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front page article by David Lybrand
[Published in Key West Citizen's Solares Hill on April 11, 2010.]
From I’ve-Been-Moved to I’ve-Been-Moved-out
For years I’ve had a rehearsed quip ready for when a chat takes a suitable twist. “I can list all of my life’s full-time jobs with 9 letters: DAD, SAM (as in Uncle Sam) and IBM.” I’d explain how I had worked full time when not in school at my dad’s bike shop until I went into the Army at 18. Afterward, IBM hired me a year before I graduated from college, where I worked ever since.
I fully expected to continue using that quip into retirement and for the rest of my life. But this last week it all became obsolete. The company once nicknamed “I’ve Been Moved” due to frequent job-related transfers for its loyal employees, has branded me with their new slogan: “I’ve Been Moved-out”. So before long I’ll have to add more letters to “DAD SAM IBM” to reflect whatever else I end up doing until I actually can retire.
Okay, I understand how my situation is far from dire. Many many people on this island that we call home have much more serious issues with maintaining their livelihood. I’m far from the point where I’d expect any pity for my situation, especially from so many who are barely hanging on here. I’m only passing this along as an illustration of how far our society has moved away from the proverbial “American Dream”. The dream where those who work hard making money for a solid employer, and who don’t screw up, can expect to keep a decent job as long as they’re able to produce. This ain’t our parents’ IBM. Nor is it our parent’s job market in general.
Key West has a lot of retirees who did well in their prior fields, some even at IBM. Some of them may have taken a position that job insecurity wasn’t something they had to deal with and that workers today just need to find the right job. But unless they (or you?) are keeping a finger on the pulse of today’s employment practices, it may not be clear just how little job security there is ANYWHERE anymore. All of the old rules are gone.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a stand-out career with good performance appraisals, have plenty of work to do, and work many more hours than your fixed salary calls for. When a bean counter decides it would look better to the stockholders if some fraction of the company were reduced by X headcount, you’re fair game. Or if some number cruncher who doesn’t know squat about the actual work involved decides that money just HAS to be saved by moving a complex project to a sweatshop in Brazil, bye bye. Who cares if the project move expense and international coordination costs and productivity impacts will net out to a higher actual overall cost? Such numbers can be glossed over to support the bogus savings claims — after all who will question how much savings there must be when utilizing people who will work for so little? (“Hey, this plan just might earn me a Company award!”)
And who cares about the impact on the folks let go to accomplish these questionable savings? The stockholders will love it! Isn’t that what America is all about? Corporations are people now, too. We can’t be concerned with these tiny human components of the machine when a “resource action” could help boost the price of the stock!
We’ve even overcome fear of “age discrimination” lawsuits for canning a person close to retirement age to save money. By segmenting work into individual components that can be off-shored, everyone on a sub-team can be laid off while legally ignoring the details of the individuals involved. Too many old farts drawing higher salaries working on a project? Just move the project to Indonesia or Mexico. So what if they don’t have the advanced skills of those old farts, they’ll eventually muddle through it if they throw enough young whippersnappers at it. But whatever you do, be sure there’s no record that this line of reasoning was involved….
At one time IBM had a slogan “Respect for the Individual”. That gets a good laugh among IBMers these days, where it’s all about the stock price. “Individuals be damned” is more like it. And this is appears to be true for virtually any of the big companies that used to claim to be a “great place to work”.
Please note: what may appear to be bitterness in this tirade is actually just a heavy case of disappointment. I naively thought that the awards I’d received from CEOs of IBM, my impressive project resume, my willingness to work 40% more hours than I was being paid for, year after year, the quality of my work and my 30 years of loyalty (despite other opportunities) all just HAD to count for something. But now I know, as many Key Westers and millions of other Americans have known for some time now, that no job is secure. One must always keep an eye out for a landing strip.
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