Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bound Together By More Than A Paycheck

I used to work in the local division of a national homebuilder here in Sarasota. Just like everybody else. It's been a over a year since that division was closed at the end of 2008.

Amazingly, most of us have kept in touch one way or another--by phone, email, happy hours, etc. Several of us still living locally got together again last night at the Ale House and reminisced about what many of us consider was the best job we've ever had. In truth, it wasn't the job-- it was, instead, the best bunch of people we've ever worked with that made the job what it was.

Throughout our tenure with the company, we all struggled through our fair share of tribulations, the failing economy, downsizings, managerial changes, key resignations and more. Maybe our bond was forged by adversity.

But we also shared the good times of growth, of learning to do our jobs better, of becoming more professional, of getting to know each other. And to keep each other upbeat and smiling through the tough times. Laughter remains one of the hallmarks of this group.

Last night, we shared news about new jobs and about our families. We remembered those who weren't there last night, how much we missed them and how much we learned from them.

It's not like we were together forever in order to form this bond. The company's local history only dates back to 1999 and most of us were there for less than five years. Since the closure of the division, we have moved on to other jobs, to retirement, some have even relocated to other cities and states, but they are still part of us.

We are an eclectic bunch; some younger, some older, some male, some female, some office workers, some sales, some construction guys. Different backgrounds, different politics, different ethnicities, different lifestyles, different pay scales. So, what's the glue that keeps this gumbo of people together?

I heard it a couple times last night expressed as, "I love you guys," or "I really miss you guys." And, no, they were sober when they said it. We respect each other, we look out for each other, we genuinely care about each other and we enjoy each other's company. It wasn't a reunion as much as it was just a celebration of being together again, if even for a few short hours.

Some of us are doing fabulously in new jobs, some are doing OK and some are struggling. Even the ones who are doing the best confessed that it's not the same without the camaraderie of their friends.

Our joy was tempered by the news that two of our number had lost their jobs that same afternoon and we wished that they had been there last night to accept our comfort and our encouragement in person.

I remember having to sit through one of those interminable HR Power-Point 'webinars' while still in the employ of the company. The disconnected voice of authority coming through the speakerphone audibly chortled at the concept that employees consider themselves 'family.' The dumbest thing he's ever heard.

"A company's employees are bound together only by a paycheck. When the paycheck goes away, so does the 'family.' And he had a Power-Point slide that said so.

He obviously had never met us. And, if he knows what's good for him, he won't.

See you guys next time. I love you, too.

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