Jim Woodward, Susan Gibson, Charles Philpott  

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Copyright 2010




“It has always been a mystery to me
 how men feel themselves honored
 by the humiliation of their fellow beings!”

                         - Mohandas K. Gandhi


Some large companies may no longer want experienced employees as managers because their length of service
may have created higher than average wages, and more costly benefit and retirement packages and if a company
is trying to posture itself to be sold, one way to appear attractive to another buyer is to have low payroll

costs.  Companies are also concerned about greater risk of major and/or pro-longed illnesses with older employees.
  However, these same companies hire their retirees as “provisional or temporary employees” because they provide
a reliable and experienced workforce at drastically lower payroll costs and without the expense of company-
sponsored benefits.
How we got into this position in Corporate America is not so complex and it may be based on the history of one
of America’s largest corporations. Upon the founder’s death his grandson took control of the company and hired
a man considered to be a financial genius.  Later on this man and his buddies earned the title Captain Jack’s
Ivy-League Whiz-Bang Kids when he and his colleagues became Presidential Cabinet Members.  This person brought
in his own team of self-absorbed accountants / financial analysts / consultants and in a relatively short
period of time changed the philosophy and the ethical conduct of the company, its culture, and the general
direction of most large companies, i.e., producing “X” quantities must result in “Y” outcomes; acquire, be
absorbed or disappear.  They made a few mistakes in the selection process for equipment for which they had
absolutely no first hand knowledge.  Their arrogant attitude led to the deaths of many young American soldiers
when it came to the M-16 Rifle and its ammunition.  One of their theories was that shooting “X” number of
M-16 ammunition must result in “Y” numbers of enemy casualties.  That may work in a sterile controlled
environment but on the battlefield it won’t.  He later wrote a book to apologize for his mistakes and
probably another chunk of money because of his fatal mistakes – fatal for others.  This could have been
prevented if they had listened more carefully but then sometimes too much education, pride, power and
arrogance gets in the way of right decisions.

The big question that was often heard when my employer was about to be consolidated, merged, acquired, etc.,
was this, “Is the new CEO an accountant/bean-counter?”  If the answer was yes, then we knew that the only
concern about the company was “return on investment – return on invested capitol - stockholder’s earnings”

and a vast array of financial spreadsheets.”  The people that made the company generate profits were often
left in the dust cloud created by a whirlwind of planners’ spreadsheets, financial analyses, multiple scenarios
of financial what-ifs and multi-faceted corporate reorganizations.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you are immune or possess some special skill, higher education or
hold a title that places you in a different category than the other employees.  We are all susceptible to
systems employed by companies to increase the appearance of productivity and revenues, to make costs seem
much less than reality (but 11 billion dollars – WorldCom accounting – only the United Nations can top this one),
 or to cut costs (payroll and benefits is usually the biggest cost for an employer), which equates to your
existence as an employee!

Doing a good job is not enough!  Being a nice person is not enough (being nice means you may never be able
to merge into speeding traffic)! Being smart is not enough! Being well educated is not enough! To advance or
even remain employed requires job knowledge, experience, skill and awareness of your surroundings and the
players within it.  In other words, knowing who can and will help you and your career; who can but won ’t
help your career; or worse, what person may deliberately attempt to sabotage you and your goals in order to
further their own objectives.


The old school of The Golden Rule and other now apparently out-of-date concepts once taught to attain

business success have evolved into a new and different type of ball game! The key for success is acquiring
the knowledge necessary to survive in the midst of your equally ambitious co-workers and to be aware of the

games that are being played.
Some of us have probably sat at the same desk in the same building for the last ten years, but have had
three or more different employers; five or more different supervisors/managers that were usually a generation
younger than ourselves, if we were lucky!  And then maybe some of us got real lucky and were down-sized and
forced to find a better job, or we created a better job or perhaps we opened our own business.  Sometimes when
a door is about to close or closes another door opens.  Make sure you can see both when they happen and then

make that leap of faith.

“Not only are we all in the same boat,
 but we are all seasick!”
                             -   G.K. Chesterton 1874-1936

Most of us know what it is like to work in a department where you are twice or almost three times the average
age of your coworkers.  Your younger co-workers have no idea how silly and childish they may seem to you and
vice versa.  The more experienced the employee is the more emotional maturity they possess.  Maturity usually
manifests itself in regular attendance, dependability, productivity, responsibility, helpfulness, job-knowledge,
consistent and solid ethical behavior.


If you have been laid off, down-sized, involuntarily early-retired, displaced, reorganized, right-sized,
redesigned, restructured, retitled, reduced in force (RIFd), job-redesign; job eliminated, just plain fired,
or your job description has been changed along with a reduction in your pay grade it only means that the Board
of Directors, CEO or COO were not effective in their responsibilities.  Usually their ineffectiveness costs you
and many others their jobs.  It may also mean that your CEO has a brother-in-law in the outplacement business.
 Or even better, the outplacement agency has your company’s Christmas party picture negatives.
“Don’t take it personally.”  That is what I was told to tell people when I had the unfortunate task of being the
last one in the corporation to speak to them while I walked them towards the front door with their desk toys in
a cardboard box.


I don’t want to downplay the importance of doing a good job, but sometimes knowing how to play office politics
is more important.  This is antithetical to what Peter Drucker was saying about “doing the right thing versus
doing things right.”  
Moreover, it may be more financially beneficial for you to learn and practice the politics of the corporate
culture than to do a better job.  That is a sad indictment for the workplace environment of today but in light
of recent revelations from Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom, Tyco and others of their ilk, but perhaps the “shoe
fits” very well.  Would like to wear these shoes home?

If you become aware that a target may have been nailed to your backside, or that your work is suddenly under

closer than usual scrutiny, go with your hunch.  A co-worker/friend/new manager probably nailed a target to your
back and you may have little time for loyalty to anything or anyone except yourself.  Besides, loyalties went
out during the 70s when the “me-first” generation entered the workforce.  Now may be the time to cut a deal for
a severance package with the corporation if you feel it may be possible.  If you know when and how to”hookup
and stand in the door” (airborne), you will survive the drop and the walk through the valley of long corporate

Learn to develop a keen sense of timing; it will never let you down.   Once an authority figure begins to
question your presence on their payroll, it is time to hookup, stand in their door and see if there is some
way to negotiate a departure (I leave now and you make me an offer of severance).  And if it looks to them that

if you may be leaving, they may actually appreciate “what you are doing for them!”   Remember this, after you

have had some real life experience and have gained some pretty good insight about the corporation for which
you work - go with your hunch!  
Having survived several (not all) of the aforementioned and being the recipient of some “fragging” incidents,
several fellow veterans of the corporate valleys of long shadows and I decided to share some of our experiences.  
You may call them “the good, the bad, and the ugly” with anyone that may be learning about corporate gamesmanship,
or that may experience it in the future.  And if that don’t fit your pistol, you may call us the good, the bad,
and the ugly.
I had a coffee mug that had a very prophetic message printed on the side (where else), “The time to look out,

is when things look up!”  If I could attribute this to someone, I would.


When your hair has grayed, you’ve put on a few extra pounds, and your immediate supervisor is old enough to be
your youngest child, your career may be wrapping up sooner than you desire.  It’s time to take the bull by the
horns and work out a deal (negotiate for some severance pay and some extended benefits if possible) with the
people you have made successful. Take what you can and move on.  It will be their loss, not yours.  Plus, they
may want to hire you back because of your job knowledge and the fact that you won ’t require any training time.  
Their loss could become your gain.  If you have become “irreplaceable” and have done an outstanding job in your
position you may now be “un-promotable.”  So much for loyalty.  As my late grandmother would say, “Here’s to me,
and here’s to you, and here’s to a world of laughter.  I’ll be true as long as you, but not a moment after!”  
An honest and more prophetic statement may never have been spoken.
Several years ago I was asked, during an interview, what I thought about the lack of loyalty in today ’s workforce.
I said, “As long as employees perceived (perception is stronger than truth) that the company was being loyal to
them; they would be loyal to the company.”  That interviewer was looking for a more politically correct answer
or the answer that fit his own definition of loyalty.  Open mouth and change feet one more time.  As it turns
out this rejection was in my favor as this company and two of its competitors were acquired by another company
and most of the administrative and executive staff were laid off within three years, even though the seven people
that I interviewed with gave glowing reports about the growth strategy for the company.  They did not realize HOW
the company was going to grow as the owner had “forgotten” to include them in planning his growth strategy.
Loyalty – a short and cold definition:  I work for you for a week and you pay me for that week of work.  
We are now even – the slate has been cleared.  One hit, one run, and no one left on base.  The game is now over.  
Employees and employers often confuse obligation with loyalty - loyalty can be subjective and an abstraction.  
This may be how it is with some employers or this may be how it will be in the future.  You work for me and I

pay you for your work and that is all there is to the equation – we are even.  This would be the no “frills”
approach to employment – kind ‘a like flying on Southwest Airlines.  Did you get your bag of pretzels?  Want
another one or will you first need some milk?
I had one of those “organizer/timesaver notebooks” paid for by the company ($400 for a loose-leaf notebook/calendar
and attendance at a one day seminar to learn how to use it – a bargain at twice the price!) that was supposed
to help you organize your time. Each page had a catchy saying written at the top and a lot of lines for keeping
all those important appointments, meetings, lunches, and what does my wife want me to pick up at the store on the
way home? One of those sayings at the top of the page was attributed to the late Dag Hammarskj öld:
“Never, for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or convictions.”
If you do what Dag suggests you will probably land outside the main office doors on your face and headed
towards your car with your personal effects inside the cardboard “departure” box.  “Wisdom” phrases such as

this may be antithetical to the real direction of your boss or the culture of your department or your employer.  
Plus it smacks of individualism and may be seen only as a challenge to their limited authority.  It sounds good,
but only on paper or after you have retired (or have been “early” retired).  Plus Dag’s phrase may be understood
to be contrary to “team-work” and downright revolutionary and un-American.  But wasn’t Dag Norwegian?  
Teamwork can work as long as all involved are willing to contribute to the overall goals without the ever-present
ego creeping into the scene.  It’s difficult to separate your own individual growth plans and career goals when
you are trying to be part of a team.  We all want credit and recognition for our efforts but as a team member
we also need to give up some of our self in order to satisfy the team goals.  An experienced and mature manager
can operate effectively within this paradox.  If your supervisor has difficulty working within this paradoxical
envelope and you have better things in mind for yourself and your future you should seek another venue for

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