Let’s look at the elements of change that you and others like you who have been laid off may experience.
Loss of Income
Perhaps the most obvious, this change can indeed have a devastating effect. Depending on your financial position, and the resources available to you (such as severance packages), a loss of income may represent a temporary setback or, in more extreme cases, may cause a complete change in lifestyle.
” We have two little ones, and my wife has only a part-time job, so we’re fixing up the house to sell it.” Neil, 31, Construction Worker
” I had no other choice but to file for personal bankruptcy.” Terry, 35, Security Guard
” I put most of my severance into R.R.S.P.’s to take advantage of tax breaks, so I did have to dip into my savings somewhat.” Stephanie, 37, Pharmacist
Those in desperate financial situations are often the same people who rush into finding a replacement job, only to discover that the new position represents significant cuts in income (that may last for years) and that the new job meets very few of their other needs.
TIP: Meet with your banker and financial advisor. Develop an interim budget that allows you to take the time to make the best choices for you based on the realities of your situation. Avoid rushing into something you may regret later.
Changes In Relationships
The sudden loss of a job inevitably means changes in your relationships. For you, this may mean severing relationships with some people, increasing the amount of time spent with others, and developing new relationships. These changes include your personal, business and, in some cases, social contacts.
Let’s start by discussing the changes you’re most likely to notice first, your business contacts.
The most immediate change you will notice is the loss of daily contact and time spent with your former co-workers conducting business, or the time shared with them over coffee and lunch. Having been involved in the company’s social or recreational planning committee might represent an even more significant loss.
” I was the coordinator of the recreation committee and had organized a team for the company’s common challenge relay even before I left. As it turns out, even though I was laid off, I still crossed the finish line for the company. I don’t see my co-workers much now. I’m the skeleton re-emerging from the grave. It rubs it in For them. They think they may be next.” Derek, 45, Transportation Planning Engineer
An employee informed of the layoff being effective immediately has little or no opportunity to say goodbye to their co-workers. This situation can leave the employee feeling isolated and shut out.
TIP: Make a point of contacting your former colleagues to explain what has occurred and your good-byes, which will help them adjust to your absence. Layoffs often leave the “survivors”– those still on the job, with doubts and feelings of guilt, in addition to their fears that they may be next to be unemployed.
” I called the people at work to tell them my side of the story and say ‘good-bye.’ I’m glad I did because it made them feel better to know I was okay. They felt guilty because they thought if anyone should go, it should be them, not me.” Nancy, 23, Clerk
TIP: Decide whether you would like to maintain contact with some of your former co-workers. If you feel ongoing communication would be beneficial, by all means, initiate it. If not, move on after you have said your farewells.”
I drop by work all the time, and they make me feel welcome. It’s nice to see friendly faces.” Gary, 34, Estimator
” I saw some co-workers on the street, and I could tell by their body language they didn’t know if they should stop and say hello; so I do anyway, and then it’s o.k.” Vivian, 44, Secretary
It’s essential to be aware that the lay-off is also going to have a significant impact on those who are close to you, which includes your spouse or partner, your children, and others with whom you have a tight bond (e.g., parents, siblings).
Spouses/partners: In many cases, spouses report that they are experiencing similar feelings and reactions as their partners. They are also dealing with uncertainty about the future and concerns about how the layoff will impact the family.
” I was in shock at first. Then I got mad.” Jane, 35, wife of a laid-off employee.
Some factors that may compound the situation for the spouse/partner include the following:
Family members need to be supportive and caring at a time when they are also experiencing stress related to the worries created by the lay-off. A lack of control over many aspects of the situation (e.g., spouse’s reaction, changes in behaviour, loss of self-esteem, opportunities available) will impact others.
Without support or an understanding of oneself, the job loss becomes much more difficult. Close family and friends will often check out how the one who lost the job is doing, but often fail to realize the impact on the spouse/partner.
TIP: Discuss your feelings openly with your spouse and encourage your spouse to do the same. Your instinct may be to protect your spouse/partner from the unpleasant realities. However, you only deny each of you the opportunity to support each other through tough times. That may eventually lead to resentment and arguments.
TIP: Set aside some time to spend together, focusing on enjoying each other’s company.
Avoid discussing the job loss at these times. Sometimes individuals attempt to replace the control they feel they have lost by becoming overly critical of people and things around them.
It is important to recognize if you have this tendency and take steps to avoid or correct it.
TIP: Be aware of how your behaviour has changed and how it is affecting those around you. Replace any of the self-defeating or harmful habits with more productive ones.
Children: It is essential if you have kids to recognize the potential impact your job loss may have on them. Even the youngest children can sense tension experienced by their parents, and this can leave them feeling vulnerable, afraid, and worried that they are in some way responsible for the situation.
” I have two youngsters; my 13-year-old seems more morose.” Derek, 45, Transportation Planning Engineer
TIP: Be conscious of your behaviour in the presence of the children. Should the children be old enough to understand, sit down with them and calmly explain the situation, and how it will affect them (e.g., they may have to accept a reduction in their allowances for a time).
Other Close Personal Contacts: Your lay-off may also impact others who are close to you and care about you, but less directly. For instance, a parent or sibling may spend a considerable amount of time wondering about you and the impact the loss is having on you and your family. They might even adjust their schedules to spend more time with you, to support you through a tough time, offer advice, etc.
TIP: Let them know how you are doing and be open to them about the kind of support you need from them, which may include asking them to give you “space.” Thank them for their concern, listen with an open mind to their advice, and then make your decisions based on gathering all the facts and what is best for you.
” Mom wanted to help and was always giving me advice. Only, she wasn’t on top of things, so I knew her advice was not the greatest. She meant well.” Candice, 33, Cashier
” I intentionally didn’t tell any family member other than my wife. I didn’t want to burden them or have them interfere.” Brian, 43, Personnel Manager
Social Contacts: Depending on the relationship you have with different people outside of work and family, you may experience a variety of reactions from them when they learn of your job loss.
” Most of our friends beloved as usual, asking how it was going from time to time. But there was one who ultimately withdrew from the friendship; it was like I had a disease.” Anna, 39, Manager
” You sure find out who your friends are; they’re the ones who stick by you.” Kelly, 44 Sales Consultant
It used to be there was a connection between being unemployed and one or more negative characteristics, such as a poor work ethic, low education, low skill level, etc. Today, many outstanding employees, with excellent employment records, are among the unemployed. Your social contacts who have made themselves scarce since your layoff may be unaware of this fact, and may have attached a stigma to being unemployed.
It could also be that your absent friend has no idea how to approach you and is feeling awkward. In any case, it’s up to you how you want to proceed. You may wish to contact that person and explain the situation, and then let them make the next move, or you may instead tell that person how their absence has made you feel. You may choose just to let it be and leave it up to them to initiate contact.
TIP: When interacting with your friends and acquaintances, let them know how you’re doing without making our situation the primary focus of every contact you make. This way, you will always avoid bringing them down and burning them out. Also, continue to rejoice with them for the positive occurrences in their lives. ‘Misery may love company, but no one enjoys a wet blanket!’
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