My younger sister is about a half century old. She has worked for this chiropractor college, named Sherman College, in my hometown of Spartanburg for about half of her life. In that time she has run their bookstore, worked in their financial office and performed whatever duties they have asked. One very hot summer days when a big college event brought back alumni she worked that event. Students liked her. Other employees liked her.
And then she got a new immediate boss who didn't like her. Everything was wrong. You couldn't please her. And then recently in a minor office dispute the boss fired her.
I don't know if you have ever lost a job, but let me tell you it is devastating. She appealed to the president of the college, a man who knew her record of service or should have and he promised a review and then just stuck with the plan. My sister was ordered from the building on the day of the dismissal like a common criminal, not even allowed to pack up her personal belongings.
My sister has worked all her life, as a high school student onward. She is married and her husband has medical issues and they need the insurance. But the insurance is gone, replaced with an option to have a very expensive alternative that is more than $600 a month. She has like many Americans high credit card bills, a car payment and other issues.
All of us have tried to do what we can, but as I found out in my own experience with ice-heart managers, you just have to go through it and work it out. It is not exaggerating to say that it is like losing a loved one. You invest so much in your job, you spend days remembering all the extra things you did for the company, you ask yourself how people with mothers and families can treat someone so cruel? You search for answers where there are no answers because there are some real bums in the world and unfortunately some of those bums stick around long enough to become managers. And like death in the family, you cry, you get mad, you get discouraged and ultimately you deal with it and move on.
In my case, I had spent 22 years working for a newspaper in Greenville, S.C., 30 miles from my hometown. In part of my mopping and recovering from leaving I thought about the 10 days a year in sick leave I was given but didn't use. I worked sick, sometimes with the flu and over the 22 years I probably gave back a half year of time. Others used sick leave like vacations. I thought abut doing what benefited the company. I convinced myself I was a team player. Then one day I was called into the management office, thinking I might be offered the city editor's job since I had basically been doing the job. Instead I was told another editor was getting the job and I was being demoted. I ask if they could recommend me at another paper for a city editor's position and what I stared at across the desk were several blocks of ice. No heart, no consideration. Robots.
And this, I believe, is my sister's experience at this Sherman College. But unlike her, I just quit and said I would find some place where I was welcome. The funny thing is that the editor they moved the world for left them and went to the competition, taking several of the better reporters with them. So I guess in my case there was some small bit of justice. For every Delta Air Lines employee, for everyone across Clayton and Henry counties who gets "downsized" or has a moron for a boss who fires them for no reason, and for my sister, I say that I am optimistic.
I believe the experience teaches you that you can survive, that you will not be defeated by a few morons who think they are God and can with a flick of a pen destroy your life. There are other jobs out there. There are people who appreciate you and celebrate the fact that you are alive.
In my case, I found intelligent people who didn't ask the circumstances of my leaving my last job except for a simple explanation.
I am not sure you ever totally get over the fact that people can act so unfeeling and cruel. You understand how people could put human beings in ovens during the day and then go home to a wife and kids and laugh and cry and play with the kids as if nothing could happen. You finally understand "ethnic cleansing" and the Trail of Tears and other horrors in which people treat human beings so badly.
In the case of my sister, I am convinced she will find another job and will put her life right. She is strong. She is smart. She has a record of productivity and a good work ethic. Just as I did, she will find someone who appreciates her intelligence and hard work.
So as autumn begins I am optimistic when some would be pessimistic. I look at the recent hurricane damage, hold my breath as another killer one aims at the coast and I am optimistic we will come out of this stronger. I see children across America helping children. I think we are understanding that we have a long way to go to address things like major hurricanes but we are aware that we need to. Autumn is my favorite time of year because it is warm in the daytime and cool at night. We are told this is going to be a spectacular leave changing season. And just as I had to do, some Delta employees have to do, and my sister is having to do, we will adapt and change with the season.
Autumn is the time of football games and tailgating and apple cider at the mountains, and nighttime fires to take the chill off.
And so as I enjoy the season, all in my family will be working to accommodate the personal challenge presented to us and I can tell you now we will meet the challenge and win.
Bob Paslay is editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.