In November, my wife was fired from her 16 year career with a nationwide Office supply chain. She prevented a shoplifter from leaving the store with over $600.00 of toner supplies. This type of theft is considered a felony. While it is legal in my state to use (even deadly) force to prevent a felony, it is against an unwritten store policy that employees should never interfere with a shoplifter—you must let them walk. She was aware of this policy, but when the event unfolded, her sense of morality, her deep devotion and absolute loyalty to the company sprang into action. She correctly assessed the situation, saw no danger and acted. She successfully recovered the toner and shortly thereafter, an arrest was made! Sure, we could debate the several issues surrounding the incident, but these are the facts.
She suspected she may get in trouble. She imagined that she would be written up, reprimanded or perhaps even suspended. All of these would have been reasonable and apt corrections, but the choice was made to “separate employment,” an extreme, insensitive and harsh reaction, given the larger view of her outstanding, unblemished career. To this day, we do not know who made this decision; the details will be forever hidden behind a faceless, heartless, soulless corporate bureaucracy. And yes, we have pursued every avenue of appeal, including legal. We live in a state where an employer can fire an employee for any reason, without consequence.
We have never felt like correction was unwarranted, it is just that it was so overreaching and harsh. There was no examination of the overall picture—who the employee is, what her family needs might be, her unwavering loyalty to company and career. Why would you fire a 16 year employee who was diligent, hardworking, honest to a fault, a huge sales leader, loved by her customers and valued by her managers? There is something else at play. After a bit of examination, it appears that this was simply a great opportunity to cut costs and take advantage of an error made, by one of the higher paid employees. Budgets are tight, stock is in the toilet, cut, cut, cut.
Why would my friend Carl be walked into the Administrator’s office of a large hospital on his 65th birthday, thanked for his years of service and be terminated without warning? No lead up, no discussion, no farewell party planning… just fired! Fortunately, in this case, he received an attractive severance package… but let go, none the less. What has happened to our business society where corporate loyalty to an employee could be as strong as employee loyalty to the company? If they needed to let him go, why not have a heart and plan it out, make it special in some way?
My friend Bill lost his solid, stable engineering job when his company phased out his product line. The company has many, many other profitable projects and the company itself is very healthy. Like Carl, he received an attractive severance package. That will help him, as he supports his wife and four adopted children, for the next year. Now, consider this case with some additional information. Here is a husband (and wife) who could make a lifelong commitment to four amazing kids (babies when the commitment was made) but an American corporation can’t find some way to use a talented, dedicated and loyal individual, like Bill?
How about my friend Gina. When she retired from a worldwide corporation, having spent 20 years serving as a flight attendant, they congratulated her with a certificate from the laser printer and a bottle of wine from the aircraft. They put a bow in it!
Commitment and dedication in your personal life is invisible. What is this befuddling disconnect between the company needs and the amazing talent and loyalty of an employee, which lies just beyond the company’s nearsighted view of profitable operations. How is it that these three stories of impeccable character and loyalty are not seen as absolute assets in our world today?
Don’t misunderstand me. We all recognize that companies, like individuals, must live within their means. They must achieve certain goals and financial obligations. In order to do this, difficult choices must be made. The problem I am trying to spotlight is that the choices are being made without consideration or regard to the human being whose life and whose family will be deeply impacted by the decision to “separate employment.”
No Soul, No Conscience
Corporations have no soul and therefore are incapable of guilt or shame. People have a conscience which can be pricked… disturbed. Companies do not. Where a tender conscience guides an individual as a compass guides a ship, a corporation has no such guidance system. They only have a destination. Sure, many corps put up a beautiful shiny front, supporting noble causes and making the general public feel like they are always fighting for the underdog, but they miss the hurting or needy in their own ranks and allow decisions to be made at a managerial level that seem inconsistent with their otherwise nobel public personas. This is hypocrisy.
Before the Dark Times
I grew up in the 60’s and my father had the traditional career with all its perks. He worked hard and received family health insurance, several weeks vacation, a nice Christmas party and a turkey at Thanksgiving, plus a handsome pension plan that took care of him and my mother in their retirement. This corporation then took care of my mom when she became a widow and continued taking care of her until her death. My father traded a portion of his life in exchange for a form of corporate loyalty that, regrettably, no longer exists today.
The Family Leave Act – Forced Compassion
This, “take every advantage of the employee mentality” had become so prevalent and employers were so unwilling to be flexible with the personal events of employees lives, that the federal government got involved. It mandated that companies must permit family leave time for pregnancy and other life changing events! This is worth repeating. Corporate callous behavior became so pervasive and grew to such an extent, that the federal government had to step in and say, “Enough is enough?” The Family Leave Act of 1993 was intended to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families.” “Demands and needs,” someone is seeing it clearly! Companies demand, people have needs.
Death of Career
Let me draw a brief, stinging conclusion. Many, many people are willing to deeply dedicate themselves to their jobs and many do, under the sadly mistaken assumption that the company will always offer a reciprocal dedication and loyalty. They are wrong. That which was known as “career” is dead. It lies within the charred rubble of corporate insensitivity to the individual. Jobs still exist. Jobs still entice with grand promises and flattering come-ons, and many will continue to prostitute themselves for a flattering, faulty future. Wise up. You are better than that. You are worth more than that. There is a better way.
Gone are the days where you can trade your loyalty to a company and receive anything more than a paycheck. Mess up and you will be gone. Have the company mess up and you will be gone. Have the economy mess up and you will be gone. Have a customer complain and you are gone. Have a boss mess up and you are gone! There is no loyalty, at all, for any reason! It’s a myth if you think you have it.
I love a quote I heard recently, and I can’t remember who said it, but it snapped me to attention…”No matter how much you love your job, your job will NEVER love you back.”
Frog in a Pot
The huge problem for my generation is, we are just now waking up to reality. We were cradled in the comfort of our parents careers, learning that loyalty was a two way street. Corporations modeled for us a heart and a soul. Our parents could trust that they would not get stabbed in the back and they proudly communicated that to us. We were very safe.
The world has changed. We have naively clung to the hope that the employee / employer relationship would be fairly similar to what we grew up with. Guess what? Wake up time! Like the proverbial frog sitting in a slowly warming pot of water, comfortable and oblivious to the fact that the pot will come to a boil, we cling to a happy hope that the company, in the end, will love us just as we love them. Given the facts thus far, would you buy that lottery ticket?
A Better Way – Look in the Mirror
So, how do we process all this? Is there a way to compensate for this change in the corporate mindset or perhaps even exploit this change for our benefit. I think so and that is what “Freedom for the Family” is all about. My desire is to empower the individual to take advantage of all the amazing tools this modern era offers, help one another dig down and find that rugged individualism we have been endowed with and go make a real difference for ourselves and our loved ones.
I believe we can not only find a way to establish a career where we are the CEO, but excel in it financially, making more money than we could if we were in a company. Think about this. In a company, your income is limited to whatever your weekly pay is. Working for yourself, your income has no ceiling.
Helping Each Other
“Freedom for the Family” is about helping each other harness that burning desire within us… that God given mission that calls us to a higher ground; in so doing, serving ourselves and our families with the gifts he has given us, trading our unique skill set and passions for dollars. We are discovering that, we need not trade our lives away, one hour at a time, for a set amount of dollars. We are learning that, by using our unique skills and passions, we can produce something that people will want to buy—create once, sell many.
It’s Up to You
In this digital age, we have a soapbox, literally, to the entire world. From my laptop in the back yard of my home in south Florida, I write this article. At the touch of a button, it becomes available for billions to see. With this same technology, it is now possible for an individual to create something once and sell it many, many, many times. Because the thing you create is digital, the product yields nearly 100% profit. Does that not fire you up? Then comes the question, “What can I do?”
This is a good place to start, but the real question is “Why?” Why would you want to embark on a path that makes it all depend on you. Finding your “why” is what will motivate you and keep you motivated as you take those first steps then continue to a run. It may be your family, your finances, whatever. Why would you want to pursue a career where you are the master of your own life and you’ll give no quarter to the corporation?
Is this an uncomfortable a thought? Here’s the good news… you don’t have to jump ship to sail a new sea. It’s OK to have two jobs… for a while!
For my wife and I, we are beginning to experience what true freedom is all about. For about four years, we had been trying to figure out a way to get her out of the soul sucking job as it was draining her physically, emotionally and spiritually. Now that she is no longer entangled, and after the shock has worn off, we can clearly see that there is no ceiling. We homeschool our daughter so we are not shackled by a school schedule. We both work from home now. It’s tight, but it’s working. We are crafting businesses that can be conducted anywhere. We are not locked down to a physical location. The awesome thing is that we are together as a family, learning, growing and achieving as a family. We have escaped the clutches of the beast and are experiencing Freedom for the Family.