When organizations have to deliver bad news like a reorganization or restructuring happening in the workplace, or if there has been an accident or sudden death, they call me to help the employees debrief with their emotional states with me. I absolutely have been loving it! I love the variety, the interactions with new people, and helping people in crisis and distressing situations.
When I first started the work, I must say I was fully open to experiencing whatever was going to happen. I was excited, and open to learn. However, I must say that I have been very happily surprised at how people react to losing their jobs.
Many people have experienced the "normal" reactions to job loss, but, for others, it was a much different experience. Here are some surprising things I have learned while doing this wonderful work in the community.
1. The word "change" is much more subjective than I originally thought
Change means very different things to different people. Especially when they're told about job loss. For some, I have seen utter and complete panic. The ability to process the information is just too much for them in such a short period of time. These individuals have a much more difficult time seeing the end in a gentle/positive tone.
For some, it has been a neutral reaction. They have viewed reorganization and restructuring as something that "just happens", and they just needed information from me to help understand the sequence of events, and gentle reminders of self-care.
For others, it has been a "sign from the Universe", or, surprisingly, "a positive thing". Some have said that they have considered moving on but needed that push to do it. Others have said that they have been looking for other positions, but this was the final push for them to do it. Others saw compensation packages as a blessing to do what they needed to financially, and that they had the ability to now stay at home to take care of family, self-care needs, and the opportunity to travel.
How incredibly different all these reactions are!
2. Reframing is incredibly powerful
Being able to sit with people in their shock, grief, and attempts at processing the information given to them is an incredible honour to be able to provide. Also, the ability to work with people and help them to reposition, and pivot their thoughts from a negative perspective to a positive one is an incredible tool.
By helping these wonderful people see things in a different light, I have been able to instill a little bit of hope, positive energy, and thoughts about "what's next" as opposed to rumination, negative self images, and intense panic about the lack of certainty about what the future holds!
This was an awesome tool I was able to whip out! During reframing instances, I helped them to think of worst case scenarios. Yes. You read that right. Hear me out.
I asked one woman who was just in complete panic about what was happening with her to tell me exactly what was going on in her mind.
SHE: I just don't know what I'm going to do!
ME: I hear that. It's a big mess, and I hear your panic.
SHE: Jeez. What is going to happen to me if I don't find a job?
ME: That's a great question!
SHE: I can't even think about it.
ME: What happens when you start to think about it?
SHE: I can't.
ME: Work with me for a second. What do you think the WORST thing could happen?
SHE: I don't understand.
ME: Let's blow things up. What will happen in three months, if the time they give you to transition into a new job ends, and you cannot find new work?
SHE: I'll be unemployed.
ME: So you won't lose your home? Car? Husband?
SHE: OH GOD, no.
ME: So, after those three months are done, you have a severance package for 7 months?
SHE: Yes. That's what they told me.
ME: Ok. So you can get covered for another 7 months. Will it take you 10 months to find a job?
SHE: Things are bad out there but not that bad!
ME: Awesome. So where is the fear coming from?
<stared at each other a bit....>
SHE: I have no idea. Actually. Things don't sound as bad as they did now!
We continued the conversation, but you can see when you give yourself permission to blow things up out of proportion, it isn't so bad. And if you do identify things that could be potential issues (i.e. mortgage payments, bills, loss of sense of self, etc.), you work to mitigate those issues as best as you can. Now that you've thought them through, it won't be as bad when and if you can't find a job!
4. People are more resilient than you realize.
Resiliency, or the ability to bounce back from difficult situations, is the key to being more psychologically healthy after a traumatic experience. I have been pleasantly surprised to see how much people can bounce back from difficult situations. I have completely changed my thought patterns of going in there feeling for them, when oftentimes, they're completely OK!
I heard a variety of wild stories of people having lost their jobs before, the difficulty they had to endure, and ability to have bounced back to the current space, has given me the ability to remember that people are so remarkable.
That has been my biggest take away from my work as a trauma onsite responder so far.
People are strong. Stronger than you could ever realise!
Much love, Nancy