You arrive at your workplace on Monday morning, and your superior meets you at the door.
How odd, you think.
When you see the HR Director, you understand this is no ordinary Monday. This is the day you are being fired.
They say their speeches; you clean out your desk. The main thing to remember during this time is not to react in anger. Don’t say anything you will regret later.
Suddenly you’re in the parking lot. What do you do?
For a little while, nothing. Get in your car and sit. Cry or shout if you need to, if no one is around. Cars are gratifyingly soundproof. Wait until you feel calmer before driving.
If you feel suicidal or homicidal, call 911, a trusted friend or relative, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. You can also chat online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Both are staffed 24/7 and provide English and Spanish responses.
When you feel focused enough to drive, go home. Do not go to a bar; do not go to a friend’s house; do not go to a movie. Go home.
When you get home, if your spouse or roommate is there, ask for what you need. If it’s to be alone while you sort your thoughts, ask for that. If it is to talk it through, ask for that. Different personality types will need to do different things at this point. Do what feels right to you. If no one is home, and you feel like talking, call a trusted friend, relative, pastor, or therapist.
- Call your boss.
- Call anyone else at work.
- Call a lawyer.
- Call a resume writer.
- Look for jobs online.
- Drink or take sleeping pills.
It is much more important that you take in what just happened. Now is not even necessarily the time to figure out what happened, if you don’t know. It’s not the time to do anything about it. It is simply the time to be, to take care of yourself gently and kindly.
This stage can last from several days to several months, depending on the trauma that has preceded the firing. Usually, these things don’t come out of the blue, but sometimes, they feel like it.
Your emotions are likely to be at the surface for awhile. You may feel intense anger, sadness, frustration, inadequacy, guilt, confusion, and even relief. As a result, your focus needs to be on taking care of yourself and healing.
However, this may not be your first instinct. Most people want to skip this stage. For many of us, the first question is, “Where am I going to find another job?” This is admirable in the sense that you take seriously your responsibility for yourself and your family. The sad fact is that you’re likely in no shape to look for a job, do not have the focus required to update your resume, and would be abysmal in an interview. You are your own worst enemy in a job search right now.
Instead, your job is to give yourself the time it takes to get back on your feet. The best use of your time is processing through these feelings. Some valuable ways to do this include:
- Journaling: Write about what happened and how you feel about it. Use a pen and paper rather than a computer. There is a more direct emotional link to our cursive writing, and it helps us process.
- Talking: Choose a trusted friend, relative, therapist, or pastor to talk through whatever is on your mind. Many times, this needs to be someone other than your spouse or significant other, who is understandably worried about you as well as your collective financial situation. They may not be the best listener at this time.
- Crying: It sounds odd to recommend in a professional arena, but tears are a cleansing and healing way for our body and mind to deal with trauma. Choose your time and place carefully, and devote daily time to allowing your grief and other emotions to come out. You will suffer fewer symptoms as a result.
- Calming: Calming your body and mind is hard when you feel upset and anxious. One of the fastest and most effective approaches for calming anxiety is a simple technique called 4-7-8 breathing. The basic instructions are: Inhale for 4 counts; hold your breath for 7 counts, and exhale for 8 counts. More details appear here.
- Meditating or Praying: A daily meditation or prayer practice also helps with anxiety. Set aside 5 to 30 minutes for quiet time. There are many techniques for meditation and prayer. Find and use what works for you. A good place to start is YouTube. Search on “meditation for anxiety” or “meditation for grief,” for example. Here are two I like: Louise Hay on Loving Ourselves Now and Wendy Irene on Feeling Overwhelmed.
- Mindfulness: Chances are you’ve been pedaling pretty fast, and this sudden stop at work and change in your daily activities are disconcerting. You can use the opportunity to set new patterns and routines in your life. One of the most important is staying in the present. You will likely find yourself worrying about the next step, your family’s future, your financial circumstances, what your mother will say, what the neighbors are thinking, you get the picture. You will stay calmer if you can think more about what you are doing at any given minute. If you are doing the dishes, think about doing the dishes. If you are taking a walk, notice the world around you. That is staying in the present.
- Nutrition: Times of heightened stress are also the times we reach for our comfort food of choice. Nothing beats chocolate in my world, but my husband thinks the same thing about potato chips, and my friend is a huge fan of pasta during stress. It’s not going to hurt you to indulge a bit in your comfort routine. The harm can come if you’re two weeks down the road and still binge on Godiva bites most of the day. Set a time limit for your over-the-cliff comfort food craziness. Then, bring on the veggies.
You will know when it is time to move forward with your next opportunity. In the meantime, honor yourself with kindness.
If you have been fired and need help managing the transition to your next job, contact me right away. I understand the value of taking the time to heal before moving forward, and when you’re ready, I can guide you through the next steps.