I recently watched the movie The Company Men. The movie, which came out last year, follows the lives of three men who have lost their jobs due to downsizing at a large transportation company, GTX. It stars Ben Affleck, who was a rising star in the company, Chris Cooper, who had been with the company for years and has risen to middle management, and Tommy Lee Jones, who was an executive manager and was the first person hired by the company. The movie got good but not great ratings and did not do particularly well at the box office. However, I found it compelling. The character’s dilemmas, both internal and external, felt very real.
The movie remains timely. Unemployment is still high, the job market remains tight, and talk of downsizing is often in the news. I recently got together with some friends of mine. Each of us have a family, is somewhere in our 40s, and gainfully employed. It should be a time where we are talking of promotions, bonuses, and exciting opportunities. None of that came up. Fear seemed to be the topic – no one uttered the word, yet it stayed on the edge of conversation. We talked of being happy to still have our jobs, the issues our employers are going through, and how we hoped that we would continue to stay employed. One friend added, “I just don’t know what jobs will be around when our kids grow up.” Though the hour was late and we each had had a couple of drinks, the lack of response was because no one had a good answer.
My wife and I are both in traditionally secure work fields. However, the concerns and repercussions have creeped into the education and non-profit worlds. They have already completed three rounds of layoffs (they don’t call it that anymore – but everyone knows what I mean) at my wife’s workplace. She is concerned another one is coming, and she is not the only one. Education, which seems to be under a microscope these days and is often on the lips of politicians and the pens of journalists, does not provide a comfortable atmosphere. My colleagues and I feel under fire as we are perpetually bombarded with memos, instructions, and changes. Combined with the fact that students actions and abilities are accepted with out question leaves many teachers feeling under the gun. However, we grin and bear it as the knowledge of being potentially excessed and shuffled about looms.
What’s next? Where are the jobs coming from? What will be for the next generation, our children? I don’t know. There has to be something better. We are ready and willing to work.