For all who don’t know (and that’s quite a few) I was hired at USG in SC in January of 2010. One week into my employment, I was told the financial hub where I had just started working was being shut down. I was offered 8 weeks severance (in a state that had 12.5% unemployment at the time) or a transfer to Baltimore.
What would you do? Job in one hand, no job in the other. Family up near your transfer, no job where you currently live. I took the transfer. USG even footed $2,000 of my moving costs. My move cost a LOT more than that.
But wait, there’s MORE! I was transferred on a SC salary to a location where the cost of living is approximately 30% higher and pretty much told how lucky I was.
How much did I make during the one year I worked for USG in Baltimore? Are you ready for this? $32,000. Okay, it’s doable for a single person who is frugal and that’s the kind of person I am. That amount also approximates the salaries for the other Transaction Associates in that office, all but one of whom had families to feed. That amount also included USG’s magnanimous “moving expenses.” Ahh yes.
Now, let me preface by saying I am not a finance person by training. I’m an IT person. I was hired with full knowledge that I was deemed “overqualified” for the job, but because I had done AP/AR work in the past, they hired me. I was supposed to be grateful. Shoot, I WAS grateful.
I was told, on January 19, 2010, that they would put my IT skills to “good use.” Well, I’m not sure what constitutes “good use” but I don’t think spending an entire day attempting to clean viruses from the director’s computer qualifies. Viruses, I might add, that appeared on his computer from internet sources he shouldn’t have been surfing in the first place…according to the USG Electronics Use Policy directive, which we all signed.
So I went to work, doing mostly data entry for AR/AP. It was boring, tedious and having a supervisor who belittled people in front of their co-workers for mistakes didn’t help much. Yup, I made mistakes. Everyone did.
In January, 2011, I had a review. It was horrible. I was placed on probation, but I didn’t KNOW I was placed on probation. Nothing was put in writing except an email telling me there would be a follow-up review in February.
In February, 2011, I had my “follow-up” review. I was told I was being terminated for “poor performance” and “violation of the USG Electronics Use Policy.” I was gobsmacked.
I requested data proving my “poor performance” since I did the same work as 9 other people in that office and until this review, I’d never been told that I made “more mistakes than everyone else.” I knew I made errors, but I also heard, directly from the Field Accounting Manager with whom I worked very closely, that I made a lot fewer mistakes than other Transaction Associates in the office who also worked closely with her.
My request was greeted with a denial. I was told that the data existed but that I wasn’t going to be provided with it. Uh huh. I found out later that it didn’t really exist. Not in any form that could be pulled from a database and NOT be tinkered with.
So I requested an exit interview with the local HR representative. Do ya think he deigned to come into the office? Oh hell no. He was too busy. He got on the phone, and my supervisor put him on speakerphone. He told me why I was terminated. He cited the “abuse of the Electronics Use Policy.”
I’d done my homework by that point and I knew that even in an at-will state, if a policy is in place, but not enforced it can’t be used as a reason for termination. That didn’t matter, because in an at-will state, you can be terminated if your boss doesn’t like your hairstyle. I told him it was a bogus reason because there was zero enforcement of that policy in our office. NONE.
Guess what? The week following my lovely exit interview, a meeting was called where employees were told that the policy would be enforced. Gee, I wonder if the director continued to get viruses and worms on his computer…
So, I was terminated for poor performance. Seems I didn’t meet or exceed standards. Wait. What standards? We were never told what the standard WAS, let alone given a directive to meet ANYTHING. Hey, Bill! Guess what? Directly after I was terminated a “process” was put in place so that the Transaction Associates would know EXACTLY how many mistakes they made and what standard it was they were required to achieve.
Here’s why I was terminated: I didn’t suck up. I didn’t pretend to be friends with everyone there and I didn’t brown nose with my supervisor the way one employee did. That particular employee will be one who gets a “stay” package. You can count on it. I wasn’t afraid of my supervisor. I went over her head twice before I realized that her boss was totally ineffective and would do nothing about her behavior.
I heard about HER mistakes but it seems those didn’t matter. She was put in a position of authority over women with whom she’d spent several years working in the same capacity. She had no management experience, and while she was (and is) a very intelligent woman with a wicked sense of humor, she has very poor people skills when it comes to management. She could be compassionate, and she could understand trying times in her staff’s personal lives because she’d had quite a few of her own. The problem was that no one – NO ONE could trust her as a professional.
She appeared surprised that I wasn’t aware I was on probation. I told her that in my experience it was generally a corporate HR policy to counsel an employee early on when it was seen they weren’t performing to par. (that’s a golf term, Bill.) I explained that if I wasn’t performing to some (invisible) standard that I should have been told about it well prior to being FIRED for it. Her reply? Snort.
“Oh come on. You knew you were making mistakes.”
Well, yes, I did know. So did the entire office because she would berate me for them in front of everyone else. Everyone else made mistakes and I could here THEM being publicly berated for them. People would come to me, because they knew I’d keep my mouth shut, and pour their grievances on my shoulders. What could I do? I directed them to her supervisor. Ahh yes, her ineffectual supervisor who didn’t want to hear any of it so just turtled up in his corner office and ignored everything.
I knew a lot more about what went on in that office, politically, than she or her supervisor will ever know that I knew. I know because I was told by co-workers as they came out of her office. I know because I’m not stupid and when I heard the same complaint from 8 other people at different times, it wasn’t difficult to write the story of that office.
Why do I tell you this Mr. Chairman? I tell you this because my prior post could be deemed sour grapes from someone who was fired for “poor performance.” It’s not. I’m so glad I’m out of that viper’s nest.
I tell you this because I know what the people you are “downsizing” have in store for them, because I am LIVING it, Bill Foote. I am LIVING it.
I am 50 years old. In 8 months I’ve found one job and that was a two-month contract position. That’s it. I have been living on $339 a week for 8 months. I feed myself on $77 a month. I am deemed to make “too much money” to qualify for any social services benefits. I have no health insurance. I am type-II diabetic and I can’t afford to eat the way I’m supposed to eat. I can’t afford to buy the medication I need to control the diabetes. My mother and sister both died of breast cancer and I can’t afford the mammogram I’m supposed to have every six months. I cracked a tooth and luckily, it didn’t cause me pain because I couldn’t afford to go to the dentist to get it fixed. The other half of the tooth rotted and fell out. Thankfully it was a molar, in the back of my mouth.
I am moving almost 100 miles from Baltimore into a questionable area of a smaller town because I can no longer pay my rent here. I’m lucky in that I’ve had an understanding landlady. I do not have car insurance, in a state that requires it, because I can’t afford it. I have no health insurance. COBRA, you say? Okay, I’ll take it if you’ll pay for it. It would have cost me more than $600 a month.
Mr. Chairman, what I’ve just written sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? Would you want to be in those circumstances? Can you even imagine them for yourself? Can you imagine being a single mom with two school-aged children, one who has special health needs, and being told that you are being dumped on the garbage heap of unemployment? Can you imagine being that mom and finding out that the man who did the dumping made more than $7 million in 2009 and that was considered “competitive compensation?”
Do you honestly think these people are going to be able to find work? Really? What ivory tower are you living in? Wait, I know. It’s way up there in the rarefied air of corporate executive multi-millionaires. Do you even CARE whether these people survive?
I don’t think you do care. I know what they’re in for and I care. I care very deeply.
Bill Foote, I have some more questions for you. Let’s see if you can answer them:
When I was working for you, I processed many payables that were for golf outings, social functions, expense reports with thousands in “entertainment” costs. I processed the payments for the service awards. I have a very good idea how much money was spent frivolously. But wait, you say. Deals are closed on golf courses. No they’re not. They’re closed in offices and boardrooms. Have you personally sat down and balanced the “entertainment” and “gift” outlay against their net revenue return? Oh, I forgot. They’re all tax write-offs.
Bill, I processed more in frivolous expenses during the year I worked at USG than I made in salary. MUCH more. And I am just one of many Transaction Associates across the country who processed the same payables. Yet you now deem it necessary to deprive those same individuals of their livelihood, of their means of familial support, so you can keep on yukking it up on the golf course? So you can provide sales incentives? So you can schmooze potential customers???
Isn’t the time for that long past? Isn’t it more important to work with what you’ve got, make your OWN sacrifices and see to it that your people (who are oh-so-wonderful and necessary when the economy isn’t in the toilet) won’t lose their homes, won’t starve, or even DIE because they can’t pay their mortgages, and if they do, they can’t buy food, and if they pay their mortgage and buy food then can’t afford necessary healthcare?
Whose responsibility is it to make sure these people receive the necessities of life after YOU deprive them of their means of support? Is it truly the American taxpayer’s responsibility? Oh, wait. USG has unemployment insurance. That’ll take care of them. They’ll be fine.
Uh huh. On $339 a week, in Baltimore, Maryland, they’ll be just dandy, especially if they have no other means of income and hungry children to feed.
Bill, I am living the reality these people are about to face. I do not own an iPhone. I do not own an iPad. I do not own car insurance. I do not own health insurance. The only protein I get is because my brother is a kind and loving brother and fills my freezer with meat for me each time he purchases meat in bulk.
Mr. Foote, speaking of my brother, let’s talk about sacrifice for the sake of your employees. I want you to think about this next story every time you check your bank account, every time you receive a paycheck, and each time you check your stock portfolio. I want you to think about it the next time you decide to cut even more employees loose.
My brother is one of four partners in a local company. When times got tough he did not lay off a single employee. Do you know what my brother did? He stopped drawing a salary so his crew would be able to take care of their families. My brother hasn’t drawn a salary in 2 years. He lived on his retirement until that was gone. Then he lived on his investments until those were gone. His home almost went into foreclosure, but he managed to rob peter to pay paul. And he did all this while paying a greedy ex-wife child support for his three children, one who is 27, handicapped and will need major healthcare and supervision for the rest of his life.
How is he living now? He married his best friend who is a wonderful woman. She helps support them now. His vehicle is a company truck, his cell phone is a company blackberry. The company does pick up his internet expenses, but that’s it. Everything else is his responsibility.
I think you would say my brother is stupid for not laying off his crew. I say my brother has HONOR which is something you seem to have in very short supply. My brother doesn’t subscribe to greed, entitlement or the pop-psychology mantra of “ya gotta look out for Number 1.” In his case “Number 1” is simply a euphemism for those employees who have been with him for more than ten years and to whom he feels a personal responsibility. Maybe that’s because he knows their names, families and histories.
You know very few of your employee’s names. I’ll bet you don’t know one important thing about anyone you’re downsizing from the Baltimore hub. I’ll bet you only know the name of one person there; maybe two. I’m guessing you can remember the name of only one, and only then if you think hard about it.
It’s easy for you to sign off on other people’s lives because, after all, they’re not related to you. Why, you’ve never even met them. What are they to you, but salaries that take from the revenue stream into your bank account?
Bill, you could go the rest of your life without drawing a salary and still maintain your current standard of living. So why not be honorable and do just that so that these people can have the basic necessities of life?
I’m wondering how you sleep at night.