Laid Off from Work: Will It Make You or Break You?

Laid Off From WorkMeet Linda.

Seemingly out of the blue, Linda was retrenched and laid off from work. Just last year she was given a bonus and now she’s packing her desk. Linda’s angry, hurt and confused. She analyses every conversation and comes to the conclusion she was, without a doubt, badly done by.

As she talks to friends and former colleagues about her retrenchment, her voice takes on an angry tone and bitterness creeps into the way she cynically refers to management’s role in her position’s demise. They were short-sighted; how sorry they will be when they realise only she understands a certain task, and it will only be a matter of time before management acknowledges the error that has been made. Friends are uncomfortable; it becomes a little hard to talk to Linda as she is consumed with proving her innocence and making a case (if only to them) for how she was wronged.

At interviews, job search consultants are concerned. Red flags are raised when they observe Linda’s responses to their questions about her former job. Linda appears hard, her smile forced; there is no mistaking the anger within her rankles. It’s not so much what she says; it’s the way she holds herself, the way her attitude barely disguises the resentment and indignation she feels when recounting her achievements, and how the level of zeal and commitment for this new job opportunity is missing.

Meet Fred.

Fred is a stand-up guy. He’s intelligent and his ethics are sound. After witnessing a prolonged period of questionable behaviour at his workplace, he decides to blow the whistle on the perpetrators. His reward for caring so much is dismissal; he’s rocked the boat, cannot prove his assertions and he’s given his marching papers. Questions are raised about his work performance which to now has been considered exemplary.

Fred is livid. He writes letters to the Managing Director calling for a reversal of the decision to let him go. He cites further breaches of behaviour he has witnessed during his employment and demands to be reinstated. He devotes hours searching the internet, looking for “dirt” on the supervisor who he believes encouraged the breaches in behaviour and who was undoubtedly involved in the decision to terminate his services. Fred creates a blog where he invites other whistle-blowers to contribute.

Stop the insanity!

Linda and Fred are both focusing on the past and actively sabotaging their potential to move forward.

You don’t need to agree with it

The key for Linda is to understand and come to terms with what has happened. She can do this by seeking an audience with her manager, supervisor or human resources department to find out why and on what basis this decision was made if it has not been made clear. Linda will not agree with the decision or any of the explanations. That’s fine. Linda does not need to agree with it, she just needs to understand it happened.

Now Linda has been given an explanation, she needs to let go. First on the list to the way forward is acknowledging that this has happened to her. Second, is to comprehend that this one experience does not set the scene for the next and all others to come because not all employers are the same and to think they are is to be in a perpetual state of mistrust. To invite this jaundiced view of the world by allowing negativity, suspicion and acrimony to define who she is and how she communicates, is to repel potential employers and damage any chance she is given to move forward and make a new beginning.

Look to the future, not to the past

Fred is devoting hundreds of hours shoring up support to validate his actions in his own mind. He is not only stuck in the past, he’s revelling in it. Instead of letters of demand for reinstatement, he could be brushing up his resume, writing a cover letter, identifying who in his network can help him secure employment and calling recruiting firms. Instead of taking the time to establish his brand as the ‘wronged party’ through his whistle-blower website and moderating the acidic contributions of the like-minded, he could be investing in a training course, learning a new, in-demand skill, or taking on temporary assignments as a contractor to create something new and positive in his life.

Bad things happen to good people

It’s a fact. Bad things happen to good people. In fact, in the scheme of things very few people are dismissed for flagrant breaches of the rules such a stealing or violence. People are terminated for a range of reasons that have little to do with work performance—and everything to do with how individuals fit into a pre-determined structure. Accepting that and looking to the future is where you begin.

Regardless of how unfairly you were treated or how wrong the decision was, investing one more minute in being indignant and outraged is from this point on, an act of self-sabotage. The power of that decision has transitioned to your hands. Do you let it define you, do you want to be right regardless, or do you make it become the catalyst that spurs you on to the next and greater opportunity?

The decision on what to do next, is yours.

Guest Expert:

Gayle Howard founded Top Margin Executive Resumes and Coaching in 1990, and holds Master Resume Writer, Executive Résumé Master, G3 Coach, Certified Personal Branding Strategist and Certified Job Loss Recovery Coach designations. An author, with résumés published in twenty-plus international career books, Gayle has also been the recipient of more than twenty-seven resume writing awards, is a specialist in creating unbeatable value propositions for senior executives, and is a mentor to new and emerging résumé writers.

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