Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To My Loyal Readers

A local nonprofit organization hired me earlier this year to serve as its development director. I was interviewed by two women – the executive director and associate director – and received a call later that day asking if I could come back in the next day to discuss salary and start date. After working for myself for a long time – and juggling the need to secure clients with the need to do work for said clients – it was a genuine relief to land a “regular” job. Although I’m experienced and capable, it’s been challenging in recent years to compete with younger, better-educated, willing-to-work-for-less individuals for the finite number of jobs in my area. So Anita and I were very, very happy.

Two days after I started I was summoned into an emergency staff meeting and told along with my new colleagues that our executive director – one of the two who had hired me – was no longer employed by the agency for reasons that I won’t reiterate here but weren’t good.

The next four months were more than a little challenging. The associate director who co-hired me became interim director but didn’t have the time or desire to make major decisions or commitments; she was too busy trying to keep the doors open and keep the place from imploding. The disengaged, dysfunctional board of directors didn’t help much. It wasn’t easy to raise money for an organization that was drifting rather than plowing full speed ahead. I did what I thought I should do, juggling multiple balls in the air and doing what I could to position us for greater efficiency, if not success, once the new leader was identified. I even helped with the search process and helped lure the candidate who ultimately snagged the job.

I was fired shortly after she started. No two weeks notice. No severance. Not even a “thanks anyway” as I recall. Done. Five or six of us were let go unexpectedly that day and I’m told a few others were set adrift in the days that followed.

I knew the organization was financially insolvent. I knew I wasn’t bringing in the kind of cash we needed – yet – and the board probably directed my new boss to make hard decisions and take drastic measures to avoid shuttering the doors. So I tried not to take things personally and immediately fired up the Employment Search Machine again – it had barely cooled – and assured Anita that this was just a small setback. I promised her that we’d be able to keep the new van we had just purchased and that I’d land on my feet somewhere real soon.

Weeks later, I’m still looking – when I’m not taking calls from banks and creditors demanding payment and threatening to make things worse.

I’m lucky Anita’s so loyal. She’s put up with a lot from me over the years, I must admit, and a lesser person would have thrown in the towel long ago. Not my partner. She’s committed to the relationship and she’s probably the most loyal, good-hearted person I’ve met in 52 years on Planet Earth. Even she has her breaking point, though, and she deserves way more than the world, and I, have given her thus far.

I wish my last employer knew about loyalty. I was compensated every two weeks while I was there, of course, but I wish my commitment would have worked in my favor when it came time to decide who would get the axe. (They filled a new position a few weeks later so there must have been a few dollars stashed away somewhere.)

I’ve tried to be loyal to friends, family and employers in the past. My record isn’t spotless but I can sleep at night. (Actually I can’t right now, but you know what I mean.) I stayed at one job for eight years and another for over 10. I enjoy the unwavering loyalty on which we can count from our parents if we’re lucky. And nothing’s more loyal than my two Maltese pups. So I still know what loyalty is.

It seems, however, like loyalty as a concept is going the way of customer service and sense of community these days – that is, it’s disappearing. Too many politicians are betraying their constituents. Too many cops are persecuting and not protecting. Too many men think it’s okay to punch their partner’s lights out when the elevator doors close. In today’s “I don’t like what you posted so I’m unfriending you” culture, too many brands and relationships are discarded like used Kleenex and too many employers are less reliable, more demanding and laser-focused on just the bottom line.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s just cynicism. And I hope there’s someone out there who values loyalty enough to consider my skills and abilities and put me on their payroll. I bet many of the 9.6 million other jobless Americans out there would love to prove their loyalty to an employer too.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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