Don't Think You Are Bulletproof

Those who are close to me know that I am an optimist, a “glass is half full” kind of person who likes to find the silver lining in the storm cloud.

I have intentionally developed that approach since the time early in life when I realized I was not going to be a rocket scientist, that I would not be a millionaire unless I won the lottery, that my good looks were the type best suited for radio and that I’d need to rely on other attributes to get me successfully through life.

A positive attitude is a wonderful balance to other character flaws; I always thought it made me kind of bulletproof. I guess I was wrong.

My positive attitude was tested to the extreme in June, when to my surprise and with no warning I and one of my senior managers were unceremoniously laid off, the entire Leisure Services Division was disbanded, and the “assets” were distributed to other departments.

For the first time in my 40-year adult working life, I found myself without a job.

The story of how and why this came about is worth telling. Heck, there may even be a book in there. But for this missive, I want to focus on the central issue, which is, no matter how well you think you are doing, no matter how hard you work, no matter how much public support you have, the world today is not a kind and gentle place.

Nobody is bulletproof.

There’s probably some hierarchy of emotions that an astute psychologist has come up with that formally defines the process of absorbing news such as this. But I can tell you there is shock, disbelief, confusion, frustration, anger, resentment, acceptance, reconciliation and probably a few more reactions I haven’t identified yet.

However, misery does love company, and if there is solace to be found it is that there are many who have gone through this before, many who are going through it as you read this and many who will experience it in the future.

Life goes on.

I guess the part that concerns me most about this is that it reflects what is happening to our society at the national level. Common sense, loyalty, dignity and The Golden Rule (treat others as you would be treated) seem to be in short supply or nonexistent anymore.

Like Bob Seger, I am beginning to “feel like a number.”

Our society has become so focused on “the bottom line,” it seems like the human factor has been deleted from the equation.

Across the nation, we lay people off and put them out into a horrible job market and a rocky economy. This predictably can lead to more insolvency, bankruptcies, break up of families and worse.

It may be a Band-Aid for a short-term problem somewhere, but ultimately, in my humble opinion, it creates progressively bigger ones down the road.

My question is, when do we start treating people like people again, affording people the basic human dignities?

It is understandable that, in these hard times, hard decisions have to be made; I’ve seen it happen too often in many places over the past three or four years. But do they have to be made at the expense of human dignity? Must they be made in the shroud of secrecy and in such a way that leaves the affected people little dignity and no time to regroup?

And what does it do for the staff members who remain on the job? They walk on egg shells, wondering each day as they go to work if this might be their last. The remaining staff normally picks up the duties of the departing people, often at the expense of duties they already have. Where will this all lead? Stress, that’s where.

At what point do we, as a society, start treating our fellow humans with common courtesy instead of accepting what is becoming the “new normal,” which is to cast people off like cattle, to allow the “bottom line” instead of our heart and conscience to guide our treatment of people.

I sincerely hope nobody else has to experience a layoff, that the economy will turn around tomorrow and everyone’s future will be assured. None of the indicators are pointing in that direction though.

I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that it is best to think about how you would deal with it … because nobody is bulletproof.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is a regular contributor to PRB and lives in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (678) 350-8642 or e-mail