Today someone I work closely with was “let go.” This has happened to me before. At my last job, one of my closest coworkers and friends was fired about six months after I started working there. But as with most things, it’s different at a nonprofit.
Of course, all of the regular emotions and issues are in play: Where will she go? What will she do? How will she make ends meet? Particularly in this economy?
But there’s also the question of what our institution just “let go.”
This woman was an integral part of the hospital, the university, and the community that surrounds it. She’d been working there for most of my lifetime, and a significant chunk of hers. There will never be another person who cared as much about the mission, the patients, and the families of the hospital. She was everyone’s go-to gal. If you didn’t know the answer to a question, inevitably someone told you to call her and she had it. She worked harder and longer than the rest of us and never asked for any recognition or attention in return. She cared about her coworkers and always made us laugh. I had talked with her before about why I got involved with The Foundation and she told me about how rewarding her job was. She was the type of person I hoped I would someday be.
Why do they say that they “let someone go?” It’s as if your employer were the only thing holding you up and they just couldn’t do it anymore. What a horrible analogy in this instance. By all means, this woman was the backbone of the place that employed her. Yes, she received a paycheck from them every month, but it was the least they could do in exchange for the glue that held everything together and made the organization what a beautiful thing it was.
Nonprofit organizations are started by people who care more about the mission than they do the paycheck. Many of our employees are like this even now, and that’s after more than 50 years as an establishment. Why is it that when funding is low, the first ones to go are the types of people that started it all?
I don’t have any answers. Just sadness. And the knowledge that things will never be the same.