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A close call! (almost got terminated!)
Old 03-08-2013, 12:00 AM   #1
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A close call! (almost got terminated!)

Its been a rough couple of weeks at work. I mean real rough! Not the normal, "I dont want to be here anymore" type of stuff.

I work for a fortune 500 company who employs contractors to do some day-labor type of work. The contractors do not do easy work, in fact its pretty dangerous, hard manual labor. My job is to basically to identify their work, ensure that they get the work done satisfactorily, and pay their invoices. Pretty easy standard when things go the way their supposed to go.

A few weeks ago, one of the contract workers got injurred pretty badly. After the initial investigation, it was determined that the crew didnt follow process, and had disregarded safety measures currently put in place. After days and weeks of conference calls, investigative reports, meetings, and other hassles, the contract company decided to terminate the foreman for failure to comply with safety rules. I have to keep a business mindset in all of this, but in all honesty I feel pretty badly for the guy. He had a stressful job, didnt make much money, and is taking the fall for this accident to one of his workers.

As the person who is an easy target sort of oversees all of this I have had to answer some super-intelligent questions from higher-up people, some of whom I dont even know, and have no idea who they are, and I have ensured all of them many times that I have done my due dillegence in enforcing safety and compliance standards as required.

After a few levels up conference calls with VP's and the like, they could have easily crucified me if they wanted to. Thankfully I have a few "sponsors" or "mentors" who have been with the company for many years, and who have told me that I am a valued asset, and I really think they'd fight to keep me (if they had to)...(to a point, probably, who knows?).

That being said, now that its more or less over and done with, I honestly am not sure where I am going with this post, or what its value might be to the community. I will say that I am thankful for my job, but I also have an exit plan in place. Unfortunately its many years down the road.

I got to thinking about it and it comes down to this...early retirement is a nice goal. In fact its plan A. But why do we really save money? In case Sh*t happens! Thats why.

People at work think Im f-ing stupid for being frugal and not buying trucks and houses and wives. Truth is my job is not as secure as I would like to think it is. People can be let go in an instant. (I could have been gone, and last week I even came to terms with the worst-case scenerio). Worse yet, I have no plan B.

Im probably not posting any info that is news to anybody, but it was a good wake-up call to me at least.

Here is my take going forward:
If you are in a job that you HATE, take pride in the fact that you made it through another day, and nothing really all that bad happenned. You got paid, and you have the option to go back tomorrow if you still want some money. Sure it'd be nice to FIRE right now. But we'll get there. Go with the flow, make friends, contacts, network, dont step on any toes, and for god-sakes C.Y.A.!
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Old 03-08-2013, 05:44 AM   #2
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Sure is a good reason to save. Thanks for sharing a difficult work experience. Hope it works out.
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Old 03-08-2013, 06:59 AM   #3
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They used to tell me you're just a number in the military. Also, true in the corporate world. Expect the unexpected and you'll be better off.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:09 AM   #4
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I see that so much where I'm working now. It is contract work, and it is entirely possible that the next time I show up for work to be told "Um, you don't work here anymore".

Most, like me, are retired and have zero to little debt or are part timers with full time jobs elsewhere and can afford to walk away. But not all, and I continue to be surprised at the behavior of those still living paycheck-to-paycheck with no contingency plans at all.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:29 AM   #5
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........
That being said, now that its more or less over and done with, I honestly am not sure where I am going with this post, or what its value might be to the community...........
I suspect that like someone who was almost hit by a bus, you need to share to get it off your chest.

When I was w*rking, I had a similar issue where something bad happened on my watch (money lost, no one was hurt) and there was plenty of blame to go around in hindsight, but someone had to take the fall. Fortunately for me, I was working in a huge company and I basically packed up and started a new life in another division. It does leave one ultra cautious, though.

All I can say is that sometimes it is just a matter of luck or lack there of. Keep your head down and keep charging.

And develop mentors who will protect you and crucify someone else if anything happens again.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:31 AM   #6
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Mill, I’m sorry you had to go through that and it’s nice to know there are still people around that have a conscience.

I can totally relate to what you went through and have had several conversations with friend re they’re mindset of, live for today since you may not be around tomorrow and my save for a rainy day lifestyle. I lived the life of one of those so called contractors and yes, it was dangerous since the company I subcontracted from had so many cost cutting measures that it made my job unsafe, yet they expected me to be safe only because it was required by law. Also combine that with very long, hard working construction manual labor and your boss making so many mistakes that you had to do their job also. Eventually upper management found out and fired about one project manager (my boss) every year since they were so underpaid that they were very under qualified. I didn’t hate what I was doing; I just couldn’t deal with the high stress, hard work, long hours, which was as a direct result of the incompetent bosses that constantly lied to save their jobs. Yes there were times where they were going to let me go since the fingers always pointed at the contractor (me) and I had to have a paper trail and pictures a mile long to write the dozens of letter which eventually always got the project manager’s fired.

To make a long story short, I retired about 5 years earlier than expected since I couldn’t take it anymore. I finished my last contract and severed ties with that company and it didn’t end well. Needless to say, I had enough saved up to retire early and although I sometimes have regrets, I know if I stayed longer, it would have come at a cost. Thank God, I saved for a rainy day!

Don’t worry that maybe people think you’re frugal, heck I admitted it to everyone and had the last laugh when I left.

Good luck.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:33 AM   #7
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That is why being FI is so important that if you have a difficult situation at work you can worry less; and in the extreme tell them to FU.

I didn't realize one could buy a wife. I thought the acquisition was free and that it was just the disposition that was hugely costly.

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...People at work think Im f-ing stupid for being frugal and not buying trucks and houses and wives. ...
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:41 AM   #8
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I got to thinking about it and it comes down to this...early retirement is a nice goal. In fact its plan A. But why do we really save money? In case Sh*t happens! Thats why.
+1 Absolutely true.

My plan A was your plan B - to save enough to have a very large emergency fund in case I lost my job. The idea of early retirement didn't come along until much later and was a spin-off from plan A.

DW was a stay-at-home for our two kids when I left the military and took a job in an industry that was rapidly consolidating - there were ~50 companies in the US producing the product (think buggy whips) when I started and only three survivors when I retired 27 years later. There were so many industry mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies during this time - plus a product with declining demand - that the odds were stacked against my survival. I realized this early on and started saving for the day I was escorted to the parking lot.

Nearing the 20 year point and DD#2's college graduation, I realized if I could hang on to my job and keep up our savings a few more years I could retire early. I managed to dance between the raindrops survive all the turmoil and stay employed until what started as an emergency fund grew to be a nice nest egg, allowing me to retire at age 58.
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:46 AM   #9
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Here is my take going forward:
If you are in a job that you HATE, take pride in the fact that you made it through another day, and nothing really all that bad happenned. You got paid, and you have the option to go back tomorrow if you still want some money. Sure it'd be nice to FIRE right now. But we'll get there. Go with the flow, make friends, contacts, network, dont step on any toes, and for god-sakes C.Y.A.!
Really sorry to hear about your trials at work. We've all had those 'white knuckle' career moments. Hope it ends well, sounds like it has/will.

I agree with your take away, with the underlying - it's never too soon to pursue FI (independent of RE). Don't wait until you find yourself in a job "you HATE." I know when I reached FI while still working, I experienced a palpable sense of relief knowing that if I 'got fired tomorrow,' DW and I would be fine. It actually made work more tolerable, until it didn't a few years later...
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Old 03-08-2013, 07:57 AM   #10
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To me the huge, overarching gotcha of the work world is exactly what you describe - the sense of vulnerability that comes with knowing that you can be let go on any given day, without so much as a by your leave.

And the enormous benefit of approaching FIRE, far beyond the choice it offers of not having to work, is that it puts an arrow in the heart of that vulnerability. You are no longer a potential target of misinformed higher-ups, mismanagement, or outright maliciousness.

It's unfortunate that FIRE or near-FIRE for most of us comes only towards the end of our careers. But anything we can do to accelerate it will hasten the day we're no longer touchable.

Glad it worked out for you in this instance. Good luck in putting that plan B together!
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:13 AM   #11
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Glad you made it through the mess. The part that impresses me is that you understand the game, have the method for escape under control.

Way ahead of the pack. I am sure it give comfort when things get sticky.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:45 AM   #12
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As an older person, I'm especially aware that if I lose this job, it could take me a long time to find another, probably not as good as this one, job. Years ago I was let go for no particular reason that I could tell, but a new management team didn't seem to like that I asked questions in their company meeting. Later I lost another job when someone I didn't like (but I thought I was always respectful anyway) got promoted to my boss, and apparently she didn't like me either. My years of best possible quarterly performance ratings turned to lowest possible the first time she wrote one, and I was out a week later.

I'm glad I was saving for FI. Taught me to save some of that in an accessible Emergency Fund, so I could pay expenses for an unexpected job search at any time. Also cured me of the idea I had that a company where I did great work and saved them from disaster several times would necessarily have any loyalty to me. I'm respectful and grateful to have my job, but realize the commitment the company has to me only extends as far as business dictates. I need to provide for myself in case of adverse developments, as the company certainly will not. If business slacks, or management changes, nothing is guaranteed except the business and management self interest will be taken care of first. It's only my own savings to FI that I can count on to take care of me.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:06 AM   #13
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I got to thinking about it and it comes down to this...early retirement is a nice goal. In fact its plan A. But why do we really save money? In case Sh*t happens! Thats why.
Absolutely! Once my DH and I had a nice nest egg saved, I wasn't afraid to voice my objections if warranted (not that I'm terribly confrontational ). I'm no longer working, but I tell DH the same thing. He is a very good worker and valued, but sometimes execs/managers are looking for a scapegoat. It's nice to be prepared.
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:22 AM   #14
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I am glad to hear you kept your job. I have come to realize that working towards maximum financial security is more important to me than any car, house or other status item. Our days lately are spent half trying to make money and half trying to reduce expenses to live well on as little money as possible.
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Old 03-10-2013, 07:47 AM   #15
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When I was much younger, I went through my first reorganization. Back then I was living in the present and had no vision of a future like retiring. When you are young, you are like that. Anyways...after surviving the reorganization, I woke up.

Like REWahoo said: "My plan A was your plan B - to save enough to have a very large emergency fund in case I lost my job. The idea of early retirement didn't come along until much later and was a spin-off from plan A". That was me, too.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:32 AM   #16
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Also cured me of the idea I had that a company where I did great work and saved them from disaster several times would necessarily have any loyalty to me...nothing is guaranteed except the business and management self interest will be taken care of first. It's only my own savings to FI that I can count on to take care of me.
Great thread that struck many cords with me. Mill, glad you're here because there is a lot of good advice in this group. I worked for a company that was once a "family company", "job for life" company. That started to change in the mid-80's (when I started working there, but it wasn't my fault!) but there are still those of us around who remember the good 'ol days. Those days are long gone - for full-time, part-time, contractors, executives - everyone.

I was very pro-active with my career, always had an exit strategy, and kept my options open. My motto was "Glad to stay, prepared to go." Early on we built up and maintained 1 year's living expenses in laddered CDs so that if I had to go, we could survive. I always had more than one mentor and a solid career network (both inside and outside the company). I kept myself up to date technolgy-wise so I could transfer my skills into another company or even another industry. And then, as everyone has said, we saved every way we could.

Not that we're home-free by any means, but we've made it this far and you can too. Best of luck.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:51 AM   #17
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Mill, I feel for you. Reading your story it seems as if, like so many incidents, there were multiple events cascading towards this injury. It's unfortunate that the blame game led to the foreman losing his job and you coming close to doing so. I hope the company will learn from the investigation and address the root causes. Hopefully the injured employee will make a full recovery and be compensated appropriately. So many times, corners are cut because of the bottom line. It is very scary to know the risks but not to have any ability to control them. That can lead to stress, hypertension, and self destructive habits. It is a very good reason to plan for a way out.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:07 PM   #18
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Brought back flashbacks on my first job after college. I learnt that no one is irreplaceable - no matter how big or how good they are.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:11 PM   #19
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Grateful for the years when working was a team effort.
Imagine... two-way loyalty!
So much more creativity and productivity without the fear factor.
We called our corporation "Mother" in the finest sense of the word.
"Salary" meant 60-70 hrs/wk... willingly.

Ended in the mid 80's, when the squeeze began.
20 year plans became 5 year plans and bean counters took over, with all costs calculated @net present value. Management changes on a daily basis, outsourcing jobs, departments, and divisions became rolling, ongoing events.

Watching from ER to see fellow employees go from confident, wise businessmen, to fearful nervous CYA zombies... infecting the entire corporation.

The saddest part was watching personal lives crumble, as the jobs disappeared in the peak earning years, and the 50 to 60 year olds, with kids still in school, forced to take 30 to 50% pay decreases because their jobs were surplus to an industry turned upside down by technology. It was a time of transition.

Perhaps the shock was worse by comparison, because of the stability of working world during my own experience. My own children age 48 to 54 never experienced this, and can't fathom the idea of loyalty being a two way street.

It was the best of times...
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:23 PM   #20
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