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Castoffs from the Island of the Doomed

August 19, 2011

There’s not much that’s more painful to one’s soul than working in a toxic environment.  Bitter rivalries, back-stabbing co-workers, gossiping busybodies in the lunchroom.  All overseen, and apparently supported by, blood-sucking overlords toxic managers.

But yet, chained there by a bad economy or a fear of moving to a new (and unknown) environment, some people toil in these sorts of workplaces for years.  Decades even.


There once was a mid-level administrative worker, Claire, who had put in years in a demeaning, soul-crushing workplace.  She initially felt chained to the job because it was all she knew and she had doubts about her ability to learn something else.  She also felt somewhat handcuffed to the company because of great benefits (she carried all the insurance coverage for her family) and a sense of ‘connection’ to her co-workers.  In a way they were like shipwrecked passengers; washed ashore onto a treacherous jungle island whose only way to survive was by relying on each other.

So a great number of them stuck together for years.  Occasionally, one would find their way off the island, and the others would furtively whisper “good luck; please take me with you” as they clutched each other and sobbed uncontrollably at the department farewell luncheon.  Inevitably, the festivies would end at 1:01 PM when the blood-sucking overlord manager would remind them all it was time to get back to work even if it was Bobbie’s last day.  The temporary goodwill would vanish and petty rivalries would once again surface as if the entire department and organization was being filmed for a yet-to-be-scheduled season of “Real Office Workers of Pomona.”

But one day, the blood-sucking-overlord manager had a bit of news to dispense.  The department was being downsized and positions were being eliminated.  She asked Claire and a number of her coworkers to go to the HR Department for a scheduled meeting.

And with that – Claire was free.


Now not to make light of a terrifying situation; losing one’s job for any reason is not something to be taken lightly, and our hearts ache for Claire and others in these situations.  But even in the face of this drastic change, Claire was presented with an opportunity.  She was given the chance to get OFF that Island – leaving an environment that caused stress and pain and self-doubt.

And now we all have the opportunity to help Claire or someone like her this Labor Day by participating collectively with the Zero Unemployment movement.  It’s not hard, it’s not time-consuming.  All you’re asked to do is “just take 15 min of your time to help a friend find a job. Make a referral, review a resume, help write a cover letter… do whatever it takes.”

You can even help one of those blood-sucking overlords managers find a job.  Perhaps just throw in a bit of personal coaching first.

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