Margaret didn’t know what hit her.
One day she was working happily at a good-sized company here in the Washington, D.C., area. She’d gotten a promotion a few months earlier that edged her into middle-management’s ranks. The extra $5,000 put braces on her 10-year-old – it couldn’t have come at a better time. True, the Camry needed brakes, but Margaret felt confident. A safe car is more important than a big VISA balance, she told herself as she charged the brake repair.
But the moment she walked through the glass doors the next morning, she knew something was wrong.
It didn’t take long to discover what. The spiraling economy had wrecked sales, her office-mate told her. Layoffs were being announced, possibly that afternoon. Water-cooler gossip said 300 employees. Maybe more.
Margaret’s first reaction: Panic. Here she was, a divorced single mom on the dark side of 40, living paycheck to paycheck in a rented townhouse, driving a car with 100,000-plus miles on it. No health insurance except what the company provided. No savings except the IRA, with its pathetic $16,000 balance after all these years. Oh, and the 401(k), invested 100% in the company’s stock – and sinking each day like a stone.
The terrible part was, Margaret had done everything right.
She’d been a good girl and now she was trying to be a good grown-up. She worked hard, played fair, told the truth, acted nice. Make waves? Not Margaret’s style.
But Margaret had faced adversity in her life. And her mother, bless her heart, had been there for her the very first time … that day Margaret, passed over for a part in the school play, had come home in tears.
Mom gave her two magic words:
Keep your head. Explore your options. Even the worst problem has a solution. Discover that solution. And put it to use. Now, recalling the advice many years later, Margaret took a deep breath, silently thanked Mom, commanded her hands to stop shaking long enough to pick up the phone … and called me.
Margaret and I had friends in common. She knew my company publishes materials that help women (and men!) survive the assaults of the workplace – and even prosper.
It was a short conversation.
“Pat,” she said. “Help!”