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Job loss can be a workplace trauma - 3 Plus International

Job loss can be a workplace trauma

by Mar 19, 2024

Job loss can be a workplace trauma

Job loss can be a workplace trauma for many and needs to be treated as such.

 

There is a convincing body of research that suggests that job loss can be about much more than the loss of income and potential insecurity, although that is stressful enough.  It can also be a profound experience of workplace trauma with lasting emotional consequences. The sudden disruption of employment can trigger a range of intense emotions and psychological distress, affecting not only the individual but also their relationships, sense of self-worth, and overall well-being.

Unemployment bias

This is why I get so frustrated when so-called career “coaches” and Dimfluencers shame people in the public domain for displaying the greenLinkedIn banner or publicly reaching into their networks for support. It is not only showing a complete lack of empathy and humanity but can be potentially triggering.

I would much prefer career coaches say “Look there are people in the hiring process who have deeply embedded biases towards people who openly show they are out of work. You should test it out in your target market. “

I think it’s wrong that instead of holding the perpetrators and the system to account, these pundits are transferring shame (potentially projecting their own shame I have been told) on to the job seeker.

But that is what bias is about. Maintaining the position, values and culture of a dominant group and excluding those who don’t “fit.” In this case the dominant group is those who are working and the ones left out are unemployed which is a form of “othering.”

Brutal layoffs

Losing your job is never easy but recently there has been a series of terminations that have been mind-bogglingly cruel.

  • A client found out about her termination when she could no longer access her professional email account. She then saw an email of termination in her personal account. After 25 years of service.
  • 900 people heard about group layoffs at a town hall Zoom meeting.
  • The English National Opera heard about their redundancies halfway through a performance of ironically “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the intermission. They were expected to carry on for the second half of the programme.  I may have been tempted to take my finest feature the hell off that stage.

Job loss can be a workplace trauma

Not everyone experiences these circumstances in the same way. Some take it in their stride and bounce back. For others, it’s not clear cut and it’s important to understand what could be going on for many.

73% of people experience anxiety as a result of being laid off, fired. Research from Pugh, Skarlicki, & Passell, 2003; Robinson 1996, suggests that job loss for many is traumatic .  Not everyone bounces back and can be “their own agent of change.” (Read: “The Body Keeps the Score ” by Bessel van der Kolk)

Here are some of the ways job loss can be a workplace trauma. If this is a pattern then the experience can be even more triggering.

1. Loss of Stability and Security

This is obvious. For most individuals, their job provides a sense of stability and security. Losing that stability due to unexpected job loss can be deeply unsettling. Suddenly facing uncertainty about financial security with the loss of certain benefits can be problematic. Whether it’s a company car, laptop or phone or in the US the loss of health insurance is a huge problem, and future career prospects can lead to overwhelming anxiety and fear about the future.

2. Identity Crisis

Women tend to have a more balanced view of where their careers sit in their overall lives than men but nevertheless, it can play a role.   For some their jobs often play a significant role in shaping their identities and sense of self-worth. When they lose their job, they may experience an identity crisis, feeling lost or adrift without the familiar roles and responsibilities that define them.

Recovery from job loss can involve a grieving process as some mourn their former lives and selves. It can also be the same as when a relationship ends.

 

Job loss can be a workplace trauma

3. Social Isolation and Stigma

Losing a job can also result in social isolation and stigma. Individuals may feel embarrassed or ashamed to share their job loss with others, leading to feelings of alienation and loneliness. Social support networks may also change or diminish, further exacerbating feelings of isolation and disconnection.

I had a client who left for work every day when he was laid off, because he didn’t want to tell his family. He spent his days in cafés and parks until he finally shared his situation.

4. Financial Strain

The financial implications of job loss can be significant and far-reaching. Research suggests that worrying about money can result in reduced cognitive functioning with the stress of financial uncertainty can further compound feelings of anxiety. Most people do not have adequate savings to tide them over and research suggests that with escalating costs people are saving less. 

Suddenly facing the loss of income creates immediate financial strain, impacting the ability to meet basic needs such as housing, food, and healthcare. This is, especially true in the US which has fewer social safeguards than Europe.

5. Loss of Purpose and Meaning

Work often provides a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. Losing our job can strip away that sense of purpose, leaving us feeling adrift and without direction.

6. Mental health issues

The emotional toll of job loss can take a severe toll on mental health. Many individuals experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and when they lose their job. These mental health challenges can further impede the ability to cope with the practical and emotional challenges of finding a new job.

Compassion and empathy

Navigating the trauma of job loss requires compassion, support, and resilience. It’s essential for individuals experiencing a job loss to prioritise self-care, seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals, and take proactive steps to cope with the emotional impact. Employers and communities can also be crucial in providing resources and support to individuals facing job loss, including career counseling, financial assistance, and networking opportunities.

What job seekers don’t need from Dimfluencers is the shaming and humiliation of doing what they need to do to pay their bills and maybe feed their families to keep a roof over their heads. Job loss can be a workplace trauma for many and needs to be treated as such.

Do you need help negotiating your next career move? Contact 3Plus now!

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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