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Pink Slip: A Personal Experience of Corporate Termination

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Last Friday my father lost his job. What did he do to deserve this abrupt termination? Was he sneaking around with a coworker? Did he steal money from the company? Surely some sort of dastardly misconduct must have been at the root of his untimely demise at the hands of his employer. But no; unfortunately, his being let go was merely a reward for 29 years of loyal service.

My father graduated from college in May of 1980. In June he was hired by a large oilfield service. During his tenure with this international corporation he traveled all over the world. Many of my childhood memories include him being gone for weeks at a time to various exotic locales. Business trips to Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Colombia were the norm.

Despite having two children in elementary school, my father uttered no protest and dutifully went wherever his job required. His business card, after all, said Global Advisor. As I grew older I discovered that oftentimes vague job titles signify dummy jobs that serve as cover for a professional hit man, but after some intrepid detective work I found that he was, in fact, simply a global advisor. What specifically that is, I do not know.

My father spent 29 years and four months working for this company. It was the only job I ever knew him to have. After all that time, a Human Resources representative he had never met read a prepared message from a script informing him that “due to economic downturns his services were no longer needed.”

In more recent years, my father had not had to travel as much as he did in the beginning stages of his career. He still traveled on a semi-regular basis, but the overall frequency of his expeditions diminished significantly because of the vast amount of traveling the early part of his career had mandated. The week before his employment ceased he actually went on a business trip.

No demanding overseas trek was asked of him. It was a routine domestic journey a few states away, and he was only gone for three days. I cannot say for certain whether his superiors had already made the decision to lay him off when he was told to go on this trip. Having said that, evidence seems to suggest that perhaps the powers that be already knew who was next on the chopping block.

My father was accompanied on this business trip with a coworker he had never met before. While he was not explicitly instructed to do so, the inferred purpose for this stranger being there seemed to be to learn how to perform my father’s job. So a seemingly normal business trip may have actually served the purpose of getting one last job out of a knowledgeable veteran while at the same time letting a greener, less expensive hand get his feet wet while receiving invaluable hands-on instruction.

The whole family sacrificed for my dad’s loyalty. My mom spent many days alone raising two kids in elementary school, knowing that her husband was half a world away. The sacrifices she made during the early part of their marriage shows the level of commitment she had to my father. I remember not seeing my dad on the sidelines for some soccer games growing up because he was away on business. While I missed him, I understood that he was working and providing for our family, so I was okay with it. Looking back now, I lament the fact that this company flippantly sends its employees around the globe, uses them like expendable resources, and then arbitrarily decides to eliminate them at their convenience. My anger has morphed into sorrow.

I’ve said all this to try to show that company loyalty means nothing in this day and age. If it did, my father would still be employed. He was a faithful company man for many years, and then he was sacked just to meet the bottom line. He had put in so much time at his job that it was too expensive to keep him. Instead, a fresh college graduate who can be paid a lot less will be hired in his place, and the company will save some money. Does this Machiavellian style of business make economic sense? I suppose so. But does that make it right? Absolutely not.

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About Daniel Terracina

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    Well done article Daniel and I am sorry for what your family had had to endure at the hands of insensitive corporate buttheads.

    The only solace I can give is that your Dad is not alone. I know personally many that this has happened to, and have read about many more.

    Very sad.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, Daniel. Welcome to corporate America where everyone is expandable once they exhaust their usefulness.

    I should hope your father has a pension having worked for that company that number of years, not to mention some kind of severance pay.

    Look at it that way, though, a thirty-year hitch with any company is a lifetime.

    I wish you guys well.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    It wasn’t a thirty hitch, Roger, it was a 29 year hitch. That extra year might have meant a lot more in severance pay or retirement bennies to the author’s father.

    I feel for you Daniel, and I especially feel for your father, who has been betrayed by some schmuck with a calculator for a heart, and a pea for a brain.

    Why should your father do any favors for his former boss? Why shouldn’t he want to screw the bastard over? Why should he find a say to damage the company that let him go? Laying your father off was not Machiavellian. Nicolo Machiavelli was a good man, a patriot. Laying your fahter off was just plain evil.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Get your point – rhyme and reason there, we all know why, of course.

  • http://1000thingsaboutjapan.blogspot.com/ Shari

    This is the America we build by buying cheap products and valuing the price tag over the quality or the manufacturer. Companies do this sort of petty cost-cutting both because consumers demand lower prices and because stockholders (which there are many more of now that 401Ks are used as retirement accounts) are always crying for more, more, more.

    The world that screwed over your father is the one we made. The question is whether or not people who are victims of that are going to look past their own personal difficulties and try and prevent this from happening to others. My guess is that it’ll be every man for himself.

  • http://jaimiedawn.blogspot.com Jaimie Krycho

    My dad is self-employed, so I’ve only experienced this through friends; it’s always painful to hear about. A friend of mine, a software engineer for decades, just got layed off without warning, too. His wife lost her teaching job the same month. It’s absolutely brutal.

  • http://when-did-i-become-my-mom.com/ When did I become my Mom

    I was similarly laid off earlier this year, and by similarly I mean in the callous way not in terms of years of service.

    I had suffered through with this startup companies and through different leadership changes, each time recommitting and refocusing myself. There are people who see their human resources in terms of dollars and not in terms of experience.

    Under better leadership, your father and those like him would have been encouraged to seek out ways to promote profitability for the company. Unfortunately the leadership of the company failed to capitalize on his experience and to believe that a cheaper resource with a small handover like that could come close to bringing the company the value it clearly needs in this time. Very foolhardy, but unfortunately not uncommon. Their loss.

    Here’s wishing the best to your father, and to the rest of your family.

  • OldTimer

    Management fosters the delusion that workers become more valuable assets as they gain experience, but the opposite is true: experienced workers are increasing liabilities. The only defense that older workers have is the ties and personal obligations they have formed, and any specific assets such as company ownership.

    I’ve participated in Reduction In Force (RIF) committees many times and primary consideration is always to reduce burn rate (payroll plus other direct employee costs) and long term liabilities.

    Only a very few select people are considered Key People, and YOU are probably not on that short list.

    Managers uniformly believe that they are People Experts and they will choose a new staff that is better than the staff their predecessors left them.