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Why Losing A Job Can Be More Traumatic Than Losing A Spouse

India is currently layoff central.

28/06/2017 8:49 AM IST | Updated 28/06/2017 2:05 PM IST
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According to a review of over 4000 research papers, conducted by the University of East Anglia and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, employees who lose their jobs never recover to their earlier level of mental health, self-esteem and satisfaction. To put that into perspective being fired takes longer to get over than divorce or the death of a partner.

Losing a job is not just about loss of income. It is not having the answer to the second question that everybody asks after they've met you: "What do you do?"

Losing a job is not just about loss of income. It is not having the answer to the second question that everybody asks after they've met you: "What do you do?" For most people, the work they do, and where they work is usually their primary identity. Being laid-off or fired leads to that identity disappearing. In addition to losing income and your primary identity, it leads to another unexpected challenge, the erosion of purpose. Work serves a deep sociological purpose, related to the role we play in society. It assigns us a social value, without which we are not seen as contributing individuals to society (we may even be referred to as losers and slackers after period of prolonged unemployment). Finally, there's the deeply crushing loneliness that is a direct result of social isolation, since the loss of a job also means losing interactions with colleagues.

Layoffs are a grim reality in India. Jobs are being lost in the thousands, not just in the IT industry, but also in manufacturing, retail and other industries. This year alone, news reports announced 6000–10,000 layoffs in Cognizant, 600 layoffs in Wipro, and thousands more totalling 56,000. The situation may actually be far worse. Head Hunters India founder-chairman and MD K Lakshmikanth has stated that there could be close to 600,000 layoffs in the next three years.

In a place like India where employees are already tremendously stressed (46%), and depressed and anxious (42.5%), layoffs put an additional burden on their emotional and mental health. Most workplaces in India do not have a mental health policy, to take care of the well-being of employees, and almost none offer counselling services to support those who're laid off or fired.

In a place like India where employees are already tremendously stressed (46%), and depressed and anxious (42.5%), layoffs put an additional burden on their emotional and mental health.

"To get over a layoff, first, it's important to understand how it affects an individual emotionally. The typical emotional reactions of individuals, who experience a significant loss, is summed up through the DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) model. Losing a job forms a loss that symbolically represents their established identity, designation, role and responsibilities," says Dr. Sunny Joseph, a clinical psychologist and behavioural neuropsychologist at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore.

Employees are left to their own devices, meaning most do not seek help, and also do not receive support from near and dear ones. Some of them are fired unfairly from their jobs, or forced to resign. Finding jobs in this economy has proven tough and there are employees who have been unemployed for a full year or more. And while enough of a fuss may be made about a dwindling bank balance, what about deteriorating mental health?

YourDOST is launching the #Fired2FiredUp campaign, to offer three days of free counselling and career guidance, by qualified psychologists and career coaches, over a telephone helpline on 29 and 30 June and July 1. Visit the page for real life stories, learnings and tips from career psychologists and recruiters.

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