How do you interpret this?
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You tell me, is this a case of age discrimination? I have a friend who is being pushed out the door of a company he loyally served for 35 years. His company sells a line of products for manufacturing, such as tapes, glues, and other items needed on an assembly floor. The company is headquartered in California, and my friend rose through the ranks to become the sales manager and head of the division serving Tampa Bay. Under his leadership, the company did well and made a profit year after year.
About three years ago, the company underwent a change of management, bringing in a corps of young people replacing the elders in place. These were people thirty years of age or younger. In my friend’s case, he was removed as manager and replaced by a 27 year old. This did not sit well with my friend, but he swallowed his pride and faithfully served as a salesman and continued to maintain his quota.
Unlike my friend who was concerned with customer service and sales volume, the new management was more concerned with following numbers, such as calls made, quotes written, etc. Not surprising, the Tampa Bay division started to slip and for the first time in its history failed to make a profit. As we know in business, the golden rule to making a profit is to maximize income and minimize costs. Aside from my friend, who continued to meet quota, nobody else was generating sales, including the new sales manager. They did well in making numbers, but little in terms of generating revenue. In fact, they began to lose customers as a result of their new sales policies.
The managers then began to look for ways to cut costs, which caused them to look to cut payroll, and my friend’s salary. As my friend is approaching 60, he was targeted to be eliminated. This was not without precedence as other older employees from the other divisions had also been removed over the last year. It would seem the company was cleaning house of the “old guard” who ran the divisions for years.
Just recently, the regional sales manager arranged to have breakfast with my friend, along with the new sales manager. At the meeting, the regional sales manager thanked my friend for his many years of service with the company, but it was time to make some changes. He claimed my friend was resisting the changes they had enacted. Maybe, but my friend was still the top salesman in the area accounting for most of the sales volume.
Nonetheless, they offered him three options:
1. A $15,000 severance package if he was to submit his resignation.
2. He would be allowed to maintain only one sales account until December, and take home only whatever commission he made from it (no payroll).
3. A $15,000 severance package and termination (which would make him eligible for unemployment).
To me, the $15,000 severance package was chickenfeed and an insult to someone who had faithfully served the company for 35 years, including successfully managing the division’s sales program. I recommended he take option #2 as he could make more money under this scenario. As an aside, his retirement options should be safeguarded, but this was an ugly chapter in my friend’s relationship with the company.
So, what does this teach us? First, corporate loyalty is a thing of the past. I can remember my friend over the years praise senior management and how proud he was to serve the company. However, with the recent changes in the corporate culture, going from a professional attitude with a focus on customer service to just playing with numbers, corporate morale is at an all time low, not just in Tampa Bay but throughout the company, and; the company is rapidly losing sales. Even I, an outsider watching this unfold over the years, knew it was time for my friend to say, “screw the company.”
So, do you believe my friend has a case for age discrimination? We’ll find out soon as he is scheduling an appointment with an attorney.
By the way, should you find yourself in the same situation as my friend, I think you would be wise to avoid attending breakfast meetings.
Keep the Faith!