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Movie Up in the Air: hits below the waist

By   /   January 20, 2010  /   Comments

A person spends more time with his company sometimes than with his family. He also becomes emotionally linked to a company sometimes, as he does to a wife that he loves a great deal. That was certainly the case for me.

I just finished seeing the movie with George Clooney, “Up in the Air” after not really knowing what this movie was about. I may not have gone had I researched it ahead of time. Holy cow! As things unfolded, it brought back a lot of very bad memories to me.

I, too, traveled the USA for many years. Most weeks, I was gone from Monday morning to Friday night with some two-week and three-week trips sprinkled in. We didn’t have outsiders come in and do the firing for our company like in this movie. Each of us division managers had to do it ourselves. It was the mid-1980s and a time when a lot of firings and management changes were going on.

Like in this movie, people were being fired without really good reasons. Many of the people who were responsible in a large part for the success of our company were let go simply because they were getting older (in their 50s) or because they didn’t have a master’s degree. Some didn’t have a college degree, but they provided the results necessary to take the company from one that was failing into a darling of the industry.

The CEO who was in charge when I was hired suddenly passed away and his son, 35 years old and a graduate of the University of Indiana with a master’s degree, took over. I happened to be one of those who hadn’t completed my master’s degree, but was one of their division managers leading the company in sales year after year. When I wasn’t first, I was second and even had upper management sending out letters to all sales personnel asking if they were going to let me with everything again each year.

Being in this position and having almost every person I hired become a member of management sooner or later, I felt pretty darn good about my future success with the company. My plan was to become the next vice president of sales and then, who knows! I definitely had planned to retire with this company and have a retirement income and benefits that would allow my wife and me to live very comfortably the rest of our lives. Not!

I was asked to look over my employees and to get rid of those who didn’t meet the credentials set by the new CEO. In this movie, remember when the employees being fired asked what they had done wrong and why they were being fired? They really hadn’t done anything wrong. I had to travel around the country like Clooney and do the firing like he did in the area for which I was responsible.

They, of course, were not told the reasons. They were just told that the company was not pleased with their performances. I actually was quite surprised the company wasn’t hit with a bunch of lawsuits from these people. Maybe they were just too shocked to do that. If you were one of them and if you had been with the company through the years that the company grew to one capturing 40 percent to 75 percent of the market and you had contributed much to that growth, you would have been a little shocked, yourself, wouldn’t you?

So, I did as I was told, and a good job of it, just like my sales performance over the years. Once it was completed, guess what happened. They turned on me. After all I had done (like some said in the movie), it made no difference to them. I didn’t yet have my master’s degree, like those I had fired.

They offered me a position that they knew I wouldn’t take and bingo, I was cleaning out my office in southeast Michigan. Only a person who had been in a similar position could understand why, to this day, almost 25 years later, I still hurt a great deal over this. A person spends more time with his company sometimes than with his family. He also becomes emotionally linked to a company sometimes, as he does to a wife that he loves a great deal. That was certainly the case for me.

I am writing this article because I knew there are a lot of other people out there who have had similar experiences. It has helped me to write this and I know that it helped others to know that they aren’t alone. I turned 73 years old the other day and I still have these very strong feelings about the company to which I was “married.”

Anyone interested in contacting me about your experience parting ways with a company can e-mail me at the Albany Journal (ajournal@thealbanyjournal.com) and I will, with your permission, include it in a future article.

AndersonnewWritten by Ted Anderson. Insurance agent Ted W. Anderson worked in sales for half a century, has lived in Albany since 1993. He is president of Dover Lane Neighborhood Watch. Send email to him at aj@thealbanyjournal.com.

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  • Published: 2045 days ago on January 20, 2010
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  • Last Modified: January 20, 2010 @ 8:54 pm
  • Filed Under: Ted Anderson

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