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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Matters of the Mind: Job loss or an opportunity of a lifetime

Tough as it may be, the emotions that result from our perceptions, belief systems and prejudices with losing a job need to be reviewed and further redefined

Written by Dr Shwetambara Sabharwal | Mumbai |
March 27, 2021 2:25:37 pm
job lossIT sector witnessing highest discrepancy at 16.60% in employee background verification: AuthBridge

I had an interesting experience once.

Years ago, I volunteered in a charitable hospital as a clinical psychologist and a counselling skills teacher in their nursing college next door. I enthusiastically joined pro bono, eager to contribute, test, counsel and also teach young nurses, psychology, to be better prepared as caregivers.

While the lectures were challenging, fun and stimulating, I sat in my doctor’s cabin thrice a week for hours on end without a single patient. Every time there was a rustle outside in the corridor, I straightened up in the hope of a walk-in mostly in vain. So many years ago, we truly weren’t sought out much.

Needing occupation to contribute more and out of sheer boredom, I put in my papers.

After a brief conversation regarding the stigma and challenges counsellors had to face, as any good senior would do the hospital manager coached me into withdrawing my resignation and asked me to persist.

Raring to go and with no time to waste, I persisted and politely quit.

Within a week, I got myself attached to two clinics and a hospital, this time so that I would have enough volume of work. A few months later, I reached home exhausted at 11 pm and was rummaging through the snack cabinets for something to eat as I dropped a folder to the ground. Out flew several documents and letters. The folder belonged to my father-in-law and I sat on the floor to reorganise the papers with a mouth full of a family favourite tea cake from Puna. As I was putting the papers back in order, I noticed a letter from the charitable hospital I used to work with, the subject of the letter read “Termination of Services”. Amazed, confused, shocked, and appalled I read the letter that was a notice from the hospital administration stating they wished to terminate my services at the hospital due to my absence at work. This was not an acceptance of my resignation. Could there have been a miscommunication? Had the hospital manager not communicated to the administration?

My father-in-law was very proud of me. I had a hole in my stomach thinking what he must think of me. Had I let him down. What did I do wrong? Would this mean my future and career would be marred forever? Why did he hide the letter from me? I didn’t sleep that night.

The next morning I asked dad when the letter had arrived, he informed me it was a couple of weeks ago. I reminded him that I had actually resigned. He nodded in agreement. Worried about me and unsure why this was done, he had kept the letter away from me. I argued and explained that it was definitely a misunderstanding and that this was strange and defended myself by reminding him of all the afternoons he saw me awkwardly walk out in sarees (as that was the requirement at the establishment). How could they accuse me of absence? In that one moment, I felt I experienced a volley of difficult emotions. Dad had kept that letter from me to protect me and possibly himself from exactly this, seeing me this way. Despite knowing of my resignation, something had hurt him too. He couldn’t bear to see me feel shame, insult, infuriation, embarrassment, sadness, exploitation, anger and violated and for the first time was at a loss of words himself.

jobs When people get sent home with their termination letters, they often carry with them a lifetime of trauma and weight on their backs. (file)

Years after the incident, the question of why the hospital manager refused my resignation and then sent me a termination letter when I persisted with my decision, still rings in my head.

Getting fired, laid off or being asked to take a break, is a prevalent practice, a lingering fear and a common reality for many. While some establishments are most sensitive about it, some genuinely don’t know better practice.

Internalising it as a failure, rejection, a shameful thing and anxiety over the future is common and understandable.

Both the imagination and actual experience of this is loaded with some of the most difficult emotions, not only for the ones who lose jobs but also their loved ones.

Tough as it may be, the emotions that result from our perceptions, belief systems and prejudices with losing a job need to be reviewed and further redefined.

We allow our self-esteem to take a huge hit, based on several factors that often may have nothing to do with us. The economy, a pandemic or the axe falling on a particular industry is not personal but when people get sent home with their termination letters, they often carry with them a lifetime of trauma and weight on their backs, of not being good enough, worthy or valued.

With the coronavirus invading not just our health but also jobs and industries, the risk and experience of job loss, pay cuts at full time, reduced schedules resulting in reduced pay and or no overtime, have been high. Following are my suggestions at potentially healthier perceptions of the same:

*”This is not a gauge of my worth. There are many factors that led to this which are external and out of my control.” Keep your self-esteem vaulted in a safe with no external factors being able to pull it down by their actions, words or attitude.

*”This is temporary. I will have a job again.” The idea that losing this job can impact the rest of our lives and its permanent damage makes us anxious and helpless. This is not permanent at all!

*”Can this be an opportunity in disguise?” There are innumerable people who attribute their happiness and contributions in the world to a setback in life, losing a job, their ideas being rejected or projects shutting down. Turning a setback into an opportunity is very much possible.

* “What lessons do I get to walk away with?” The most valuable thing about challenges is our ability to learn and overcome. Getting by a tough phase teaches us invaluable lessons about ourselves and others, empowering us for future.

* “No denial, no excuses, this is real. I can choose to review my passion, aptitude, skills, growth areas, ambitions and ideas and move on ahead wiser, authentic, stronger and happier.”

I felt all of the emotions I am advising against, so I know this is not easy. However, I was able to understand and embrace the points mentioned above which helped me back up on my feet very quickly. To work hard, to add value, to keep my chin up and eyes on my goals, no matter what, have been my way of keeping up with setbacks, which soon became turning points the moment I let them.

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