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Monday, March 2, 2009

In No Particular Order

The recession is everywhere in a “flavor of the month” manner that could force you down a rabbit hole to hide if you are not careful. Aside from reporting the “facts, M’am, and nothing but the facts,” there are newspaper and on-line features each day on all aspects of the economic crisis. Some are helpful, others exploitive, and then there are those that are purely opportunistic. To keep myself sane, I stick to the provocative items.

Among the more fascinating articles I’ve read recently, is a Boston Globe Magazine piece from yesterday called The Executioner’s Song by Kris Frieswick. According to Kris, it’s not only we affected employees that you need to worry about. Management associates who are required to communicate layoffs suffer also. “For some, living with the knowledge that they’ve disrupted and financially imperiled so many lives can result in long-lasting emotional damage. They may never find a way to move on, even after they’ve left their job or have been laid off themselves.” Ok, I’ll bite. Having lived through it on the other side, I agree that there is a packet of “survivor guilt” left behind when you have to lay someone off. And, I surely witnessed the distress of my former boss and the tears of my then current boss, who had the dubious honor of imparting the bad news to me together last month. Seven months earlier though, I had to give the same news to three of my own staff members. At that time, we were instructed by an outplacement firm that emotion was an indulgence in which we, the “executioners” were not eligible to partake. No matter how bad you feel sitting behind the desk after delivering the news, you remain sitting there. Your remorse comes with a paycheck, medical insurance, life insurance and continued contribution to your 401K. Sorry guys. I miss you all. But I hope you don’t mind if I keep my worry focused solidly on myself.

Then there is Ellen Goodman’s Op Ed piece from the Friday, February 20th Boston Globe. In her column titled Wall Street Bust a Hidden Blessing for Grads? she wonders if this recession may be an opportunity for Ivy Leaguers who, prior to this economic downturn were compelled by a “juggernaut” of recruiters, the promise of bright lights and big city, competition, prestige—[and…] money” to flock to Wall Street. She speculates whether, with the lack of employment opportunities in the financial sector, it may be “possible for students to follow their dreams and have ideals they pursue." Hmmm, I’m unemployed now. I know that for the younger set, she’s speaking more along the lines of altruism, but maybe I can pursue my dreams now too? The little sandwich shop that I have fantasized about running for the past 10 years is for sale. The reality for most people though is that whether they are selfless or not, dreams still require a paycheck, or at least enough collateral for a loan. Oops, silly me. Apparently banks aren’t too forthcoming with those these days.

Of course, in his February 24 speech, President Obama focused on the economy too. “You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis,” he said in his first minutes, “because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread….”

I kid you not that early in the morning of the day I lost my job, I walked to the company cafeteria for a cup of coffee feeling dispirited about the work atmosphere, as I had for the previous several weeks. Contemplating the two years before my daughter goes to college and adding for inflation, I mentally calculated whether I could possibly retire from my role in seven more years. Who knew that in seven HOURS, I’d be jobless? In the words of our President: “The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.” That’s the macro economic picture right from the President’s mouth. It’s just that I never expected to be a statistic, living his speech in such a micro economic kind of way.

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