“We’re Letting You Go”
THE management called him Fantastic Fred.a His innovations had saved the company a fortune during the six years he was employed there. So when he was summoned to an executive’s office, Fred expected a raise or a promotion. Instead, the executive abruptly announced, “We’re letting you go.”
Fred could not believe his ears. “I was making good money and enjoying my work, but in one moment everything came tumbling down,” he says. Later, when Fred told his wife, Adele, about what had happened, she was equally stunned. “I felt as if my blood were draining out of me,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘What are we going to do now?’”
What happened to Fred has happened to millions of others, as is shown in the accompanying graph. Yet, numbers alone do not reveal the crushing emotional impact of unemployment. Consider Raúl, an immigrant from Peru who was laid off after 18 years of employment at a large hotel in New York City. Raúl searched for work, but in vain. “For nearly 30 years, I had provided for my family,” he says. “Now I felt like a failure as a man.”
Raúl’s experience illustrates a fact that is well-known among the unemployed—that the loss of a job creates more than financial strain. Often, it cuts to the very core of your being. “I began to feel worthless,” says Renée, whose husband, Matthew, was out of work for more than three years. “If you have nothing, people treat you as nothing, and before long you begin to view yourself the way they view you.”
As if the emotional toll were not enough, each person who joins the ranks of the unemployed faces the additional challenge of living on less. “When we had the money, we never thought of cutting back,” Fred says. “But when the same expenses came—and we still had no work—we had no choice but to simplify.”
While looking for work, you need to cope with the mental and emotional anxiety caused by unemployment. You may also have to live on less. First, let us consider two practical steps you can take to deal with the emotional challenges.
a Some names in this series have been changed.
[Graph on page 3]
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The Number of People Unemployed in 2008 in Just Three Countries
United States 8,924,000