Post-cutback guilt, stress


September 27, 1992|By Niki Scott

Sorrow, anxiety, relief, resentment, guilt. These are some of the emotions you may be feeling if you've survived one or more recession-driven corporate cutbacks while others have not.

It's survivor guilt, say the experts, the same guilt that people feel when they live through a natural disaster that others do not survive, or survive a plane crash, guerrilla attack, armed robbery, plague or other catastrophe while others do not.

The survivor guilt that you may be feeling nowadays is different, of course, from that sort because watching people being laid off isn't nearly as traumatic as watching them die. But this recession is far from over; it's likely to go on.

So along with some guilt ("Why am I still here when so many good people aren't?" "Why do I, who have no children, still have a job while good old Bob -- who has six -- is unemployed?"), LTC you're probably experiencing a constant, not-so-low level of anxiety because if the ax falls again, you know it could fall on you.

And as if these feelings didn't produce enough stress, you're likely to be dealing with a certain amount of resentment, as well, about the inherent unfairness of corporate layoffs plus the fact that you're probably being asked to work harder than ever -- for no more money -- and can't even complain for fear that you'll put yourself in more jeopardy.

Here are five concrete steps you can take right now to help lower both your guilt and stress levels:

*Stop participating in "doom and gloom" talk at work. Refuse to rehash, even one more time, layoffs that have occurred, layoffs that might occur, raises that are frozen, or the state of the economy.

Dwelling on this depressing, anxiety-producing subject isn't going to bring anyone back or change what's going to happen in the future; it will only keep you distracted and tense.

*Resign from the rumor mill. Don't spread even one more, and stop being a polite listener when someone else tries to spread the newest, scariest -- probably inaccurate -- piece of gossip about what's going to happen next.

Just say that you don't want to hear it unless "it" is in writing andfrom the person in charge, because worrying ahead of time isn't going to change anything except your own stress level. Then change the subject.

*Don't think or say anything critical about those who have been laid off. Don't listen to any criticism of them, either. When survivors ask "Why not me?" they're often tempted to ask, instead: "Why them?"

It may feel comforting at the time to think about all the things

that were wrong with them -- and aren't wrong with you -- but anything you think or say that's negative about people who already face great misfortune is bound to haunt you later.

*Keep in touch with the people you know who've been laid off. Allow time to call each of them once a week, just to check in. A short, friendly call can be a lifesaver to people who are bound to be feeling shellshocked, lonely, disoriented and adrift right now. And like most people who do good deeds, you, too, will reap the benefits.

*Take care of your own fear and anxiety about being laid off by taking action now to increase your worth to your present company -- and to another one, if you do end up unemployed.

Start with an honest appraisal of your weak points and what you can do right now to strengthen them. If you need to be more competent with new technology, or never quite got around to getting that degree or certificate that most of your competition already has, now is the time to correct these deficiencies.

Why? Because while it's true that the last thing you need right now is more work, the energy you're probably spending worrying about the weaknesses in your resume -- and the real chance that they'll make you more vulnerable if additional cutbacks occur -- almost certainly is taking more out of you than the energy it will take to remedy them.

) Universal Press Syndicate

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