Sometimes people come to see me in my private practice after they have just been laid off. They are usually rocked. Their self-esteem has taken a blow. They’re seen others be laid off from their jobs but they weren’t prepared for it be their turn.
Sometimes they imagined it could never happen to them because their jobs were secure. Sometimes they didn’t prepare themselves because acknowledging the risk was too scary.
Having watched a number of people be laid off from their jobs over the past twenty-five years, I would like to propose a different type of response to being terminated that isn’t so hard on people’s self-esteem.
I know that people often take a hard financial hit when they are laid off. What I am speaking to in this blog posting, rather than the financial side, is that people also frequently go into a tail spin because being laid off makes them believe they are suddenly not good enough.
What if, instead of being rocked and feeling like they don’t measure up, people were to say to themselves, “Well, that was a pretty good run. This job lasted a good long time. I wonder what I’d like to do next?” Or even better, “Now I get to implement the plan I’ve been formulating. I’m pretty excited about starting this next phase of my life.”
Why is everyone so upset when their current job ends? Why do we tie our identities so closely to our work? What if, instead, we all start to view our jobs simply as jobs that we will keep until we quit or they come to an end?
There are multiple things people are capable of doing to earn a living over their lifetimes. Ending a job gives people the opportunity to change their career direction by 90 degrees. Ending a job is a chance to say, “I’d like to try managing a group of people next” or “I’d like to try managing a project.” Maybe “I’d like to try working at a larger firm where there will be more people to interact with” or “I’d like to try working for a smaller firm where I will get to do a wider variety of tasks.” Depending on your life stage, you might say “I’d like to take a long trip… the type I can’t take when I’m working because I don’t get enough vacation” or “I’d like to finish the basement” or “I’d like to retread my skills by going to school to complete an eight-month program.”
Given that the economy changes and companies come and go, it makes sense for most people to expect to be laid off from their jobs at some point in their lives. We can’t control the economy, but we can actively choose how we respond to what happens to us.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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