DR. E. CAROL WEBSTER’S
LOSS OF JOB SECURITY
CAN MEAN LOSS OF EMOTIONAL SECURITY TOO
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 1996, 2003
It’s a long, exhausting climb to the top. No one likes the thought of having to start over again. But, today companies all over the country are downsizing and right-sizing — putting many people who never dreamed they’d be hawking their resumes on the streets with a feeling of desperation.
The loss of prestigious position, whether sudden or otherwise, can result in several adjustment problems. Once you’ve become known in the community as a power broker, it can feel terribly demeaning to fall from the perch. Most people try to be polite about your loss of “importance”, but quickly jockey to curry favor with your replacement or next most influential decision-maker. A few are downright hurtful in ignoring you or failing to return your phone calls once your benefit to them is over. This can be particularly distressing when you’ve commanded high respect and prompt response from others. You can begin to take your power and influence for granted, not appreciating the fact that success can be here today and gone tomorrow and that you can lose it all.
Consider this case:
Robert, forty-six, former executive and victim of reduction in force, had a hard time accepting the loss of his job. He enjoyed the status and privileges of upper management for ten years and was viewed with high esteem both in the local community and in his industry. Robert was accustomed to getting his way at work and in his leadership positions on various boards and committees. He traveled in style, entertained on a grand scale, and spared no expense on himself or those he cared about. Robert was traumatized when he had to leave his company and had no immediate job leads or offers. While cushioned with a golden parachute, Robert wisely recognized that his good time had come to an end, at least for a while. For example, he cringed the first time he caught himself questioning whether to treat colleagues to lunch. Did he really want to spend the money? After all, he was no longer on an expense account. Could he afford to attend his professional association’s annual convention? “Would I have to fly coach? Stay at a budget hotel with no amenities? Too much loss of face. Probably best to stay home.”
Robert lost his membership at the business club, received fewer invitations to key social functions, and generally felt rejected and abandoned. He fell outside of the loop for important business information and became more socially isolated and withdrawn. Steeped in resentment, Robert started drinking heavily and made life hell for himself and his family as he despaired returning to life as an “average Joe.”
Psychologists across America hear Robert’s story everyday. Losing a job and its associated identity are difficult to accept. The steeper the fall, the more traumatic it can be. You’ll miss the attention and admiration of the people around you. You’ll miss the power. This is why it’s essential to recognize the transitory nature of success and not imagine yourself to be more secure than you really are.
- Where else can you work if you have to make a change?
- What other types of jobs can you do?
- Have you considered what your strategy would be if your position
was eliminated tomorrow?
Many people say with bravado, “Well, I’ll just open my own business”. This sounds good and will be a great solution for some individuals. But, if you don’t have the temperament or the talent for entrepreneurship, your feelings of depression and despair will be compounded tenfold. As an employee, you were used to a position of status, power and privilege. Your affiliation with a prestigious company afforded you these benefits. But now you have to earn these in the name of your own company and it may take years for this to happen. What is your status in the meantime? You remain one of many other eager small business people trying to make it. Noble, but not likely to be sufficiently gratifying if your ego needs the perquisites and status symbols bestowed upon members of more prosperous businesses and corporations.
Those who prefer to return to employment with an established company need to prepare for the fact that things will be different. You should always expect the best and try hard to land a job that’s comparable or better than the one you had before. But, if the job market and reality dictate otherwise, you must accept that life is going to change. Learn how to tell people directly that your position in the business community or social network is now different. Once employed again in a less powerful management position, Robert had to muster the courage to let people know that he no longer controlled the type of financial decisions they relied upon him for in the past. He learned how to say “I don’t call the shots anymore” or “I’m sorry I can’t contribute to your fund-raiser this year.” The words often choked in his throat, but Robert knew they were necessary and felt relieved as the pressure to try to keep up old behavior diminished. Instead, he found comfort in the thought that “I loved the ‘good life’ and I hope to ride high again one day. But for now this is the job I have, I am employed, and I’m okay with that.”
Job losses are a way of life these days and it’s important not to get too comfortable in the position you occupy now. Don’t let your ego get too tightly intertwined with the status and benefits of the job. It’s quite predictable that when that job goes down the drain, your sense of self-esteem and psychological well-being will go right along with it.
About the Author:
Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,
The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at http://drcarolwebster.com or call 954.797.9766.
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317
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