L called me. She'd been fired.
I met her when she was working for my wife in 2000. Those two were 'laid off' in February, 2001. They asked if I could find a position for L with my employer. I discussed it with HR. L joined my team as a full time temp working a 90 day project. Midway through the project, we made her an permanent offer. She accepted.
She was part of my team through the acquisitions until my product line was killed and the team was dismantled in 2009. She went to work for someone else but she didn't like it.
"Was this a surprise?" I asked. I'd hear rumors she was having problems but as she and I are on different teams, nobody would tell me anything and she wasn't answering her phone and emails.
"No. I did something really fucking stupid," she said. "My life was falling apart around me a couple months ago. I started drinking. I hated my job so...I quit doing it. I quit logging on or calling in or doing anything that I was supposed to for almost two months."
They made her two offers when she finally returned to work. One, she could leave the company with one week of pay for each year she had been with the company and a small education and re-training grant. Two, she could stay with the company but she would need to enter the work improvement program.
She chose the second.
Talking with L as she cried, I reminded her that this was a business decision. It was not an indictment of her as a person and it doesn't reflect her abilities. Her ability to do her job doesn't validate her as a person and the job, in customer support, was another of those call and grind positions that litter the job market. Being fired could be a great opportunity for her. She can't predict what will happen. After all, she came to work for me twelve years ago, in a 90 day temp position and ended up working for me for over seven years and stayed with the company for twelve years ago.
You can't always use the past to predict the future.
I understood L's choice why she stayed when offered a way out and I understood why she didn't like her job. Like me, she is a remote employee. We're often overlooked or forgotten. There are no celebrations. You generally only hear from the company when they want something from you or something has gone wrong. The exception is that once a quarter, there are several meetings with upper middle manager where thousands of us are gathered on the phone for one hour and told how great we are but that we need to do better. We need to save more money and make more money. That's the beginning and the end. The saving grace is that they pay us.
I understood she chose to stay with the job she hated because she was afraid. She's a single mother of a seven year old and unemployment would not cover her monthly nut. She was hopeful she could make it work and she lied to herself, convincing herself that she could because she had to make it work. I know that's how she was thinking. I think the same.
My wife is an intellgent and talented person but she is an obsessive fretter. I've known her for over forty years and have witnessed this trait expanding.
It was particularly striking when I retired from the military. I was forty years old and had worked since I was seventeen. Ending a career and about to embark on another, I wanted some time off.
My wife understood and supported that idea but she could not help herself. Despite having money in the bank, my retirement pension, a few moderate but recurring monthly bills, and being employed with a decent salary, she worried about what we were going to do. We were living in the SF Bay Area, a pretty expensive place. Within two weeks, she wanted me to find a job.
I retired in November of 1995 and began working again in December 1995. I've been employed ever since that day in December when I stepped into an office.
She last worked in February of 2000. I am bitter, jealous and angry about our different statuses, that she has worked off and on for a third of her lifetime while I've worked forty out of fifty seven years.
But stress and her illness has tangible connections. Stress causes painful joint flare ups. Flare ups increases her stress and inhibits her ability to sleep. Lack of sleep gives her a foul mood, increasing irritability and diminishes her mental abilities from memory to congitive reasoning. So while I might suffer, keeping this job, I can endure it better than her.
The lessons learned again are the same ones about making fear driven decisions yet L and I both fail to learn the lessons. I suspect we have deeper psychological issues and we use our situation and our fear for others as a method to rationalize our decisions and assuage our guilt.
My friend and neighbor, Walt, is home. They believe he has pancreatic cancer. More tests are being run
It was a wearying day.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com