You Can Quote Me On That

In an economic downturn...

Part Two
Follow up to blog on 01/22/11

During the seventies and most of the eighties I held a job that I often found mindless, stifling and sometimes hated but I needed it and there were no jobs in the area that were worth taking that paid any better. More than anyone I understand the struggle of holding an underpaid and not-very-challenging job with managers that didn't qualify for the word "leader," since they were barely able to supervise, much less manage and lead. Their best and only weapon was negative reinforcement and as a low level night supervisor I had to put up with a lot and constantly figure out how to appeal to their best interests to get them to do the right thing for the evening and night shift workers and customers. It was a constant struggle battling old mindsets of "we've always done it this way" from a previous era when things had changed. They were from a pick-up-the-handset-phone clerical environment loaded with paper records and we were in one of the first computerized, centralized technical support centers that required a different set of rules. Most of which had to be made up as we went along because everything was new and piloting without instrumentation.

It was another period of disruptive change that I welcomed but most of the people that were directing me did not. Since my alternatives weren't great I stuck with it and the key to more than surviving it, thriving in it, was viewing it as a chance to learn how to change others perceptions and behaviors. I reinvented myself as change agent before it became a recognized term, keeping my individuality intact, taking a chance at being a pioneer. There were other opportunities I saw in it also. It was an irregular income due to hours being varied and often cut back but had very good benefits, including full tuition to any school of my choice, which allowed me time to do other things a regular eight to five, 40 hour a week job wouldn't have permitted. I used the time outside of work to further my education, do a lot of creative things I was interested in and learn innovative financing of my life. 

There also was always the threat of layoffs. When I wrote in my previous blog entry that it perplexed me why people who have jobs now complain so much and expect a pay raise, I knew exactly what I was saying. I get what having a job in an economic downturn that isn't exactly desirable is like. My perspective now comes from staring at statistics of millions of Americans being unemployed for up to three years, eating their life savings away, uncertain of the future and really not prepared for the New Economy. Therefore when I hear former co-workers complain about having to do more work, with higher health premiums and no raises but unlikely to be laid off, I understand their frustration but their anger is misplaced and somewhat disingenuous, riddled with "they owe me" entitlement.

I learned a very long time ago "don't love the company because it won't love you back." However, being angry about the situation only turns on you though, since the company doesn't care, they only want you to produce. What the individual does have is the power to figure out how to personally deal and cope with the conundrum in a way that doesn't eat them up inside, since that always ends up displaying itself on negative presentation of themselves to the outside world, making matters worse. It is the law of bad returns.

Fortunately I have a job now that I like, although it's real economic benefit is relatively inexpensive, good health care benefits, since the pay is low and the hours vary from 20 hours a week up to 40-60, depending on the time of year and the schedule of non-traditional hours changes weekly. It's a juggling act of money but I use the time off to my best advantage. I learned from my lessons of decades ago to save money when I work a lot of hours, since I have little free time to spend it anyway, saving it for the lean months when I do have more spare time. Everyone I work with now took this job for the same reasons, they had lost their previous job and we're all glad to have some income and benefits.

It's also far better than the job I had right before the crash, that I disliked almost every minute of, at a renown company that now has the distinction of being disreputable and is laying off again by the thousands. I took my current job because it was the best possible solution to the dilemma of few employment opportunities. Count me as underemployed and making the best of it. I recognize I'm fortunate to have two other small incomes, not enough to live on, this is a supplement but provides for me, besides benefits, other intangible things. It gives me the opportunity to learn something new, get back into a field I once was in, further my education some more and time to figure out where to go next. That might be my own business, some other method to get additional income on the side and most importantly, allowing me to continue stretching my creative side and expressing myself.

In many ways I recognize that I am fortunate but I also believe you create your own destiny and luck by taking what you've learned in the past and keeping your eyes wide open for new probabilities. Good fortune very often isn't mere luck but in the outlook you take on life and how you proceed with each challenge as they arise.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post a lot, but I especially like the last sentence because it hits on outlook, which is more or less a personal choice and therefore something that gives a person in any situation a little power, at least.

    I think being generally positive will, besides separating you from most of the people you run into at work, also give some dynamic to your situation. People who are mad all the time never realize this, but it's those who get mad rarely who make things different at work. I can speak from experience that a pretty-consistent positive attitude makes people take notice when you "get loud", for lack of a better term. That's an important distinction to make, but I don't think it's anywhere near all the benefit that's gained by just not being negative every chance you get. Work is rotten for EVERYBODY sometimes. I think making it bearable and if possible fun (and blocking out as much group negativity as possible) is the key. It's easier than it sounds to just be positive, and it makes those moments when your positivity wanes really stand out. It's like people who swear all the time versus people who almost never do: who are you going to take seriously when they say "goddamnit!"?

    Great post, JR!