Tag Archives: Job Stress

Job Loss Emotions– Deal With Them Or They’ll Come Out Sideways

16 Aug

Stressed

There’s an excellent article in the New York Times about how to deal with the stresses that invariably will face someone when they are in a prolonged job search in these difficult economic times. Some of the advice I found most useful:

Periodically, you may need to “download” all your emotions — to write them down or discuss them with a trusted friend who won’t criticize or judge you, Dr. Molitor said. Then identify which things you can control and which you can’t. Throughout your search, make detailed lists of the things you have done and still need to do, she said.

If you keep your emotions bottled up, “you’re going to have stress symptoms later,” she said. These can include insomnia, panic attacks, and colds brought on by a weakened immune system, she said. (And these will make you perform all the worse during an interview.)

Mentally, stress can distort your perspective. “When we get stressed, the brain is sometimes ineffective at processing things rationally,” Dr. Molitor said. In short, things may not be nearly as bad as they appear, and you have more control over your situation than you think.

Years ago I received advice that stress will always come out– they question is only how– either in a way that you manage or “sideways”.

I’ve been in the job search and have felt these emotions as well– thankfully I had good help at hand.In my professional life have counseled hundreds of people through corporate-sponsored outplacement. I see too many people who keep stress bottled up, only to have it come out sideways at an unopportune time, like a job interview.

I told one particularly stressed out client I advised:

“Employers can sense that something isn’t right in an interview. They may not know what they’re sensing, but that uncomfortable feeling may make them pass on you.”

He took the mesage to heart and eventually got the job. To another client, who was both angry about being laid off and also depressed about the matter (anger and depression are, of course, quite related) I said:

Employers are kind of funny. They already have lots of angry and depressed people on staff. They don’t need one more.

He too heeded the advice and got about the difficult business of dealing with these difficult emotions. This is very serious stuff, and the advice in this article is a good place to start if you are without work and feel like your emotions are getting the best of you.

Grown Ups Need Recess Too…

6 Mar

 playground

… Such is the claim by Dr. Stewart Friedman at Harvard Business Online. He comments on research published by the journal Pediatrics, which shows that recess breaks are good for the educational achievements of children. Dr. Friedman posits the same thing can happen for we grown ups:

The paradoxical lesson of this story is relevant not just for school children but for us grownups, too: taking time out to restore and rejuvenate ourselves results not in reduced performance caused by less time dedicated to work, but to increased performance caused by the stronger, more focused effort you bring to work after fruitful rest.

But in the midst of this soul-crushing, terror-inducing recession, how can anyone think seriously, and without guilt, about undertaking activity that isn’t directly reducing costs or increasing revenues? The short answer is that you can’t afford not to.

Dr. Friedman goes on to offer several ideas of what you can do to refresh yourself daily. He mentioned my favorite– crossword puzzles. I’m hope you find something that allows you put the pressures of the day behind you, at least momentarily, so you can return to them with a stronger constitution.

“Survivors Guilt”– Impacting Engagement & Productivity

7 Feb

There’s a very sobering article in Time Magazine about so-called “Survivors Guilt”, the feelings of those working at a company that just went through a layoff and are still working– they survived the RIF. The article describes this syndrome:

Losing your paycheck in a recession is certainly awful, and those who hold on to their jobs are no doubt better off than their fallen colleagues. But watching colleagues pack their things and go — and dealing with guilt that it wasn’t you, anxiety that you might be next, exhaustion from the extra work you must take on and even envy of those who get to leave such a sullen environment — that’s not much cause for celebration. “Companies use the word affected with people who lose their jobs — the implication being that the people who remain aren’t,” says Joel Brockner, a social psychologist and professor of management at Columbia Business School. “They’re very much affected.”

Here’s how it feels to be one of the lucky ones: “It’s depressing,” says a market researcher in New York City who recently watched an entire division of her company be jettisoned. “You walk into the office and it’s quiet, the entire atmosphere is different. When someone gets promoted you want to say, ‘That’s great,’ but then you realize they got the job because the two other people in that group got laid off; this person was cheaper. You start feeling evil. People say at least you have a job, you should be grateful. Well, I’m not sure how happy I am. And then I feel selfish about that.”

The terms psychologists toss around to describe these feelings include survivor’s guilt (why him and not me?), survivor’s envy (thinking you might be better off gone too) and emotional contagion (the tendency to pick up your laid-off colleagues’ feelings of gloom and desperation). These feelings are with us in every recession, but as layoffs spread to more industries, people in all walks of life are increasingly experiencing them.

Fellow blogger Robin Tucker at The Proper Angle offers excellent advice to assist survivors. Her counsel is similar to what Leigh Branham and I have seen in our work in Beating the Bear Market with Engaged Employees.

Consider:

  • What can we do to make sure that departed employees are treated with dignity, so that their transition is as smooth as possible?
  • How can we work to allow “surviving” employees the communication channels they need to deal with their own feelings about this event?
  • Can we train our managers to more effectively spot employees who are not dealing well with this change?

An Outcome Of The Economic Crisis

5 Feb

An article in the New York Times points to one clear symptom of employee engagement in the midst of this economic crisis– an increase in contact with employee assistance programs. The article, in part, states:

A widely available but often ignored corporate perk — the employee assistance program — can help workers who are suddenly facing a layoff, as well as those who worry that the same fate will befall them.

E.A.P.’s, which generally are managed by counseling firms or divisions of health insurance providers, offer advice on family relationships, drug and alcohol problems and dollars-and-cents issues, among other matters. With so many people out of work because of the recession, and signs of economic rebound hard to glimpse, the number of calls to the programs has skyrocketed.

Aetna Behavioral Health, part of Aetna Inc., the health insurer, said it saw a 60 percent increase in program members seeking help in the third quarter of 2008, versus the same period of 2007. Financial stress was the main source of the increase, Aetna said.

“We’re hearing more and more people raising financial and economic concerns,” said Dennis Derr, who runs the firm’s E.A.P.’s. “We started noticing that trend in the middle of last year, with people saying they’re in debt or concerned about being laid off.”

In our research study, Beating the Bear Market with Engaged Employees , we identify five differentiators that can make a positive impact on employee engagement in the midst of these tough times, and taking care of employees is front and center.

Consider:

  • Do you have an EAP program?
  • If so, is the program well publicized?
  • Can you help managers to encourage the use of services such as EAP?