Don’t Be One of ‘The Company Men’

Black and white photograph of and old mining tower
Photo credit © Gerhard Bröker |
Written by Michael Froehls

The Ben Affleck/Kevin Costner/Tommy Lee Jones movie “The Company Men” (2011) depicts the behavior of corporate executives who were laid off by their long-time employer. The movie should be a must-see for everyone — college students, MBA alumni, and employees — no matter their age, experience, industry or hierarchy. Why? Not because the movie is entertaining (it is rather depressing), depicts the why and how of a layoff, or because it shows the typical greedy CEO (this is Hollywood).

What makes this movie so educational is the emotionally self-destructive, unproductive, and rather passive behavior of the affected managers. Watch the movie and learn from its characters — it might save you emotional and financial distress in the future.

Don’t be one of “The Company Men”. Here is what to do and not do

Don’t have your boss as your best friend

Despite having built a company jointly from scratch, one of the executives is fired by the CEO, his best friend and former college roommate. Money sometimes kills friendship. Better to have your best friend outside work.

Don’t assume that you are immune to job loss

The company conducted hundreds of reviews of where to save money in an industry facing strong foreign competition. Still, our characters are clueless about even the possibility that the ax could fall in their division. They either were naïve or did not connect the dots. If your company announces a strategic review or a cost-cutting project, conducts a merger, or consultants are called in, the probability of you losing your job has gone up. Be prepared both mentally and financially. In fact, you should count on losing your job at least once during your 30-40 year working life. Not only that – it can be a gift, if you play it right.

Don’t buy a big home and fancy car if you cannot afford the costs for at least 6-12 months without having a job

A divisional sales representative is fired after 12 years with the company. He gets three months of pay plus outplacement. Too bad he can’t afford any of his high monthly expenses without having a job. His wife is employed and contributes financially, though not enough. Everything is gone once severance runs out. There is only one way: save, save, save, and don’t play “keeping up with the neighbors” while being employed. Your financial safety net will come in handy should you be affected one day.

Don’t be ignorant about your finances or just rely on your spouse

Our excessive spender also lives in denial and in the false hope of finding a job fast. He prefers to keep the expensive golf membership and does not bother taking any time to get a grip on the financial situation. Luckily, his wife thinks clearly and starts taking care of things — selling items, delaying bill payments, and putting the house on the market. Too bad the couple did not have good financial management habits earlier — her efforts come too late. Get on top of your finances now. Don’t spend more than you have.

Don’t rush into job search the day after dismissal

Heading straight into the outplacement office after years of work? Bad call. Everybody needs some time to rest and to come to terms with the situation. Fear also makes for bad decisions, like taking the first job available. Go on a short, fun trip with your spouse. Relax and enjoy. You need to realize that life is still good. A little vacation creates a break from the past. Then you can start thinking about your future.

Don’t be secretive about having lost your job

In the film, a 30-year company veteran, the oldest one of The Company Men, is afraid that the neighbors will find out about his dismissal. He lives a double life by dressing up in the morning, then leaving home in a suit, only to return for dinner as if coming back from work. He perceived the social stigma of job loss higher than the drawback of missing opportunities within his network and being stuck emotionally in defense. If you lose your job, tell everybody. How else can people help you?

Don’t start drinking or just sit on the couch

Our elderly company veteran turns angry and starts drinking. Bad choice. Exercise. It will make you feel better both physically and emotionally, and it even might lead to a longer life.

Don’t spend time with former colleagues

None of our characters can’t let go of their old company. They meet old colleagues, throw stones at the company building, or leave nasty voice mails. Instead of moving on, they are stuck in the past, getting more depressed. Be grateful for your former job. Count your blessings. Then challenge yourself to embrace the future.

Don’t just do job search by default

Of the three main characters, only one really reflects, then moves forward professionally. The other two just complain, are passive, and feel and act like victims, even in front of hiring managers. What a waste of their time and potential. If you are out work, allocate some time to things important to you beyond job search. Pursue activities that make you happy or a better job candidate. Do something from your “bucket list.” Learn a foreign language. Get certified in your field. Help a charity. Do something that you usually don’t have the time for while being employed. You will never have this opportunity again.

Any more ideas?

These are my nine recommendations. If you have found more things not to do based on the characters in the movie or based on your own experience, please add a comment to the post.

© 2019 Michael Froehls – All Rights Reserved

Photo credit © Gerhard Bröker |

1 Comment

  • Moreover, it will be better to not rely on one source of income. For example, to not rely only on the income from your job, instead, you can also invest in a franchise, real estate, stocks, and other business activities. In case you lose your job one day, you will still have your other sources of income.

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