Stop firing old(er) people
WFFH: What Corporate America confirms every time it gets rid of older employees
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on October 17, 2021.
When I applied to work for a temp company*, it didn’t take me any time at all to secure a publishing job. I would be editing K-12 material for a well-known education company that I’d temped for a few months earlier. Although my first editing job was for adult finance education — and I knew zip zero about that content beforehand — K-12 editing was a little easier and less dense. But shortly after I returned to the temp job, I found out things had changed. I wanted to quit. Here’s why.
An email announcement came through to the temp employees, letting us know that there were free supplies on a lower level for us to take. As a childhood Olympia Sales Club worker ($2 per item for commission, which I realize is a complete hustle as an adult), I’m all about stationery. I used to be in heaven on Earth following my mother to her credit union conferences and stocking up on post-it notes, pens, notebooks and portfolios. As an adult, I never outgrew that (although I have no idea where I’m going to use this 3-foot stack of notepads on my desk from charity donations).
Still, I headed downstairs with a smile on my face, ready to put my hands on everything. One of five new temps marched beside me, insisting on telling me that whatever supplies we take must only be kept at our desks and we could not take them home. (There is always that one temp who takes the job too seriously and you make sure you two never ever take lunch at the same time.) I wasn’t going to let her ruin my fun. I walked quicker to get away from her and darted around the corner to get to supplies before she did.
But when I hit the corner and looked around, all I saw were empty desk chairs everywhere and tables stacked high with office supplies. I looked around at several employees clearly over the age of 50 as they packed up. After connecting the dots, I realized that this mountain of office supplies wasn’t a matter of overestimating office supplies. These were the supplies of those who had been laid off.
A casual glance at their desks showed far too many people who looked like grandparents or older parents, and I started averting eye contact. Without any proof to back it up, I can safely assume that the five of us were quickly hired to try to take over a workload of employees who were dismissed while the workload was not. Temps are cheaper than long-time employees; from a capitalist’s game board, the learning curve is worth it.
I felt uncomfortable. I grabbed a random pen from a pile, turned around and went back upstairs. With this pen, at least it looked less suspicious of me going back empty-handed. But I had no desire to look into the eyes of long-time editors who would know I was their younger and far less qualified replacement.