Layoff And The Family With a Buzz.
“We are going to have to let you go.”
Everyone knows how devastating these words can be to an individual. Their effect on a spouse/partner or family member can be just as real. They ignite the same anger and fear as other emotionally stressful life events such as divorce, loss of a loved one or serious illness. Job loss ranks among the more severe stressors that families encounter.
Losing a job causes the entire family to feel a loss of security. As job hunters take steps to address the fear by actively searching for a new position, they rely on family members for support. However, being in the cheering section but not in the game itself causes a unique sense of helplessness. The partner who is not doing the researching, networking or interviewing has many of the concerns but none of the power. If the job hunter withdraws from or takes a partner’s support for granted, stress can build.
The key to reducing stress at home is communication. The following steps can help prevent or reduce the stress that comes with job loss:
Plan regular family meetings.
Families should set aside regular times to discuss the job search. Depending on the communication needs of your family, this can be daily, weekly, or several times a week. For some job-seekers, nothing undermines self-esteem more than being asked for daily progress report. For some family members, nothing creates more anxiety than unwanted daily reports.
Children should be informed of the job loss and be encouraged to participate in the solution. Tell them, “We’re a strong family. We’re in a tough spot for a while, but together we can bounce back from this setback.” Like it or not, you’re demonstrating how to handle adversity. Lead by setting a positive example.
Don’t avoid stressful topics, but do avoid the language of confrontation.
Don’t try to save your family pain by avoiding uncomfortable subjects. Introducing your concerns or feelings about what’s occurring is easier if you own your fear and begin sentences with “I”, such as “I’m worried…” or “I’m wondering about…” This is better than using “you”, as in, “You don’t…” or “You haven’t told me about…” This may sound insignificant, but it is often crucial to maintaining healthy family relationships. Choose your words with care.
Accentuate the positive.
Even if you aren’t a naturally upbeat person, try to focus on the positive aspects of daily events. Not sharing these positive experiences, no matter how insignificant they may seem, gives the impression that nothing positive is happening. Families should celebrate each small success. The job-seeker never knows which call will eventually end in an offer. Focusing on the positive will give the whole family the encouragement it needs as the job search progresses to a successful conclusion.
Participate in the general job-hunting process with your partner.
The job-hunter may be unemployed but he/she is not without a job. A career transition is a full-time job that beginsafter the first meeting with the OPI counselor. A program, tailored to individual needs, will be developed. Sharing and discussing the program with the family can help alleviate fears that there is no set direction. Following a plan puts the job hunter in charge of this transition and the rest of his/her career. Spouses are encouraged to participate in as much of the program as possible.
While it is important for the job-seeker to schedule an active and ongoing search, it is also important to prevent burnout by continuing to participate in leisure and recreational activities. Maintaining consistent individual and family routines will help provide structure and stability. Finding a job is often a slow process with unexpected delays. Don’t allow guilt or fear to keep you from maintaining a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
Find a support person or group outside the family with which to share your feelings.
Each family member needs a place to share feelings and concerns with others who understand, but aren’t drawn into the family’s emotional currents. The job-seeker’s participation in weekly huddle sessions at OPI can provide a much-needed escape valve, a source of support, and a strong network, which can reduce stress in the home environment.
Unemployment has a major effect on a family’s emotional and physical health. By being supportive, keeping the lines of communication open, and following the transition process, most families will find the effect is more positive than negative. You will be able to say with other OPI alumni, “This process works.”
Charles Buzz Smith is SR Curmudgeon & VP Consulting Services for OPI. OPI Outplacement & Career Transition. Outsourcing Partners, Inc. National provider of outplacement and career transition services based in Knoxville, Tennessee.