventually. It would have crumbled even without my mother's situation to complicate matters. I headed a small department that was set up originally to gain a marketing edge over our competitors. It had never been profitable, and a lot of brighter people than myself over the last several years had tried unsuccessfully to turn it around. By the time I was plopped into the head of the department, it had been written off by the executives of the company, and they thought I would oversee its death throes and then move on to what they truly wanted me to be doing. But, I saw a value in it and wanted to try and revive it. I had butted heads a few times trying to breathe new life into a patient everyone else wanted to die, but for the most part they left us alone as long as we were quiet and didn't call too much attention to ourselves. Once the economy collapsed, it was inevitable that would change. However, what my boss wanted was for me to take the tattered remnants of my department and fold it into new responsibilities, but I couldn't take on more at work when I was the only one looking after Mother's affairs. The security and potential for more money was tempting, but there was no doubt in my mind that it would be a house of cards. I would not be able to dedicate the time I needed to the job they envisioned for me, and I saw what was happening in the area they wanted to slide me: it was going to take a lot, whole lot, of hard work, to set right. I would end up neglecting one obligation or the other, family v. job, maybe both. So, I held firm. One thing about Corporate America that is an absolute - turn down a promotion and you have effectively committed professional suicide. Knowing I was under a death sentence didn't lessen the impact when it finally happened.

There were signs it was coming. Suddenly nothing I did was right. I had been read the Riot Act so many times in the last few weeks, I jumped every time the phone rang. I answered directly to the CEO of the company. Like a lot of CEO's, intellectually he can wipe the floor with the rest of us and has to make decisions that are for the company's well-being sometimes at the expense of the individual staff, so some people admire him, some are envious, and everyone is slightly on edge around him. But I liked him well enough. I was aware of all the balls he had to juggle and felt that he was trying to do what he had to without a lot of hubris on his part. He does know he is smarter than everyone else, I think that is true, but he works hard, keeps his office and his personal affect modest and has flashes of concern for how his decisions impact his staff. So, I wasn't happy when he and I began constantly conflicting. And, I have to say, when he fussed at me, he did it with a lot of empathy and compassion. Truly, he acted like a gentleman and took no discernible pleasure in what he knew he had to do. But, when he called on a particular Friday in mid-March, he was set on carrying it out. And, for all the signs that the End of Days was coming, I still was shocked and reacted accordingly when he told me.

So, I was cut loose. My resume: I am middle aged, under-educated, with enough baggage to fill a stadium. In this economy, I wouldn't hire me either. Now the decision would be what to do about that.

Readers: what would you do in my place? Ponder that over the next few days while I am out of town. We can discuss on Monday.

1 comment:

  1. Well, first of all, stop thinking that everyone is smarter than you- 'cuz their not, stop thinking you are undereducated, 'cuz you could TEACH a university class on business administration, customer relations, and management. Stop thinking you have "baggage" - as far as I can see EVERYONE has it, and most of them are not even smart enough to know they do. In short, I think the first thing you need to do is start thinking of yourself in positive terms and ONLY positive terms for awhile. No more "objective" self critique. Why? Because it's not helping.

    Second, either take some down time to relax, and I mean relax - go for walks out in the sun, where there are trees and wind and grass. Or, if that is not an option, take a job that does not require much thought or responsibility and again, take some time to just detangle. Then, and only then, start to think about how you would like your life to look, and what steps you could take to get there. Now, I know you, so let me just say right now, that does not mean a 10 year plan or that you have to have all the answers on how to do it. YOU DO NOT. How would you like your life to look? Don't edit, or worry if you don't know how you could make it ALL happen, but what are three things, just three small things, you could do to start the ball rolling. After you have done those three small things - find the address for an editor of a magazine for whom you want to submit an article, write the article, put it in an envelope and mail it, then it's on to the next three things (don't think about what happens to the envelope, the important thing is that you did it).

    Don't look at this as another crisis to overcome. Use it as an opportunity to recalibrate your compass. It may take some time to be able to feel or envision true north again. Take it slow and when a self-critical or negative line of thought begins, say to yourself or better yet out loud "I acknowledge and accept you". I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works. If you try just to ignore it, or think of something else, it comes back again and again like a kid who wants to know "are we there yet".

    Lastly, don't let there be a lastly. If something doesn't work, try something else, and something else, and something else.