Fair?

I had never been without a job since I was 15 years old. I’m 56 now. 41 years steadily employed and secure. I spent 10 years on one job, 14 on another and 11 on my last. I think that’s a pretty good record.

My ex-employer decided that a re-structuring was needed because of competition. I could see that it was necessary – there were lots of redundant positions and the division was topheavy in executives. We got news of the impending restructure in the Fall of 2008 and were told that there would be some downsizing, but that it would be done in a way that would be totally ‘fair’ to everyone. The layoffs were scheduled to take place by early February.

So now we all got to enjoy the anxiety of waiting to see if our jobs were safe. The Regional VP was named and announced. He then had everyone at manager level and above submit a short employment biography to his/her direct supervisor. The VP then chose his direct reports, had a con call with all management personnel to announce the appointments. That new executive group then reviewed the bios and chose their direct reports. The VP had another con call to announce those decisions. As these decisions were being made, managers, like myself, were told to have meetings with our employees to inform them of these appointments, and to tell everyone that this was a fair process and that they shouldn’t worry. Inevitably, my employees (who generally liked me) would ask about me. I would tell them that, although I wasn’t 100% sure of my own position, since my department had been the top producer and innovator in most areas in our division that I felt fairly secure.

The day before ‘THE DAY’ the VP scheduled one more con-call for managers and above. We were to gather in large conference rooms for the call. He told us what to expect for the next day. He then said that, if we were in the conference rooms hearing his call, that our jobs were safe. I was safe! I felt such a surge of relief. After the call, as we were filing out of the room, by boss came up to me and asked me to come with him. You know that cliche about having your heart sink? It really does happen. I went into a room with him where our VP of Human Resources was waiting and I was told I was let go. My VP said he was sorry that I was in the meeting and heard the ‘you’re safe’ part of the call. His mistake, he said. They were letting me go a day early, he said, so that I wouldn’t have to deal the next day’s events. Thanks so much for sparing me that ordeal!

I found out later that my group was combined with another doing the same function and that the manager of that group would manage both. That manager had only been in that position for a year, was much younger than me, was a black woman, and made at least $30K less than I did. Diversity in action!

The whole downsizing action was certainly fair to those who kept their jobs. In fact, I realized afterwards, that all the VP’s and Directors touting the whole ‘this is a fair process’ shtick had already been told that their jobs were safe. So it was more than fair to them, wasn’t it?

So now here I am, 4 months into unemployment. A 56 year old white male having to start over. Competing against younger and better educated people. Competing against diversity quotas. Competing, along with the other 9% of the workforce that’s unemployed, for the few jobs in those few companies that aren’t downsizing. Let me ask you – does this sound fair to you?

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Fair?, 3.4 out of 5 based on 11 ratings

This post was submitted by Fairly treated.


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