In a five year period, I was laid off twice. The first layoff was from an alcohol and drug treatment program. One thing that has always stayed with me from that experience was the total clueless-ness of my managers. It’s a pain to lose you job AND be surrounded by fellow counselors who expect you to share your feelings. I remember walking down the hall beside my boss. She reached over, took my hand and said, “You must be having such a hard time, do you want to go home for the day?” I responded, “Uh, no, I just want a new job!”
My colleague Mark Gorkin, LICSW, “The Stress Doc™”, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and “Motivational Humorist” known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. The “Doc” is a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non-profits and is AOL’s “Online Psychohumorist” ™.
Gorkin has such a unique perspective on work issues that I asked him for his latest take on layoffs. Below is an excerpt from his article, “Laughing in the Face of Layoffs.”
Layoffs-the “L-word” is back. Whether framed as “reorganization,” “downsizing,” or, perhaps, most cutting of all – “rightsizing” – layoffs can create feelings of betrayal, a loss of face and faith, and anxiety about the future. As one woman caught in the throes of her government agency’s reorganization exclaimed, “I once had a career path. Then this boulder fell from the sky and crushed it.”
People experiencing a layoff need to let go and transform their emotional pain, fear, and aggressive energy into exploration and acceptance. Those going through this grieving often overlook positive facets of their layoffs:
Job worry reduction. What a relief, you can finally stop worrying about the prospect of losing your job. Anticipation can be worse than any termination.
Less stressful rituals. Not having to set an alarm clock is definitely a stress reliever. What about a real daring act — gradual withdrawal from the morning coffee fix? And consider my radical ‘Old Age” (as opposed to ‘New Age”) meditation technique: I find a quiet place, then close my eyes and chant “N-A-P, N-A-P” for 10 to 20 minutes in the afternoon and/or evening.
Family highs. Layoff transition means more opportunity for you and your family to share personal and meaningful interaction. Now there’s time for family dinners and in-depth discussions of, for example, the relationship between homework, television, and migraine headaches. (Of course, too much joy with the family too fast can induce culture shock. Don’t try to make up in two weeks for 20 years of benign neglect.)
Boredom breakout. When we invest much time, energy, money, and/or ego in a position, it can be difficult to recognize or admit it’s time to move on. Before the layoff, were you increasingly frustrated, restless, or underwhelmed at work? Well, now’s the time to “fireproof life with variety.”
Transitional vacation time. Make the shift from being “laid-off” to having “time off.” Instead of thinking of yourself as unemployed, consider yourself in transition. (Wouldn’t you have liked a semester off during college to reconsider direction and options?) Don’t just conduct a job search-use the free time as a catalyst for self-discovery. Explore these questions: What are my true talents, interests, passions? What do I really want in a career/position at this juncture? What is no longer acceptable to me?”
So try Gorkin’s suggestions for reframing the layoff experience. It might ease the process.
This is a guest post by Nancy LaFever. You can read more from her at the Centre for Emotional Wellbeing blog.