Today I was at the gym puffing away on the elliptical and the gal on the next machine just starts talking to me about the calorie count of the items being displayed on The Food Network. Side note and totally unrelated to HR, I don't know if it helps or hurts to watch people making decadent food while one works out, but it does provide some cooking ideas for later, or better yet, a reminder for why one might be at the gym in the first place.
Anyhow, from the food comment my new gym friend dove into her work history and claimed that she was fired from her job two days before her 20th anniversary. Employers and HR people - please take note that some people, especially of a certain age (over 55) and those who have spent their lives working for one employer for decades, PAY ATTENTION to this stuff - and so should you. I don't know why she was fired, but my guess is that it had a lot to do with the economy and maybe she was an easy target. She's now suing and has lots of anger. Hence, she was going 50mph on her machine.
What's my point?
Well, it's tough out there for the job-less. Obama just took this subject to the Rose Garden yesterday with three unemployed workers at his side. People have been out of work A LONG TIME. I think that many long term workers fell prey to lay offs and terminations because they were expensive because they were at the top of their pay ranges. Perhaps the employers used the economy to get rid of employees that that they didn't like as well or low performers. Perhaps who knows? Now these people are out there trying to find work and running into brick walls.
This gal even said that she would be fine with being fired, but WHY didn't they do it 10 years ago when she was 10 years younger and hadn't spent her entire career doing something that now she says she doesn't want to do anymore. She is now at 55 looking for a new career path. She has to start over.
I don't want to make excuses for her in regards to why she didn't update her skills or get more education in other things. I think that most likely she, like others of the Boomer generation, thought that perhaps their employer would be honest, take care of her, and respect the time that she put in just like her parent's generation. Is that too much to ask?
Whereas I come at it from a Gen X perspective. I tend to work for places about five years before moving on. But even within those five-year stints, I've had three to four different careers. My skills change all the time. When they said on the news last night that the full retirement age was increasing for Social Security, I wasn't surprised. I've been working under the assumption that by the time I get to retire, there won't be any money at all.
Now back to my gym friend though for a second. The part that really bugs me about her story is the fact that if it's true, that her employer let her go two days before her 20 year anniversary, in my opinion, those who did the firing are schmucks. To me that's a completely disrespectful and crappy thing to do. I don't want people to get the idea that I believe in entitlement, but I do believe in employer - employee mutual respect. If there was a problem before that point, the employer should have addressed it. If not and she was just a target for the layoff, it's simply a mean thing to do. By the time people reach that amount of tenure with a company, it becomes, in some cases, the longest relationship that they have ever had. When that tie is severed so abruptly, it's not only like a really bad breakup, but one's day to day purpose has been taken away and also one's income. Beyond that, it just sucks.
So I want to simply leave you with this thought. Employer / Employee relations go both ways. If you want respect, you have to be respectful. If you want loyal employees, be loyal to them. If you want employees who feel good about working for you and telling others that same thing, be good to your employees.
Bottom-line: Don't be schmucks.