Is Constructive Dismissal Constructive?

Larry had been the Director of  Marketing at a  toy  manufacturer for 14 years. He had come to the business honestly, having grown up in a family where the television only broadcast one channel. His Lego set , chess game and hockey cards kept him amused during his early years in a small town outside Cambelford, Ontario.

Larry helped his father’s dairy delivery business by packaging plastic spin tops in a factory in his home town. This was mind numbing work, but it helped to pay for his evening classes in Belleville, where he finally completed his first  undergraduate degree.

Having won a monetary prize for an engineering design, a spinning top that sang the national anthem, Larry was able to pursue his MBA online through a university in Detroit.

With his perseverance and high energy, Larry had worked his way up to lead incredible marketing strategies, both in Canada and internationally for a local toy manufacturer. He was the King of Toytown, as he liked to call it, a position which allowed him to showcase his people management skills, as well as his keen intuitive voice.

Then one day, Goliath stepped in. Larry ‘s position was declared redundant, as a large Texan toy tycoon took over this Canadian small town success. Larry was asked to return to a warehouse supervisor position in the manufacturing sector, where he would earn the same salary, but none of the respect or privilege. He was sent back in time to where he began, the musty monotony of factory supervision. Emotional depression swept in like a storm.

Within a few months, Larry found himself in the Emergency Room, a first visit ever  for a mental health condition. He was tired and anxious,  tearful and low energy, and wondered if he would have the good fortune to be hit by a trailer as he drove himself home. There was one refrain in Larry’s mind, a theme that kept him up through the night. “ It’s not fair”, he would think to himself. I am worth more than this stupid factory supervisor job..  They can’t do this to me!” He would hear himself repeat over and over again.

The Teacher

Larry is struggling with his own self view.  He sees himself as having been displaced or replaced, and wants the employer to pay for this loss. Larry may require the help of a labor lawyer. Larry may win the case, but will his depression get better?

Maybe Larry can shift his self view. Maybe Larry can think back to who he really is, a creative, sustaining man, who battled relative poverty in order to establish himself. Larry may ask himself when he was most in flow. He will see that he can be in flow even when external circumstances are not great.

So Larry is now in a position of CHOICE. He can go back to the boring factory supervisor position, and use his steady salary as a springboard for his creativity. Flow can happen even when Larry is bored. Flow is an inner drive, the same drive that propelled Larry through his online MBA, even while packing spinning tops in small town Ontario.

The Wisdom

Displacement and replacement are happening all around us. Larry’s value is larger than his marketing director job, a position that the Texan Toy Tycoon is never going to recognize. So Larry needs to value himself first. Larry knows his value when he is feeling awake and creative. How can we bring that into focus?

  1. Larry accepts that he needs to reconstruct.
  2. Larry breathes into his hurt. He accepts that he feels devalued, even though his value is magnificent.
  3. Larry looks for his flow. When does he feel most creative and alive? Larry makes note of those moments, and chases those highs.
  4. Larry monitors his mood. He sees that his thoughts come and his thoughts go, and that he can be his own performance appraiser.
  5. Larry chooses. He chooses whether to be transiently bored in the factory management position, while he creates something larger. Or he chooses to say good-bye to this fork in the road, and accepts the uncertainty  of  life’s next adventure. Larry has a choice.

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