Layoffs Gone Wrong: The General and the Smoking Gun

If this doesn’t motivate you to pursue financial independence, I’m not sure what will. And it might–just might–get you there lickety-split.

OK. Get this: while job markets continued to strengthen in 2016, US employers still shit-canned an annual total of 526,915 employees.

Be warned: with those kinds of numbers, employers are bound to make the occasional mistake. So stay alert.

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We had this guy—let’s call him The General, because he’d once been a high-ranking officer in the Army Corps of Engineers—who was in his sixties but still hadn’t reached the zenith of his career.

The General was a brilliant engineer, but even more brilliant a corporate mediator.

By that I mean he had so many industry connections and was so well-respected for his experience and diplomacy and ability to negotiate, that he could stave off heinous litigation simply by bringing together our executive team and our opposition’s, perhaps at a ritzy hotel for the weekend, where he’d help both sides talk through and settle their differences for the good of all concerned.

Seven months before I split the place we got bought out and had a round of layoffs, and for whatever reason, some crotch-mangling fool decided to let The General go.

But shortly before Human Resources went public with the names of those to be sent home, one of the HR people accidentally (or, crikey, I just realized: was it on purpose? How fiendish would THAT have been?)…anyway, after a private meeting this nameless HR person left some CONFIDENTIAL, in big bold letters across top of each page, paperwork on our boardroom table.

Whatever the subject of the next meeting in the boardroom was, The General was supposed to be there. He arrived early, found these CONFIDENTIAL papers on the table, and as people will, sat leafing through them as the other meeting participants filtered in.

It was the hit list, and his name was on it, but he’d found the gun and now he could flip the script.

The papers were 1) the names of those to be laid off, followed by 2) supporting spreadsheets ranking employees first by department, then by age, then by salary. In several departments, including his, the layoffs were skewed towards older employees regardless of how much they were earning. Not across the board, maybe, but the fact that age even appeared in the spreadsheets at all…well…it was prima facie evidence.

So after The General convinced the CEO and CLC to settle with him out of court, I took him out for drinks over oysters and such at his favorite seafood place. We all liked The General, but I felt he’d been especially good to me…teaching me things and introducing me to people…and I wanted to say thanks in a personal way.

He’d pretty much buggered the corporate treasury, I’d heard, and he’d already been offered several jobs despite not even bothering to circulate his resume.

“I gotta hand it to you,” I told him. “I heard you made out pretty well.” I’d caught rumor of mid-six figures, which made me a little envious.

When I said this he was sawing at a piece of asparagus. He looked up, put down his knife, and pointed his fork at me. “Listen. I want to make sure you understand this.

“I did OK, but there was more to it. People have GOT to speak up when they’re discriminated against. GOT to. Because if you don’t say anything, it’s not just you that gets hurt…there’s a whole group consequence to it.”

“They had other people as old as me on that list. If none of us had said anything, the whole group would’ve been sending the message that we were scared and they could treat us however they wanted, right? That we were OK being discriminated against because we were afraid of what’d get done to us if we said anything. And that would’ve kept the cycle going. Would’ve made things worse on the next go-around.

“So you CAN’T be passive, you absolutely can’t. And that goes for anybody. The only reason we’ve got anti-discrimination laws at all is because protestors sat down at lunch counters and got their noses broken by rednecks. That kind of thing.”

“You sound like MLK,” I told him. Later on I’d be paying the check with my corporate card, and I had the sudden urge to order us each a bottle of the most expensive rum the place had to offer. My own little protest: whack the bastards back at the office in the pocketbook. Why the hell not…I’d be leaving soon anyway.

The General chuckled. “Well, I appreciate the compliment, but when do you think I grew up? I WISH I could take credit for that idea, but it’s not mine. And the fact you’re not familiar with it means it’s not nearly widespread enough, not by a long shot. So remember what I just told you, OK? Really. It might save your ass someday, or the ass of somebody you care about. Remember that.”

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit http://EarlyRetirementDude.com or email EarlyRetirementDude@gmail.com.

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