Your “Job Security” is an Oxymoron

Are you a fan of oxymorons? They have little (can’t say “nothing”) to do with Congress but they are an often amusing turn of phrase. Way back when, a comedian named George Carlin became (in)famous for sharing them. He taught a generation this fascinating part of the English language. Enjoy his brief video below.

If you’ve tried to get a mortgage recently, you know that every bank in the world wants to see your current job status. As long as you can show that you’re gainfully employed today, you stand a pretty good chance of qualifying for a loan within your means. Nevermind that Home Depot, or Verizon, or UnitedHealthcare, or any of the other 4,000 or so public companies can fire your ass “RIF” you tomorrow.

RIF, or “reduction in force,” is one of those “nice” Corporate-speak terms that sounds so much better than “our executives don’t have the foggiest notion of what they’re doing, so to save their budget they’re cutting heads.” You may never see it coming. But it IS coming. Or at least it can. You don’t know. Even if you’re the VP of HR, you may not see it coming.

Why is this? Some of it is due to legislation that started under dear old Ronald Reagan’s administration to protect “poor business” from being forced to treat employees humanely. Now most corporations are able to fire at will without any responsibilities to their employee or their community. It’s not to say that your smaller employer can’t do the same thing. But there seems to be a difference when that person sees you at the coffee machine each and every day, knows your kids from their kid’s classroom, and understands that you’re doing a bangup job and adding value to their business. No, big business/public business, is beholden first (and last, it seems) to their stockholders. Employees, communities, customers be damned.

Then there was this little thing that started becoming more common about the same time. I call it the “Bain-ization” of Corporate America in “honor” of the management consulting firm famous for mergers of businesses that line investors’ pockets and destroy communities. The era of the investment banker had begun.

One industry, professional publishing, had more than 80 publishing houses when I began my career there. In just 20 years, that number had dwindled to fewer than 10. Some had gone belly-up but most had been acquired and absorbed by others. Each time an acquisition was undertaken, people lost their jobs. Some deserved to, to be sure, but most were merely victims of diverging corporate goals. You see, we all thought the goal was to do GREAT work, grow the business, and improve the profit line. But all that does is make your business a candidate for divestiture. Because the REAL goal is to add value to the current stockholder. It’s even worth ponying up early retirements, exit packages for executives, and some minimal severance for the worker-bees in exchange for the immediate benefits (and tax incentives!) of Mergers and Acquisitions.

WHY does any of this matter to you? If you are employed in a big business and believe your job is secure, then you need a reality check before it’s too late.

13880165_1102317326515922_6248272804006801996_nYou need a Plan B (or C, or D). What IF your employer decides tomorrow that your services are “no longer needed?” Do you think your mortgage company is going to care one whit if you can’t pay your monthly bill? That’s why financial experts are saying to have a MINIMUM of 6 months’ expenses socked away, and these days it’s more like 18 to 24 months’ worth. Talk to anyone over the age of 45 and you’ll understand.

If you have ever considered starting your own business, it’s certainly not too soon to begin exploring if this is an option for you. Not everyone is cut out or should run their own business. But women are starting businesses at 4 times the rate of our male counterparts, and there are myriad reasons. Women of color are starting even faster. With all these new business starts, the statistics of failure are remarkably high. To make sure YOU aren’t a statistic, begin planning NOW for your next move, whether it is one of choice or not.

Thinking you might want to start a business? Already have a business idea? Or just don’t feel like you “fit” in Corporate America? Join us at Corporate Refugees. We have a tribe of women supporting women, and lots of practical advice in our free Facebook group, “Corporate Fugees Tribe.” Click the name and join us!

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