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Beyond Blue

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John Grohol, over at PsychCentral.com, has some good tips for the recently laid off. He’s right in saying that losing your job feels like having the wind knocked out of you. I think this is especially true for men, since work is so much a part of their identity. Eric and I are adjusting to our new roles every day and the transition has come with a stress of its own. John’s tips are helpful in that regard. I give you his first three, then you have to visit him to get the others. John writes:
When the economy — or a company’s business — goes south, the quickest way a company can chop its costs is by laying off its employees. It’s never popular and often companies will try other cost-cutting measures long before they have to cut workers, but if you’re among those who get the pink slip, you don’t really care. You just lost your job.
For many, being laid off is something that will be unexpected and shocking. Unless you work in a seasonal industry where layoffs occur with annual regularity, a layoff is akin to having the wind knocked out of you. You become a powerless pawn in a company’s efforts to cut costs. And while it’s never about a single employee, it doesn’t make it feel any less personal.
A layoff is out of your control, but how you react to it is not.
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check
One of the first things you should do is give yourself some time with the impact of being laid off. If unexpected, you will likely feel more upset, shocked and disappointed than if you had some idea layoffs were coming. Even when an employee knows layoffs are in the works for the company, you may not expect that your own head could be on the chopping block.
The workplace is not a good place to express this disappointment and upset, however. Such reactions might be mistaken or misunderstood. It’s also best not to burn bridges, no matter how bitter or upset you may feel in the moment. You may need references from your manager or supervisor, and want to keep in touch with coworkers you’re close to. Ask for personal email addresses and act calmly, no matter how you may feel inside.
If you need to vent, do so to close friends (or your family, or your therapist) outside of work. Don’t feel bad if you feel confused and uncertain about your future. Take your time and don’t try to rush into feeling “okay” with the layoff.


2. Get the Information
Sometimes in our shock and upset at the news of a layoff, we forget to listen or to get all the information we need. Is there a severance package or a benefits package I get to leave with? What about my family’s health insurance? Will the company help me with finding new work or offer any kind of resume service? What about job references? Do I have to return the company laptop that I use at home?
If you can’t handle getting the information in the moment or feel overwhelmed, not to worry. Employers generally provide the information in a letter form as well, and your HR personnel can answer any followup questions you may have via email or phone. The key is to remember that the more details you have, the easier it’ll be to answer others (e.g., your significant other) and make the tough decisions that are yet to come.
If your employer offers you nothing, you may be in line at the unemployment office to look into unemployment benefits paid for by the government. Sadly, these are going to be a lot less than what you were making, but it’s better than nothing. And it may help make ends meet until you can find another job. While most hard-working people hate the idea of accepting “charity,” sometimes we simply have no other choice. And unemployment benefits aren’t really “charity” anyway — they’re a benefit each state provides by taxing employers, and are regulated in part by federal law. Your benefits will be determined by your hours worked and earnings over the five calendar quarters preceding your layoff. In other words — you earned the benefits you’re now receiving while you were working.
3. Regroup and Reframe
Don’t let your disappointment and upset turn into a new pessimistic outlook on your life or career, or into a full-blown depressive episode.
Therapists have a technique they call “reframing.” It basically means taking a negative situation, thought or feeling and looking at it from a different perspective for some positive aspects. Being laid off is a time to regroup in your life and especially in your career. This is a time to reassess your career path and make sure you’re still doing something you have an interest in doing. Even in a bad economy, you need to consider your own longer-term happiness.
Which is not to say there may not be much you can do about it right now. But it may help you decide between two job opportunities in the future, one that keeps you on your current path, or another that may open up a different set of opportunities for you. A layoff may be just the ticket to get you out of the dead-end job you would’ve stayed in forever had it not occurred.
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