Job Loss – Up in the air

I found the movie “Up in the Air” very disturbing. I was involved in a reduction in force (RIF) at NASA Space Flight Center a number of years ago.  It turned out that information was fed into a computer and decisions were made about which job to eliminate.  All 53 jobs that were eliminated were held by men, ranging from the grass cutter to top executive.  It was horrible for the men—they said things like “It is worse than a diagnosis of cancer,” “How can I face my family?” “This is terrifying.”  However, NASA handled this downsizing in a humane and helpful way. 

Each individual was offered the opportunity to participate in a weeklong outplacement program.  But more important, each individual was assigned to someone in human resources as a “buddy” until the person found an alternative job.  So when we studied these men the week of the RIF and followed them up six months later, we heard things like, “I know now that I can handle anything now.” “Up in the Air” unfortunately shows the inhumanity of letting people go in today’s world.  It reflects a heartless, cynical view of the way things are handled but not the way they could be handled.

Transition Tips:  When you are initiating a transition for someone else, be sure to

1)  Be honest and direct about what you are telling the other person;

2)  Provide several alternatives for the person receiving the news;

3)  Offer to meet again with the person to see how things are going;

4)  Research the topic and suggest some books that might help;

5)  Offer to link the person with someone else in the same boat.

Moving Office Spaces Can Make Us Queasy: How To Cope With Small Changes In Life

Talking recently with Elizabeth Bernstein, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, she described the upheaval when her offices were moved.  She has it right.  A seemingly innocuous transition like moving office space can, in fact, make us queasy.  I studied transitions for over thirty-five years and found that any change, over which you had no control, can have extraordinary consequences.
The findings that Bernstein describes—the emergence of adolescent feelings, the changes in routines (including where to find the bathroom) affected her relationships and assumptions about the way life will be for her. If moving offices can have such an impact, imagine what divorce, death, or a lover going off to war can do to us. That’s why it is so important to learn about transitions and how to cope with them.

Some transition tips from Overwhelmed:  Coping with Life’s Ups and Downs

Tip 1. Realize that whenever transitions change your roles, routines, relationships and assumptions–even if they are transitions you want–you will be challenged.

Tip 2. Transitions do not take place at one point in time–they are a process over time.  It is like going on a trip–you dream about it, plan it, go on the trip, take your pictures, pay the bills, remember it.  It is much more than the 10 days on the trip.

Tip 3. You have resources to cope with the transition process–you can learn new coping strategies.  More on coping strategies in the next blog.

A New Lease on Life: Adult Children Coaching Retired Parents

Adult children might just be the ones to help their retired parents revitalize their lives. I interviewed Stan soon after he sold his dry cleaning business.  He was depressed, bored, and spent all day watching TV. His son remembered his father’s love of baseball and literally dragged him to a senior baseball league. This was the beginning of Stan’s reengaging in life. Daniel, a computer consultant and guru, took charge when his father retired from the carpet cleaning business. Daniel convinced his father to learn computers.  They go together on every house call.  Daniel s father handles the books, makes the appointments and once again feels useful.  Roxanne, a co-owner of a boutique PR firm, introduced me to her mother who is now her Woman Friday.  She had just helped out with the refreshments and arrangements for a photo shoot.  As her mother said to me, working for my daughter has taken 10 years off my life.

New Tips for Retirees:  If you are bored, if you need revitalizing then think about your younger relatives.  Would you like to work or volunteer with them?  It might be worth an exploratory discussion.

Choosing Your Retirement

Below you will find my cover story from the September issue of NARFE.


Cover Story: Choosing Your Retirement

(please right click to download and share)

When the Unimaginable Happens: Unexpected Job Loss and Its Impact on Your Marriage

The following is an article posted by the University of Maryland newsdesk from September 9, 2009

By Nancy Schlossberg
Professor Emerita College of Education
University of Maryland

It was hard enough getting over the shock of losing his long-time advertising job. But he just couldn’t find another job. It had been so easy before – he was sure history would repeat itself and he’d be working again soon. Nine months later, he wasn’t so sure. Forced retirement was already taking a toll – there was the separation from his wife – and the depression. The only thing that kept him going was the love for his two children.

Tales of growing tension among couples after one retires – or is forced to retire due to layoffs – are legion these days. One man told me “Being together 24/7 feels like torture. It’s bad enough that I have lost my job but now I am subject to nagging all day long.” One woman told her husband, “I don’t want to see your eyeballs after breakfast until dinner. And another man complained, “We used to treasure being together on weekends. Now we are together 24/7 and my wife wants to get away as much as she can.”

Why Does Job Loss Pull People Apart Instead of Making Them Closer?

* Coping with the unexpected is daunting.

When the unexpected or dreaded happens to you, you feel out of control, helpless, passive, angry, and depressed – in waves and in no particular order. Unexpected job loss can jolt your relationship – catapulting you into a new way of being together. In a University of Maryland study of forced job loss at the Goddard NASA Space Flight Center in the early 80’s, Zandy Leibowitz and I discovered that the men did not immediately tell their wives. In fact, they dressed and pretended to go to work. When they finally confessed and began staying home 24/7, life changed dramatically.

* Any major change, expected or unexpected, alters life in unimaginable ways.

Losing your job and staying home with your spouse is BIG. You have lost your role as worker and co-provider. Your routines are totally changed. The structure of your day is broken – including when you get up, how you dress, when you eat and with whom. Your assumptions about your world have crashed – you no longer have a secure place and future; and your relationships with colleagues, friends, and especially your spouse are in flux. When your role, routine and assumptions are fractured, you know your relationships will change.

The Good News: You’re NOT Humpty Dumpty. You CAN Put Yourself Together Again.

Here are some things you can do on your own to reduce the tension:

* Redefine your job loss as a temporary transition and as a time to explore what you really want to do when the economy picks up.

* Identify your connectors. Let everyone know what happened and that you are well and available. A retired newspaper man called a woman he had read about at his local Department of Labor and specifically asked her for help. She connected him to a forest ranger and, though that was not his field, he went to work as a temporary assistant. He did such an outstanding job he was later hired by the agency to help others.

* Use your time wisely. In addition to job hunting, set aside at least two days a week either to volunteer or set up an internship for yourself in a place you would someday like to work. Allen identified a start up firm with his kind of values. He goes to that office daily, pitching clients. This is better than staying at home. Or go back to school and finish the degree you always wanted, or learn a new skill, or make a career change. This is the time. If not now, when?

* Keep your stress level under control. Take up walking, yoga, meditation, reading, swimming – whatever works for you but DO IT RELIGIOUSLY.

More Suggestions To Reduce Tension With Your Spouse:

* Initiate an “Expectation Exchange.” This is the time to discuss your relationship and how it is being affected by your job loss. In one case, the person without a job felt very guilty and despite what she read, she blamed herself for losing her job. Her spouse, whose income was not enough to carry the load of house payments, day care, etc. was disappointed in his wife. They needed to discuss what was going on. In another instance one wife said with anger, I come home after a day at work and have to pick up his ego and retype his resume. If you cannot discuss the situation openly, it might be helpful to meet with a counselor, therapist, psychologist or social worker – someone who can bring underlying feelings out into the open and help the couple resolve the tensions.

* Go to Plan B. Realize that your life has not followed the script you both had in mind. You are experiencing an event – job loss – and a non-event – not having the life you expected. This is the time to creatively brainstorm your plan B. This is the time to rethink your script and realize that today is not forever.

Next Page »