Narcissism In The Work Place – Redux

I see a lot of search terms in my stats that include “narcissim in the work place”  and “how to spot narcissism in the work place.”

The first and best bit of advice I can provide is this:  It’s just as difficult to spot it, initially, as it is in personal interactions.  Narcissists abound, within and without the workplace.  So be aware; prepare not only for the technical aspects of your interview, but have a small list of characteristics beneath your note-taking page to remind you what to look for.

When you first interview for a job, you’re usually so excited that you got the interview, and you’re so focused on doing your best in that interview that you don’t notice body language, tones of voice, and/or certain other behaviors that could be dead giveaways that you are interviewing with a narcissist.

Before I discuss that, though, let me say this:  If you are interviewing and/or work in corporate America, you can bet your sweet little bippie that you are surrounded by narcissists.  Perhaps your department isn’t rife with them; perhaps the individual in the cube next to you isn’t one.  You can rest assured, however, that at some point, you WILL run into one.

I suggest you first read this post.  It will open in a new tab.  Read it before you go on an interview.  Read some of the other posts I have here on NPD and Narcissists.  That won’t guarantee you won’t wind up working with a narcissist, but forewarned is forearmed.

As a rule, you don’t recognize a narcissist until they’ve already damaged you.  The average non-NPD simply doesn’t think the same way a narcissist does, and many of us have experienced the devastating fallout that comes from working with a narcissist, to the point of losing our jobs.

Narcissists will win.  Even if you manage to block a move or two, they will manage to tap dance around you, and the abuse will escalate.

Even in these tough times, I advise getting out if you find yourself in a nest of narcissim, or if you are working with one powerful enough to destroy you.  You’ll know, because your stress level will be intolerable, you will find that you are questioning your sanity where you never did prior to working with this individual and you will find that you have become grist for the rumor mill.  You go in as grain and you never come out . You simply keep getting ground.

It is better to be poor and have your self-esteem intact; to be happy with who you are, than to be financially comfortable and in constant fear for your sanity, health (stress will kill you), and miserable.

We all have choices.  Some may seem very painful at first and we don’t like pain.  No one does. Sometimes the most painful choices are the ones that are best for us and our families.

Jus’ sayin!

 

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Lies Corporate America Will Tell You

1.  We appreciate you.

2.  Thank you for all your loyalty and hard work.

3.  No, your job isn’t in jeopardy.  We’re laying off at OTHER locations.

4.  Our greatest asset is our people.

5.  No one is getting a bonus this year, it’s not just you.

6.  HR is working hard to make certain you get the best separation package we can provide.

7.  We couldn’t do it without you!

8.  We’re very flexible.

9.  We want the best for our employees.

10.  Do your job well and we will take care of you.

11.  We’re truly sorry we have to downsize you.  It hurts us as much as it hurts you.

12.  We will help you find a new job.

13.  Our COBRA package is affordable.

14.  While we are restructuring and that may seem a negative thing, it will benefit you, our valued employees, in the long term.

 

Translations:

1.  You’re not getting a raise.

2.  You better keep up with the loyalty and hard work or you will find yourself unemployed sooner rather than later.

3.  Your job is in jeopardy.

4.  Our greatest asset is our corporate spin doctor.

5.  You are not getting a bonus.  Our top executive compensation packages will show a zero on the bonus line, but we’re giving them more stock options that will vest quickly and provide them millions.

6.  HR is working hard to make sure your separation package is the lowest-cost one they can provide and they are not concerned with your needs.

7.  We can do it without you.  We did it before you were hired and we’ll continue doing it when you’re terminated.

8.  As long as you don’t require any personal time beyond that which we provide as vacation and/or sick leave, we’ll keep you.  For now.

9.  We want the best for ourselves.  If our employees benefit from it, great.  If not, we don’t really give a flying red one.

10.  Do your job well and you will be allowed to keep your job until we find a way decrease the overhead that is YOU.

11. We’re very happy to downsize you.  It means more money in our pockets.  The only reason the executive who told you about the downsize seemed nervous and upset is because she/he wasn’t quite sure they’d get out of the conference room in one piece.

12.  We’ll send you to an agency that will charge you to help you find a job.  No, we’re not paying the fee.

13.  This is an incomplete statement.  It should read thus:  “Our COBRA package is affordable if you don’t pay any of your other bills and don’t mind starving. ”

14.  We are restructuring and that means you will eventually get caught in the game known as “musical employees.”  Be very afraid.

 

Just in case you were wondering…

I’ll Say It One More Time (for now)

If you are an employee working for a large corporate entity please understand the following:

1.  You are of zero value to the company beyond what THEY deem valuable.  The definition of “value” changes daily.

2.  You are not a person.  You are a number.

3.  Your boss is NOT your friend, regardless how much you might suck up, or how much he or she may provide you special treatment.  At some point your boss’ job will be threatened and if he/she needs to step on you to save their job, you can be assured you will be gone before you can take your next breath.

4.  Telling staff they are being downsized “ahead of time” is not a display of integrity.  It is simply the result of a group of executive minions getting together and deciding the best way to keep you guys working and give you the illusion of hope that maybe things will change and they won’t downsize you after all.

5.  You have no job security.

6.  Your loyalty and hard work will never be repaid.  It will be abused.  It will appear to be appreciated until it is deemed that your salary is cutting into the big guys “competitive compensation.”

7.  Corporate executives do what is good for them, not what is good for you.

8.  THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR NEEDS, OR WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU ONCE YOU ARE CUT LOOSE.  THEY WILL FORGET ABOUT YOU.  Their lives will continue in the same vein as always, complete with luxury vacations, great medical care, plenty of food on the table, spending sprees, and conspicuous consumption while you plead with your landlord to give you another week to scrape together the back rent before you are evicted.

Don’t ever forget any of this.

Keep your resume updated and on Careerbuilder, Dice, Monster, Linked In, and any other place you can think of.  Keep it in front of every headhunter, placement agency, and hiring manager you can.  Network.  If you do this you might have a chance at finding a new job.  Right now, with our economy spinning out of control, the odds aren’t good, but there’s always a chance.  Keep that thought of a chance in front of you and get your resume together and OUT THERE NOW!

Hey Bill Foote! Here’s MY Story In Case You’re Interested (Which You Probably Aren’t)

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.

 

 

 

USG Corp, YOU Should be “Occupied!” Shame On You!

USG Corp.  In case anyone doesn’t know what USG stands for it stands for United States Gypsum.  Guess what UNITED STATES Gypsum is doing?

This company, with UNITED STATES in its name, is shutting down all its financial hubs and OUTSOURCING all the accounts payable jobs as well as IT jobs.

I found this out today from a friend who will be affected by this.  In her office, which will be open (for some employees) through April (gotta get that year end closing done!) the following people will be so adversely affected by this that it may destroy them, financially:

A  54 year old woman with a husband on disability who has worked there for the past 8-9 years.

A 53 year old woman who has worked there for most of her adult life.

A 44 year old woman who is a single mom of two, who currently can’t make ends meet on the salary they pay her,  lives in subsidized housing and has been known to get food for herself and her kids from the local food pantry and who has a child with ongoing healthcare needs.

Today I was told that the employees were called into a meeting where they were told the office would be closing, as would all the financial hubs and then it was explained to them that their jobs would eventually be “outsourced.”  We’ll get to that in a bit.  Here’s the icing on the cake:   There will be a “stay” package given to certain employees so that they can keep their jobs through the closing of the hub.  When the director was asked how it will be determined who will get a “stay” package the reply that was given was this:

“I’m  not going to think about that until I have to.”

Excuse me?  WTF??  This is corporate America.  They have ALREADY chosen who will get the “stay” package and if it were legal to do so, I’d list the names here.  I know who will get it.  I know, because I worked in that office and I know the politics of it. I know the favoritism that goes on and I know how terribly ineffective the current director is.  He’s a nice enough guy, but a truly bad manager.

The employees were told that they would all get “severance” packages but when the local HR representative was questioned as to what those packages would be, he did what ALL good little corporate HR minions do:  He hedged and said “we’re not sure yet.”  Of COURSE they’re sure.  They’ve known for months they were going to do this, and if it wasn’t known at mid-level it has certainly been in the works at the top levels.

Now, let’s talk about the piece that chaps my other butt cheek.  “Outsourcing.”

Okay, as a rule, in America, when someone hears “outsource” they think of India, Mexico, or the Philippines.  So when the question was asked where the jobs would be outsourced, the answer was, again, in good minion-like fashion:  “We haven’t determined that yet.  We’re exploring several different sources.”  Or something like that.  I put it in quotes, but I got it second-hand.  I wasn’t actually in the meeting.

It’s possible that with the accounting portion of it, the term “outsource” means they will funnel the work to an American company that provides contract labor, either in a call center-type environment, or it will be sourced to telecommuting temporary/contract employees.  It could also mean that all accounting personnel will be laid off, the work will all go to Chicago and temps will be hired to do it, at a very low rate of pay and with no benefits.

OR, it could mean they will send it all out of our country, this company with UNITED STATES in its name, will add to our already failing economy by stealing jobs from Americans and giving them to people in other countries because they’ll work for so much less money.  That will ensure that Bill Foote and his minions continue receiving their “competitive compensation” packages. (see below)

UNITED STATES GYPSUM, I ask you this:

How many at your executive level even considered taking a pay cut or giving up returns on options so that a single mom with two kids, a woman whose husband is on disability and a woman who has given most of her adult life to YOU can keep their jobs, their sanity, their homes, their kids in braces, food on their tables, their health insurance, their car insurance?  How many of you even gave a single thought to what this would do to those who truly NEED every paltry penny you’ve paid them?

I know how paltry those pennies are, because I used to work for you.  I know that you barely pay a living wage in the city within which I live.

This is from an article written in 2007, as USG was recovering from their “asbestos” issue which sent them into Chapter 11.  Here’s the link so you can read the entire thing, but this gem truly astounded me, since the company was emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy (how many were laid off while this was happening?).  Gee, if I went into bankruptcy, I doubt I’d emerge with a “competitive compensation” package.

“USG’s executive officers received non-qualified option grants that vest at a rate of 20% per year and restricted stock units that vest at 25% per year.  During bankruptcy, management had the certainty of cash.  Options they owned could have been underwater.  On the other hand, with a cash plan, they missed out on appreciation, Jarrett explains.  Another option grant was made in March, 2007 as part of the new long term incentive plan, which also included grants of restricted-stock units and performance shares.  Fox adds, ‘We were trying to establish competitive compensation, but to have the shareholders look at it and say, ‘”this is fair.  They’ve delivered value for the shareholders.”‘ 

“Another issue arose when the committee decided to give special cash awards to Foote and his two top lieutenants, CFO Rick Fleming and general counsel Stan Ferguson, for their leadership during the Chapter 11 proceedings.  Foote was given $1 million, and Fleming and Ferguson each earned $500,000.  “They all did both jobs — restructuring and running the business,” explains Jarrett.  The board felt they deserved to be rewarded.  But “we knew this was going to be in our disclosure documents. We asked ourselves, ‘Can it stand up to the shareholders reading it?'” The plan was detailed in the March 2007 proxy and did not generate any controversy among shareholders.”  

Excuse me?  They’ve delivered value for the shareholders?  Oh, okay.  That’s all that matters.  They get rewarded for delivering value to the shareholders.  WHAT FREAKING VALUE DID THEY DELIVER TO THEIR EMPLOYEES????

Now, take a look at this.  This is Bill Foote’s (Chairman of the Board for USG)  total compensation for the year 2009!!!   This came from here.  Take a gander at it.  Oh, poor guy.  He didn’t get a bonus.  Gosh.  I bet that was used as a pity tool for lack of bonuses that year.  “Bill Foote didn’t even get a bonus.”

Compensation for 2009

Salary $1,150,000.00
Bonus $0.00
Restricted stock awards $2,163,161.00
All other compensation $64,504.00
Option awards $ $1,088,858.00
Non-equity incentive plan compensation $782,000.00
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings $1,886,957.00
Total Compensation $7,135,480.00

His total compensation two years ago as our economy was hitting the skids, was more than 200 times that of the average employee at one of the financial hubs.  You know – the employees who process all those payables and receivables that balance in such a way as to provide him this ENORMOUS AND UNNECESSARY compensation.

I did a quick calculation based on a pay rate that I believe to be an average for the office where my friend works, and that includes the two management people and the “HR” person (who isn’t the local HR representative.)  I chose $40,000.  Yes, people, I know that many in that office make much less than this amount but I know at least one who makes a hell of a lot more.

0.04% of Bill Foote’s total compensation package in 2009 could have paid the salaries for that office for all employees for a full year.

Bill Foote, why are you allowing this to happen?

Why aren’t you standing for the UNITED STATES that is in your company name and sacrificing so that YOUR people can keep their jobs??

Why are you, the chairman of the board for UNITED STATES Gypsum, allowing jobs to be outsourced?

Why are you allowing a single mom with two children who you already pay so little that she has to get food from a free food pantry to be “downsized?”

Why are you allowing a 54 year old woman with a disabled husband to be “downsized?”

Why are YOU and YOUR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE not sacrificing to HELP these people instead of kicking them out of the way as though they are some sort of garbage in the way of your (most likely) Italian-shod feet?

I know why you are doing this.  You live in a luxury mansion, with all the coolest, latest gizmos and gadgets, you have a wife who expects to wear designer clothing and have luxury vacations, your children are probably in private schools, your food is the best your money can buy, you must pay your interior designer, you must pay your gardener, housekeeper, and let’s not forget that you must pay for your luxury automobiles…oh wait.  I’ll bet the company pays for those.  And for the insurance on them.

Bill Foote, I worked for you.  For YOU, because YOU represent USG.  I was terminated in February, 2011.  I cannot find work.  I’ve had to reinvent myself.  I’m having to move from my lovely quaint neighborhood into a low-rent district 100 miles away so I can afford to have a roof over my head.  Yet, I’m one of the fortunate ones.  I don’t have any other mouths to feed.  I am not a single mom with two children.  I have a skill set outside of what I did for your company.  I don’t have a child with special health-care needs.  I don’t have a disabled husband.  I just have two cats.  I’m fortunate.

Hey Bill, do you own an iPhone?  An iPad?  How much did you pay for your last Gitman Brothers shirt?  Or was it Brooks Brothers?  Or maybe something even more expensive.  How much did you pay for your last golf sweater?  Know how much I paid for my last sweater?  $2.50 and I bought it at Goodwill.  How about your Allan Edmonds shoes?  Maybe you don’t wear Allan Edmonds.  Maybe they’re just too “pedestrian” for you at more than $300 a pair.

Hey Bill, since your company terminated me without severance, guess how much money I have left every month to eat, while living on unemployment?  $77.  I bet you spend that on lunch.

Hey Bill, how the hell do you expect these people you are “downsizing” to take care of themselves and their families at even a basic level?  Oh wait, I forgot.  They’re not people.  They’re numbers.  Do you know their names?  Nope.  You don’t want to know their names because that would make it personal.  Want to know who you’re ruining?  Post here with your email and I’ll email you the names of the people in that office who will suffer most from your greed.

Hey Bill, before you lay all these people off, before you spend another penny of the money your employees earned for you, take a month and live on $1,356.  Feed your family on it, pay all your bills on it.  Have tons of fun on it and then report back to me and tell me how well you did, because that is precisely the amount the Transaction Associates in the hub in my city will get for unemployment benefits.

Hey Bill, maybe someone needs to Occupy USG.  Whatcha think?  You and your executive minions are a disgrace to this country.  USG does not deserve to have the words UNITED STATES in its name.

Don’t tell me about all your philanthropy.  I know all about corporate executive philanthropy.  It’s bogus.  Now, were you to do it anonymously, and from your own pocket in figures that would make a difference in the lives of those people you are “downsizing” I might have some respect for you.  You won’t do it.

Hey Bill!  Be a REAL leader, step out and make a difference instead of allowing your sense of entitlement to tell you that you deserve more than $7 million a year in compensation.

Bill, be a warrior!  Have courage, man.  Step up to the plate, make a significant sacrifice yourself and then tell your executives that they must also do it, to set an example.  Think of the domino effect that could have!  Think of it – your name in NEON:  Bill Foote, Compassionate and Humanitarian Executive Saves Employees At His Own Expense!  

All it takes is one REAL leader, Bill.  Just one.  Are you that leader?

Bill, in this country, it’s unheard of for the Chairman of the Board of a major American corporation to personally extend a helping hand to his employees, to those employees from which so bloody much loyalty and hard work is demanded, to those employees who are told how oh-so-important they are…until they’re not, and to those employees whose loyalty and hard work is repaid with a big fat ZERO.  Bill, what’s $7 million minus zero?  That’s what you’ll earn this year.  What’s 11 people with families minus jobs?  Can you do that math?

It seems your $7 million plus is way more important than the survival of the average American families who may be ruined by your latest decision.  Oh, it wasn’t YOUR decision?  Oh yes it was, because it could not have happened without your knowledge and without you signing off on it.   Go ahead, blame it on the board members.  It was THEM.  They voted to do this.  Oh, it was the shareholders.  Ahh, that makes all the difference.  NOT.  Be accountable, Mr. Chairman.

You could have prevented it, but instead you chose to ruin those less fortunate than yourself.  Well, Mr. Chairman, all I have left to say is this:  As ye sow, so shall ye reap.  Biblical justice is sometimes a fine thing to watch.  No, that’s not a threat, so don’t go running for your battalion of corporate attorneys.  It’s simply the way of life.  You get what you give.  You may not get it tomorrow or next year, but you will get it.  It doesn’t come in an in-kind form, either.  The universe has a sense of justice and humor and it does provide balance.  If you get with it and do the right thing; if you do the moral thing, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did right.  That’s worth way more than $7 million a year, don’t you think?

You think you’re doing this for the good of the company?  Nah.  You did this for yourself.  There was another way.  You and your board chose the low road and that is the path most traveled and most destructive.  That path is fairly congested these days.


			

It’s Neither Optimism Nor Pessimism; It’s Reality

Earlier today, I emailed a friend with some of my thoughts from this post.  It was that email and her reaction that inspired the post.  I’d mentioned the portions about what I’d read on Craigslist and how heartbreaking I found it to be.  Her reply was to tell me, sarcastically, how optimistic I was being and then she went on to say that she did agree that we were heading for a depression.

First let me state that my email was neither optimistic nor pessimistic.  It wasn’t negative or positive.  It was merely the reality of what is going on right now, all over this country.  Her response shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.  I’ve known her for more than a decade and found her to be firmly grounded in reality.

I think the reason there has been such a glut of “reality” tv shows about those in truly unfortunate situations (think Hoarders) is that it enables us to deflect attention from the reality of our individual situations.  We can look at a show like Hoarders and pat ourselves on the back that while we may be messy and somewhat of a pack-rat, at least we’re not that bad.

I think my friend’s reply to my email hides her very real and present fear that it could be her.  It may well be her, if things continue the way they’re going.  No one wants to confront that kind of fear, so they shove it into denial; they become sarcastic, and sometimes they get blatantly angry.

Sarcasm can be an extremely good smokescreen for anger.  Generally, when one replies in a sarcastic manner, what they really want to say (because they don’t like what you’re saying) is “will you shut up already???” It’s easier and more socially acceptable for us to display anger than it is to display fear, just as it’s easier for us to cast about attempting to find a scapegoat for our situations rather than own any portion of accountability that is ours.

I’m here to tell you, right smack in your face, that I’m very much afraid.  I don’t allow that fear to govern me, but I am not ashamed to admit it.  I do my best to see the positive in things – sometimes so much so that I’m a bit like Pollyanna.  I am an idealist at heart, but I’ve learned not to allow my heart to rule my actions.   When I say I’m heartbroken by some of what I’ve read lately, it’s true.  I’m also realistic about it.  I can’t get mired in that.  I can’t allow someone else’s situation to govern the way I think and feel about my own situation.

I made a statement to a family member recently to the effect that if I’d listened to the parental unit when I was a teen, if I had done things their way instead of thinking I knew better, I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in right now.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  The reality of my situation is that what has happened to me may well have happened whether I’d listened to Mom and Dad or not, all those years ago.  The reality of my situation is this:

In the past two years I have been downsized, found a job, moved out of state for that job, downsized before I could start my new job, found myself unemployed for 3 months during which time I was uninsured and had to have emergency surgery, found a job, got transferred to where I live now because the office in the state where I had the job, announced, a week after hiring me, that it was closing, offered me a transfer,  so I moved 450 miles, and one year later I’m downsized again.   Is any of this my fault?  No.  Does it matter whose fault it is?  No.

What matters is that I am left holding the bag, and I’m actually grateful that I have a bag to hold.  That means I’m alive.  Being alive means I have options.  Sure, some of them aren’t all that palatable, but I’ve choked down worse meals.  So have you.  I’ve also learned that you can make a mighty tasty meal from what’s in your kitchen already if you learn how to cook.

I have been on unemployment since February of 2011.  I just got a 48 week extension, and if I still don’t have work at the end of that period, I may qualify for something…or I may not.  I’m afraid.  That fear has driven me to downsize my life.  I’m moving almost 100 miles to an area in-state, that has a lower cost of living so I can lower my living expenses.  Once I make this move, my budget will have to squeeze out $700 less than it is squeezing now.  That money will provide me breathing room, and if I’m scrupulously frugal, I will be able to save that money.  That’s $8,400 over 12 months.  That’s a lot of money.

During the next few months, I’m using my fear as a motivator.  I am going to position myself so that I can make a living doing what I do best and that is through creating and teaching.  I have already investigated the probability of becoming an after-school educator in the arts for a local co-op gallery in my new town that provides after-school programs and summer art camps.  I will become a part of the co-op so that I can have space to work and sell my creations.  I’m a silversmith and I make jewelry.  I teach jewelry-making, and I also teach just about any other kind of imaginative art process.  So, at 50, I’m reinventing myself.

I’m also not greedy, and I know that an item is only worth what the next person will pay for it.  That’s essential for everyone to keep in mind.  Don’t buy into the current media fad for antiques and junktiques; for turning shabby to shabby chic and thinking you will be able to then sell it for top dollar.  Those people aren’t making their money from their products – they’re making their money from their cable and network TV shows.  I know a lot of people all over this country, and I know of only ONE couple who makes their living buying storage lockers.

If you’re crafty, and can learn to market yourself well online, there may be a niche for you, especially if you have an unusual product that is priced to sell and it is something you can produce quickly.  Of course, if what The Web Bot Project says has any validity to it, we may not have access to electronic anything from December 2012 to May 2013.   Ahem.  It also predicted a huge earthquake for Vancouver in 2008 that never happened. If the Mayans have anything to do with it, we’re all going to die on December 21, 2012.  Or maybe they just didn’t feel the need to extend their calendar any farther.  If the Hopi Tribe is right, we’re going to be hit by a blue star…at some point.  That’s the only REALITY to any of the 2012 mumbo jumbo out there.  Yup, we will be hit by something at some point, but scientists predict that it will be thousands of years before that happens and I think I’ll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then.

This isn’t about Armageddon or the end of the world.  It is, however, about the end of the world as we have known it for the past few decades. 

I would advise everyone to take time to take stock of what skills they have outside of their job, and to improve upon those skills as quickly as they can.  If you are a woodworker who can’t find the time to “indulge” your craft, find the time.  If you are an at-home carpenter, get your skill set up there so you can sell your skills if need be.  If you crochet, knit, sew, or do any handcraft, the time might be coming when you may need to fall back on those skills to put food on your table.

I’m not being alarmist.  It’s happening all over the place.  Don’t ever think your company can’t do without you because they can and will do without you if the executive committee sees their bonus pool shrinking.  You will be gone and your job will be farmed out to three other people who are already doing the work of two or three people.

Don’t function under the assumption that you will be downsized with some sort of package, either.  Unless you are downsized through attrition, or are at an executive level, the odds are very good you will get two to six weeks pay and an offer to keep your health insurance through COBRA.

Do you know how much COBRA will cost you?  If you have a family it could be more than your monthly mortgage.  I am not being alarmist or pessimistic.  I’m being real.  Corporate America demands loyalty from its employees but the return on that loyalty is…add it up…a big, fat, glaring ZERO.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.

I hear people talk all the time about how “good” their company has been to them, allowing them to take paid time because a family member was sick, or paying them for sick days after they used up all they had to tend to sick children, etc.  Do not ever believe that the company with which you are currently employed will sacrifice or has sacrificed anything for you.

Function under the realistic assumption that the corporate executives at your company will get what their avarice tells them is their due and you will pay the price.  They do not care about you.  That is the reality.

Find a way to earn money outside of what you currently do as a job.  Multi-level marketing is not the answer, so please don’t fall for any of those schemes.  Think about your passion.  What do you truly LOVE?  Find that passion and turn it into something that will put food on your table if you find yourself without a job.

Stop using credit for anything.  Buy your clothes at thrift stores.  Recycle, repurpose, reinvent.  Be real about what is going on.  Find your long-dormant survival skills and hone them. Use the coupons in the newspaper and match them to sales at grocery stores. Get rid of any elitism you may have about material goods because it will be your undoing.

If you own a gas-guzzler, sell it.  Trade it on something more economical.  Eat before you go to the grocery store and don’t go unless you have a list.  Don’t vary from that list.  Plan your menus and shop accordingly. Learn some DIY skills.  Learn to barter.

If you don’t start thinking about doing these things, and then DOING them, you may find yourself in a nosedive you can’t pull out of.

It’s all well and good to sing “Tomorrow” (there’s an earworm for you!) and talk yourself into believing that the sun really WILL come up tomorrow.  Usually the sun does come up, but sometimes tomorrow is a very long way off.  I believe America’s tomorrow will come, but it won’t be what we normally think of as tomorrow. Tomorrow, for us, is going to be quite a bit longer than 24 hours.

Nope, not being pessimistic.  Not being optimistic. Simply being real.