Don’t know if the policy is still intact, or if it ever existed in any of the other states, but years ago when I had the occasion to apply for unemployment, I discovered among the enumerated eligibility conditions, one very surprising one.
Unemployment benefits were available to older employees who stepped forward to voluntarily surrender their jobs precisely so that younger employees targeted for being RIF’d could keep theirs.
Going through papers this week as part of retirement catharsis, I found a letter, never delivered, that caught me off-guard, since I don’t remember writing it, triggering a remembrance of that eligibility stipulation.
Being retirement-eligible (though not full-retirement age eligible) at the time the letter was written, I clearly remember the context.
Someone in our department, the least senior member, was being RIF’d, and I felt a terrible sadness since in the very short time she had been with us, she had made a lasting impact. She was feeling devastated at the news of her RIF’ing, and I was sharing those sentiments.
Remembering what I had learned a few years earlier, for days and weeks, I searched my mind and heart. Could I give up my job for her?
At moments such as the decision-times whether to make the kind of sacrifice I considered, the words of a heroic character in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities often come to mind, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…”
In the end, I just “couldn’t do it.” Apologizing, I told my colleague that if I had had the intestinal fortitude, I would have resigned; instead I conducted job searches on her behalf.
(I don’t know if my admission made her feel better or worse. In retrospect, I suspect probably worse. Throughout the process, she remained gracious, which I know made me feel even worse.)
No one—not even I, I suppose, could ever fully understand all the reasons, conscious and subconscious, why I didn’t go through with delivering the letter I found—a signed resignation letter written to my employer, asking for my colleague’s employment to be spared in place of mine.
A month or so ago, as I wrestled with whether the time to retire had arrived, how grateful I was to learn that my formerly RIF’d colleague recently was featured on the front page of her work-town newspaper, being held up and applauded for her exemplary contributions.
Getting RIF’d, apparently, has been a good thing for her…
Rather than beating myself up for lack of generosity or guts, I like to think that both of us had destinies to fulfill…Someday, we’ll know for sure…Sometimes, I think, we can’t be savior to someone else, even if we’d like to be…
Whether in a retirement situation or not, I admire and gratefully salute those individuals who have been able to make the sacrifice that the undelivered letter of mine evidences that I couldn’t make.
May the second half of Dickens’ quote be theirs, too: “..it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”
…And most importantly, in the “doing” and the “going,” let there be no perversion of the goodness Dickens was describing.
Do you know any individuals whose workplace sacrifices saved the jobs of others?
If you are one of those sacrificing individuals, please share your story so that others may be helped in discerning what might be the “far, far better thing” for them to do for themselves and others when facing a sacrificial workplace decision.
God bless you!