When he jokes, “Who died?” he discovers that the news is even worse: the company is downsizing. And he’s suddenly “redundant.”
Obviously in denial, he tells his good wife, Maggie (Rosemarie De Witt) not to cancel the club membership, or sell the house, and especially, don’t sell his precious Porsche. But, eventually, they all have to go, along with what’s left of Bobby’s inflated self-image, as he ends up reluctantly accepting a job offer from his prickly brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) as a carpenter’s helper.
Bobby started out thinking he was too good to drive nails for a living. By the time he serves as the “go-fer” on the construction site, he’s grateful for any kind of gainful employment, because he’s been through the wringer: the severance checks that have run out, the “employment office” merry-go-round, the countless interviews and seemingly pointless telephone follow-ups; the humiliating experience of constant personal rejection. Once he thought he was too good for everyone else out there job-hunting; now he feels a kind of camaraderie. He has to move his family back home with his parents. His wife takes on more shift work as a nurse.
And it’s small consolation that even more formerly high-flying execs of the former corporate giant GVX are having their troubles, too: his old boss, Phil (Chris Cooper), and even his boss, Gene (Tommy Lee Jones), the right-hand man of the CEO himself. But these are harsh times in corporate America. It’s all about the bottom line. It’s all about pleasing the stockholders. And it’s all about those at the very top fashioning for themselves golden parachutes in the form of lucrative stock options, while those let go for no particular reason other than to make expenses look better now struggle with self-worth, and with self-identity, with maintaining close relationships, and even with life itself.
Yes, suddenly being “downsized” can have a huge effect on any family. Not many of us possess the recommended six-month “cushion” of income socked away for hard times, and even if we did, we would still face the prospect of underemployment, or re-deployment — when so many jobs are “outsourced.” Corporate America is always looking to cut costs, and personnel, of course, collectively represent the greatest cost to most any organization. What good is long-tenured loyalty? Well, it might get you a slightly longer severance package. But don’t count on it. What good are long-standing relationships at work? Don’t kid yourself; all they want to know is when the hammer’s going to fall on them. In the end, what you have is the love of your family, and your own willingness to re-direct yourself: maybe acquire a little humility, maybe get over yourself and give up some of your non-necessities, maybe get over yourself a little more and be willing to do some work that you formerly thought was beneath you, or you’d “been there done that,” maybe swallow some pride for the purpose of remaining active and productive, if not for the sake of your family, then for the sake of your own self-esteem. Sure, it’s a shock. But maybe one that will have unintended benefits: like closer relationships with your family, after you learn that they really are with you through thick and thin. There’s no price on that.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.