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Walking the Workforce Tightrope

Old Yeller:

By Robert P. Poindexter

Anyone who knows me personally will tell you I’m a little old fashioned. I like watching old movies, mainly to see all the old cars that were new when the movie was made — but also, just to hear the pure innocence of the dialogue, the concerns they had back then compared to what we are faced with now, the way people in those old reels related to one another. The language seemed sweeter and more respectful, and the tone was a bit more genteel.

Oh, I’m not so naive that I believe the world was actually that way. I know that what we see in those old films are just what Hollywood wanted to portray, and those portrayals had little to do with real life. But these are movies from my childhood, and at the time, I believed what I was seeing. Watching them now somehow transforms my thinking, and for just a little while, I lose myself and become a bright-eyed, naive little boy again.

Some were funny, some were serious and some were sad. But, they were all entertaining. And that’s what really mattered. I dare anyone not to laugh when Doris Day slapped Rock Hudson while he was sleeping, only to cradle him in her arms with the greatest of care and concern while she asked him what was wrong. And even the most hard-hearted among us would have a hard time holding back the tears when we realized Old Yeller wasn’t going to be coming home again. And of course, John Wayne, whether playing a grizzled old cowboy, a fighter pilot or the president of an oil company made the men and boys want to walk a little taller and straighter, and the women swoon with his rugged good looks and manly stature.

When these movies were being made, wars were raging all over the world as they are now. Political strife was just as much a part of the day-to-day life of folks living then, as well. Children were starving, husbands and wives were fighting and bad people were doing bad things. Hollywood had no more power to change any of that then than they do now. And they are still churning out movies that help us forget about things. Even if only for a little while.

But some things have changed quite dramatically since those days.

Our global economy has made ‘Made in America’ a hard sticker to find on many of our everyday goods. It is the rare employee who stays with one company for the entirety of their working career. Loyalty between worker and company is all but non-existent in this fast-paced world we’ve created for ourselves. The attitude of leaner, more efficient production has caused most corporations to see their employees as nothing more than cogs in a wheel, to be replaced at a moment’s notice should they begin to squeak or a newer, shinier model comes along. Because of this, most employees have had to adopt an attitude of self-preservation, ready to jump off the assembly line at the first indication of upheaval.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. This new globalization has made it possible for an engineer in England to transfer those skills to an American company almost as easily as they could change jobs in their own backyard.

Today’s workforce is more aware then ever that the company that seems so much like a family, will, without hesitation find a reason to release an employee after 19 years, 364 days, 59 minutes and 59 seconds in order to get out of paying retirement benefits. But that same company will do everything in their power to destroy that employee if they dare leave their post before they are relieved.

If your are one of the millions, and if you are a part of the workforce, you are walking this tightrope. Please don’t wait until the ax falls to get your career documents in order. If you don’t think you are at risk, based on today’s job climate, you are being just as naive as that eight-year-old little boy who truly believed everyone lived happily ever after.

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