Losing Your Job – How Will You React?
This blog was originally posted on Opterre.com.
In June 2017, Boeing announced plans to transfer a large part of their shared services group from Puget Sound in Washington State to Mesa, Arizona, affecting hundreds of jobs.
This initiative is just one phase of a corporate drive to reduce costs, resulting in the loss of 18,300 Boeing jobs in Washington since 2012.
Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar scenario in the corporate world, affecting many thousands of people, often more than once in their career.
Workforce reduction can have a significant impact on the individual and affects different people in very different ways. We all have our own way of coping with the unexpected, but when it comes to our jobs and our livelihood, it can catch us unawares.
It can affect your finances, your family, your friends, have an impact on your neighborhood, and not to mention the long-term impact on your pension.
Losing a job can be likened to the grief process, which was identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, based on her work with terminally ill patients.
This process can apply whether you lose someone, are going through a divorce, or any major loss, as well as losing your job.
If you understand the process that you are going (or will go) through when you are facing redundancy, it can help you to identify solutions to help you recover from it faster and bounce back into an even better position than before.
The Five Reactions to Losing Your Job
There are five reactions or stages that you will go through when you hear that you are in danger of losing your job. Not everybody goes through all the stages and not all the stages are linear. You might revisit one stage once you have been through it, or you might skip a stage completely, only for it to hit you later.
This image shows the stages of change over time, based on the work of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Stage 1 – Denial
The first stage on hearing that you are about to lose your job is denial. – “What me? I can’t believe it? You can’t do this to me! How will I cope?”
You might go into shock. You’ll sit there and think that it is a mistake, that they don’t mean you, and that it will work out in the end.
At this stage, it is important to take some time to understand what is happening and to start to process it.
Take some time to think about your options and how this will impact you, your family, and your finances. Start to think about making a plan for your future.
Stage 2 – Anger
The next stage is anger. – “How dare they do this to me? I’ve been a good worker. I’ve given them everything I’ve got. All the hours, all the years I put in! I’m too old; I’ll never get another job!”
You’ll be angry that they targeted you even though you have been a dedicated and loyal employee. At this point surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Don’t vent at your co-workers, your company, or your managers, for they may be going through the same thing as you.
Remember that from the company’s perspective, it’s not about you. Unfortunately, it’s about reducing costs, and you are just a number on a spreadsheet.
Consider writing down your thoughts in a journal and working through your anger that way. Go for a walk in the countryside, do some yoga, or go to the gym and punch it out if that’s what will help you cope.
Whatever you do, make sure it is constructive and supportive. Get the anger out but don’t hurt yourself (or anybody else) in the process.
Stage 3 – Bargaining
At the bargaining stage, you’ll look for options to stay in your job, or you’ll try to convince yourself that if you had done something differently, the outcome would be different.
You might think – “If only I’d tried harder then they wouldn’t be letting me go. If I’d put in more hours, then I wouldn’t have been targeted. I should have stepped up and helped out so and so when they asked me.”
The most important thing is not to blame yourself. Most people will find themselves in a similar situation during their careers. It’s a frequent occurrence in the corporate world now, with some people facing this two or three times in their career. Do not blame yourself.
Stage 4 – Depression
When the reality of the situation kicks in, it is extremely common for people to start to feel depressed. They feel that it is a hopeless position and that, especially if they are older, they will not get another job.
Some people may think – “Why should I bother giving my best at work if I am going to lose my job?” “I’m not going to go to work today; I’ll take a sick day or even a few days off.”
Depression is a difficult emotion to deal with and can become a downward spiral if not addressed quickly.
If you start to feel like this, it is important to remember that the redundancy is not about you and that you and your skills are still valuable and needed in the world.
The skills that you gained in your corporate career can be transferred and applied to another role, another company, and another situation. You can use your skills to your best advantage and start up your own consultancy. You can take control of your career and make it work for you.
Stage 5 – Acceptance
At this stage, you will accept the inevitable – that you are about to lose your job. You’ll think that it’s going to happen no matter what so that you might as well embrace it and start planning for the end of your job and your future beyond it.
You’ll look back on your time with the company and your colleagues, but you’ll also start to look towards the future and consider the various options for your next job.
Where To Now?
“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.”
– Robin Sharma
Once you have accepted the situation, you have several choices:
You can freeze
You can leave your current company and take another job doing pretty much the same thing again but in a different company. Although this may seem like a safe option in the short term, there is a high likelihood that your job will become at risk again and you will be in a similar situation, several months down the line.
You can escape
You can leave the industry altogether and get a completely different job where you might have to start at the bottom of the ladder, with low wages because you are starting out on a new career. Although you may still have a (low) income, the valuable skills that you gained and built up over the years in your previous career will be underused and may stagnate. You’ll feel unfulfilled and may eventually look to change your career again after a few months.
You can pivot
You can decide to pivot, to take your hard-earned experience, skills, and knowledge and leverage them into a business for yourself. This is probably the most difficult decision, but it is the most rewarding in that you will be working for yourself, you will be in charge of what you do, how you do it, and where you do it. You’ll be able to shape your own career and determine how and when you work. And most importantly, you will not be at risk of losing your job in the future due to a corporate cost-cutting initiative from on high.
What will you do? What option will you take?
Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson, is an excellent and entertaining book about how to deal with change in your work and your life. It’s well worth getting a copy, especially if you are facing a major change in your life, and it will only take an hour or two to read.