One of the most painful and demeaning things that a person can experience occurs the day you are told your services are no longer required and you’re walked off the premises of your now previous employer.
Shock. Anger. Pain. Disbelief. Acceptance. Fear. Apprehension. Shame. Embarrassment. Uncertainty. Gut-wrenching. Numbness. Whatever you feel at that moment, it’s right for you and there’s nothing to apologize for. It can feel like you’ve had your head hit with a brick. You’re disoriented and in unfamiliar territory. And that feeling is unsettling.
If you are fortunate, the news isn’t really news at all; you’ve had some pre-warning of this moment, as in the case when a company is going through a long process of shutting down operations and moving. But in that situation, the other fundamental difference is that this is a shared experience with other employees.
What is worse however is a situation where you have no warning whatsoever and you’re the single target of those above you who have made a decision to cut you loose and you’re powerless to do anything about it but accept it. How you act at this moment may be out of character as your defensive mechanisms kick in and you struggle to orient yourself after receiving this life-altering news. You might find yourself saying things you’d never have thought of before; swearing and cursing, raising your voice, yelling, demanding answers, even begging for your job in a desperate attempt to keep it.
Furthermore, if handled poorly by the person delivering the news, it can be a humiliating experience if the surroundings in which the news is being delivered is a public space or an area within earshot of other staff. It’s not hard to imagine your embarrassment as you open the door to a common area after hearing the news and faces of your former colleagues are averted, tearful, smirking or just obviously uncomfortable and likewise in shock.
The setting for getting the news of being fired is much like the setting for getting hired; you don’t have much control over this and it’s chosen by the person chosen by the company to deliver the news or conduct the interview as the case may be.
Here’s some advice for dealing with such news if or when it should land on your doorstep. There are a few things you can do NOW while you are still gainfully employed. First and foremost, whenever you get a good performance appraisal, a note of praise and thanks, or positive written feedback, keep a copy at work but keep the originals at home. After all, if you are escorted off the property empty-handed, the last thing on your mind will be to get these things, and you probably won’t be allowed to touch any files or computer to retrieve these things because of a fear of sabotage even if watched. They want you gone; now.
In addition to the positive evaluations you’ve earned, you should have some way of contacting people within the company who you’ve had good dealings with. If the woman in Purchasing you’ve only ever known as Brenda could help you out significantly by acting as a reference, you might find your ties severed if you can’t call her personally outside of the workplace. In fact, all your networking contacts will be sitting on your desk and of no use to you unless you’ve thought to keep some kind of home directory.
But immediately after you get the news, I’d like to suggest two primary choices you can make – either one of which might be the best advice for you personally. I’d suggest you either dive directly into a job search, especially if you know exactly what it is you want to do next. Some people are good at dealing quickly with this loss and moving on. But the second choice is to take up to a week to do nothing. By restricting your socializing and job searching, you can get angry, yell, write hate letters you’ll never send, mope around and grieve. Avoiding others for a week might keep you from giving people the wrong impression, or alienating yourself from people who can help you later.
There are some good things about losing a job. If you’ve been unchallenged and running on auto-pilot for years, this could be the push you needed but would never have taken on your own. This is an opportunity to change directions, try something you’ve wanted to do, go back to school and re-tool yourself.
Apply for any Employment Insurance or benefits immediately. If you are entitled, they will likely pay you funds from the day you apply; NOT the day you lost your job – so get at it! Think seriously about seeing a Mental Health Counsellor and a family Doctor. Be honest and tell them about the news and get a physical/mental health look-see.
This isn’t a good time in your life. Guard against going into a shell of silence which can bring on dark places and thoughts. Stay connected and let your family and friends know. Ask for help; this is wisdom not weakness. Visit an Employment Resource Centre and tell them your story and be honest. Ask them straight up – “I need help. What can you do for me?”
Regarding finances, tighten things up where you can now. Call for lower interest on your credit cards, cut the magazine subscriptions, get a cheaper phone and data plan.
I feel for you. While getting fired and released doesn’t hold the stigma it used to, it still stings.