Job loss top stress

Layoffs are a traumatic event for those losing jobs.

The personal impact of losing a job is significant. According to the Holmes Social Adjustment Scale, losing a job is ranked as a top stress in someone’s life. Losing a job often means a loss of income, security, a community and a sense of identity.

We grieve the loss of a job like we grieve other human losses. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ classic work on death and dying explains how grief happens in stages:

Denial: “This can’t be happening.”

Anger: “Damn those greedy Wall Street fat cats.”

Bargaining: “If only the market would just stabilize.”

Depression: “I’m a failure.”

Acceptance: “I need to plan for my future.”

No matter what stage you find yourself in, remember these stages are normal, and grieving a loss is a process. What becomes problematic is when people get stuck in one of the stages before acceptance and lose hope, direction and confidence.

What should you do after a layoff?

  • Give yourself permission to grieve. Getting a pink slip, no matter the circumstances, is a traumatic and life-changing event. Feeling pain, fear, uncertainty and loss is normal. It’s important to find someone you can talk to about how you are feeling. Take some time — but not too much — to regroup and recharge. You can’t afford to get “stuck.” If you do, seek professional help.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t take it personally or internalize losing your job as part of layoff as a failure on your part. This isn’t about you; it’s about the economy and bottom-line business.

For those with pending layoffs:

  • Get your ducks in a row before you leave. Complete all required HR paperwork and investigate your options regarding stock, vacation or time-off pay and insurance. Collect any money (such as expense reports) the company owes you. Gather references while you still have easy access to your colleagues, co-workers and boss. Create a database of everyone you know and who knows your work. Don’t burn any bridges — it’s a small networking world out there.
  • Update your resume and highlight results and accomplishments. Run your resume by your current boss or co-workers to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. While you still have a job, gather representative samples of your work. Hiring managers want to see concrete examples of what you can do. PowerPoint presentations, company collateral or reports you have created will be good to share in job interviews.
  • Consider a career change. Your job loss may be an opportunity in disguise. Change, though difficult, is often when we grow the most. Markets, industry, technology and yes, you — all change. Take time to re-evaluate your passions, core values and what matters to you. Identify what you really love to do, activities that energize you vs. those that “drain” you. Career coaches can help you explore how your interests, abilities and experience may fit in other industries or positions and move forward. Perhaps this is your time to go back to school or upgrade your skills to move into another industry or position.
  • Develop resilience. Accept change as a natural part of your career life rather than allowing it to derail or deplete you. Job security is a thing of the past. You remain a capable, competent worker. Remember, the economy has cycles and life has peaks and valleys. What matters to your surviving and thriving is how you respond.
  • Explore possibilities about what you can create in the next chapter of your career. Spend time getting clear about your vision of what you want to achieve. Be proactive and identify opportunities to grow. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled” offers this: “It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.”

Reduce Your Job Stress

WHILE JOB STRESS isn’t new, there is no doubt it’s on the rise. This workplace coach sees an alarming trend in frazzled, burned out and exhausted workers. The constant theme I hear: Everyone is increasingly challenged to do more with less.

According to a Northwestern National Life survey, one out of four workers view their jobs as the No. 1 stress in their lives (40 percent of workers surveyed said their job was “very or extremely stressful”). I help my clients find ways to decrease work stress factors that contribute to a long list of health concerns (migraines, anxiety attacks, sleep deprivation, etc.). Many report working 80-hour weeks and routinely facing morning inboxes with more than 200 new messages — with no end in sight.

The price is high: skyrocketing illness, friction between co-workers (“desk rage”) and lower productivity. Workers return home to their families short-tempered and depleted, often anxious about unfinished work, resulting in an inability to recharge.

There are many contributors to workplace stress: unrealistic deadlines, lack of supervisor support or understanding, feuding co-workers, misallocated or simply too few resources … the list goes on. Another big contributor is supervisors who fail to involve workers in decision-making that affects their daily work.

What causes workplaces to be in this state of constant overdrive? Increasing global competition, a tightening economy and excessive performance expectations all drive the ever-spinning hamster wheel. The information age is our blessing and our curse. Technology has made it easy to communicate and difficult to ever get away from the job. BlackBerrys, PDAs and laptops keep many workers tethered to their work, including on the well-deserved family vacation to Hawaii. If you find yourself sneaking out of the hotel room late at night, or slipping off the beach to compulsively check just “a few e-mails,” you might just have a problem. (If in doubt, ask your family.)

Many of my clients are at a critical juncture: continue down the same burnout path and suffer the inevitable consequences, or change.

If everyone in your company is stressed looking for efficiency or looking for cover, there may be a need to address the issue systemically. One thing experts and surveys agree on: Happy workers equate to productivity.

What companies can do:

  • Don’t expect your people to do it all. Unreasonable goals are counterproductive. They demotivate your work force and cause unnecessary frustration.
  • Watch for signs of depletion in your workers. Monitor workload and schedules to make sure they are in line with resources. Find ways to decrease the burdens by decreasing daily or excessive paperwork and approval processes. Consider outsourcing.
  • While many jobs have normal cycles of “crunch time” or heavier workloads, don’t allow this to become a yearlong constant. Appropriately acknowledge and compensate people for extra work (additional time off, bonuses, etc). Work exceptionally hard during these times to let your employees know they are valued and appreciated.
  • Survey employees and their perceptions of job conditions, stress and workplace satisfaction. Supervisors should consult with employees around decisions that affect their day-to-day work lives and responsibilities; giving them more control and flexibility over their work can yield great returns (like keeping talent!).
  • Provide opportunities for workers to socialize, have fun and blow off steam.

What workers can do:

  • If you are the poster child for workplace exhaustion and stress, stand up for your rights! Be professionally assertive and express your feelings to supervisors who make unreasonable demands. Communicate when you don’t have the time or resources necessary to accomplish the request. Ask for prioritization. If the boss demands it “has to be done,” counter with, “What piece of my other workload can I give up to get this done?”
  • Don’t inundate co-workers with e-mail overload. Clarify critical e-mails from noncritical ones. Note when it’s an FYI only or action required.
  • Avoid being your own worst “stress enemy” by setting unrealistic expectations on yourself. No, you really can’t do it all, and trying to do so more often than not means you (and your loved ones) pay a very high price. Consider establishing a great job or good enough bar vs. a standard of perfection.
  • Make yourself a priority. You are the foundation on which all else hinges. Humans need to unplug to recharge. Plan unplugged time and activities to refuel — a walk, meditation, massage or yoga class and real vacations.

I am not suggesting it isn’t important to work hard. What I am suggesting is that it’s important to have balance and to work smarter vs. solely working harder.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you find ways to reduce your job stress and find more life balance.  I coach people all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com