Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

About Amish

Saloma Miller Furlong's Blog


What's the Difference Between the Amish and the Corporate World?

When it comes to accommodating people who have a “different style” (as in direct), not a heck of a whole lot. Here’s my comparison:

The Amish make people who ask fundamental questions pariahs in their communities. So does the corporate world.

The Amish do not like to show the rest of the world their underbelly, or that they have faults, too. Neither does the corporate world.

Being direct is okay in the Amish world, so long as it doesn’t reveal what shouldn’t be spoken about, especially to the “outside world.” Being direct is not okay at all in the corporate world. Direct questions get roundabout answers.

Among the Amish, those who don’t conform are made to feel like they don’t belong. The same is true in the corporate environment.

How the rules are made and by whom is the biggest difference, in my way of thinking. The rules are made by the men in the Amish communities — mostly by the ministers and bishop in each congregation. Everyone is expected to obey those rules without question. Though a few of the rules are unspoken, most of them are reviewed every six months at “Ordnungs” Church, so everyone knows what they are.

Not so in the corporate world. Rules are made by “higher ups” not visible to most people in the company. The rules are arbitrary until they need them to become absolute, to expel people who can’t find their way through the gushy ambiguity. Most states have an “at will” law about employment and can fire someone whenever they choose, without reason.

I was reminded of all this late on Friday afternoon when I was told I should not come back to work this week because “it was not a good personality fit.” I had to agree with this, though there are always two sides to a story, and I had never been asked for my side of it. I wanted to say that the setup was really not good, what with my immediate supervisor two hours away in another office, and my other supervisor in Ohio, who I’d only had one private conversation with in the two months I was there. But that is the way of things in the corporate world. You don’t get your say, and the door hits you on the way out.

Before I’d even left the building, I knew that this was happening for a reason — that God was letting me know that I should be doing something else.

I have to think back to the last time I felt the sting of rejection like that. It was 2002, and I had just been let go from a job after working there for five months. It was the second such a rejection I’d gotten in a year. My self-confidence plummeted to an all-time low in my adult life. And then along came an angel — Melita Debellis. She saved my life by helping me to believe in myself again.

One of the things Melita did was ask me to write a vision statement of what I wanted my life to look like in ten years. I asked her what about money constraints and she said, “Pretend there aren’t any.” And so I did. I wrote things I hadn’t even known I was wishing for, but hey, the world was open to me — my imagination was the limit.  I wrote that I would like to go back to school, learn German, and earn a college degree. I wanted to travel to Germany, Austria, or Switzerland for longer than a three-week vacation. I wanted to have three books published. And I wanted to do adult literacy work.

Soon after this, I started taking classes at Community College of Vermont, and then I kept hearing about Smith College and their Ada Comstock Program. I applied and got in. Smith is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I majored in German and minored in Philosophy. I got to do a semester abroad in Germany for five months, which included traveling to key historic sites of my ancestors, which I wrote about here and here. I have one book published (thanks to Ellie Rothman, who connected me with the right editor, Jeanne Braham), another book will be published early next year, and I’ve started two others. I am on the committee for the Amish Descendent Scholarship Fund to help other former Amish acquire an education. I am also on the Friends of the Library committee in my little town. How’s that for following my dreams and living the life I have imagined?

Recently, I revised my vision statement when I worked with Melita for three sessions. One for a year from now, another for five years from now, and a third one for ten years. I have the confidence that action will follow thought this time as it did the last time. Melita has a way of working her magic on my visions to help them become reality.

Yesterday I was struggling with a bruised ego. I wanted someone to hear my side of the conflict. I had unkind thoughts about the person I was in conflict with. And I could have allowed myself to feel depressed. But I kept focusing on where to go from here as I did laundry and other things that needed my attention around the house.

Rose of Sharon in our side yard.

This morning I felt as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. It is a nice day here in the Pioneer Valley, and the Rose of Sharon bush is in bloom outside my window. I am optimistic about finding a better match of a job, and I am catching up with little projects I’ve been wanting to do for myself. (Such as posting to this blog).

I’m sure I will go back and forth between these kinds of negative and positive feelings. I think one of the hardest things about having a job end this way is the suddenness of it all. We are adaptable creatures, but we do best with gradual changes. Even so, I will make the best of it and move on to doing my life work, whatever that may be.

I will certainly miss the people I worked with in the office. We were a motley crew, with very different styles and personalities and yet we got along with one another. We had moved offices from one place to another in July, and we were just settling into our new digs. I wish all of them the best, and who knows, I may even see some of them when I go play Scrabble in the room around the corner from them on Thursday evenings.

Life is full of changes. Though it is tempting to look back at what was, I will try to look forward towards what can be. I still have so much to be grateful for.

I want to thank all of you for being such a wonderful audience. This blog now has more than half a million hits because of you. Thank you for all the support!

Have you ever been “let go” from a job? Do you struggle with the question of why did this happen? Or do you see it as a blessing in disguise? (Or both?)

I am slowly making friends with Facebook. You can visit my page here. Feel free to send me friend requests. I will probably be more faithful now that I have free time. I may even have time to post some photos one of these days!


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