The rain before my rainbow

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I fired off a pretty brief post last week—really out of guilt from not having blogged in over a week. So today I am posting a more robust explanation of some of the things I experienced. The past month, really, has been a strange journey from a super low to a high. I wanted to blog about my super low because I think there are things I learned from the experience and things that I think are worth sharing.

When I tell people that I am working now, they marvel at how quickly I found something. As I think I have mentioned before: I found my current role through a former coworker. She knew of upcoming hiring needs and referred me to a hiring manager. So this very brief, 6-week period of unemployment was curtailed, really, by some luck and the benefit of having some good work connections.

While I could have and would have survived a longer unemployment, the truth is that I was also grappling with some realizations at that point in time (6 weeks after being let go from my previous company). So I was at a junction of some very frustrating feelings when I was offered and later accepted my current job. In some ways, I feel like my feelings post-layoff somewhat mimic the Kubler-Ross stages of grief—moving from different and varying levels of confusion, anger and acceptance.

When I was laid off, I understood the situation completely—or at least, as completely as I could, given my emotional state at the time. Financial targets weren’t hit and of the non-sales people, the two people impacted from the marketing organization were people not as directly aligned with revenue generation or distinct products/projects. Also, being somewhat in the middle of my career, I’m not entry level (read: execution) or executive level (read: strategy). I was something of a hybrid. So all these factors made the shock a bit easier to stomach.

I was talking to a former colleague when she asked a question that changed the way I saw things. She asked, “Do you think they are grooming {a more junior employee} to take over {your responsibility}?” And that question alone fundamentally changed my perception of the last 6-12 months of my time with the company. Whereas I had originally thought, “Ok, they didn’t make enough money, they had to get rid of people and they used these metrics in the process”—I immediately realized, “They have probably been making these plans for months and the gradual taking-away of responsibilities and other events in the recent past has been an orchestrated effort to justify what was positioned as an in-the-moment decision.” And I got really angry.

I got angry for a couple of reasons.

1) I got angry at the company. I had invested time and effort with the company (in other words, I added to the company) and I felt like they took away responsibilities and basically handicapped me as a professional (in other words, they took away from me). I was going into interviews without a lot of the success stories that I would have liked to have. I felt very betrayed.

2) I got angry at the junior level employee. When I started this blog, I said that I wouldn’t talk badly about people and I wouldn’t say in the blog things that would be better (and healthier) to address directly with another person. So I’m not going to talk too much about the person and I actually can’t even say that the individual was doing things on purpose. However, I was giving a lot of guidance to someone on my team—via feedback and ideas—and around the time of my layoff, I was beginning to realize that she was taking credit for a lot of my insights and positioning these ideas as her own. I felt like by not being more careful, I had somehow helped myself seem less important at the company.

3) I got angry at myself. There are lots of articles that exist about ways to know that you are becoming redundant at your companies. Things to watch out for that indicate that your boss is trying to get rid of you. In retrospect, these things happened to me and I feel like I was completely blindsided when I was finally made totally redundant and asked to leave.

I hit a low when I made these realizations and I was in a dark space for probably a week. And yes, I admit that one week is not a very long time. But I was really sad. I felt betrayed and I felt like the company had really done me wrong.

I talked to people about the concept of forgiveness and getting over trauma in one’s life. Admittedly by this point, I already had a job offer in hand so I was getting this insight just as my life was already in the process of picking back up. But I felt like it was a worthwhile exercise because I know that I tend to hold grudges and make myself more miserable than I should be.

I scheduled an appointment with a career counselor of the graduate school that I attended. After I’d finished explaining my situation, his first feedback was this: you are feeling really badly about how the company treated you. You need to get over this. Business is business and shitty things happen. You can’t get too worked up when these things happen. You have to salvage what you can of your professional life, buoy your feelings (artificially if needs be) and survive.

He also said that I had a right to feel betrayed about what the junior level employee had been doing. Whereas I was a little more understanding (after all, I knew her so I wanted to keep things above board), he tut-tutted and thought it was so bad how she had been presenting my ideas as her own. We talked about ways that I could be more careful about this moving forward. How I could have subtly addressed this before it became a problem.

I also talked to my cousin about the matter. She is very Christian and I wanted to know her take on forgiveness, as it is a primary tenet of the Christian faith. As you can see by the paragraph before, whereas I can move on, I still harbor some pretty bad feelings. She wrote me a pretty comprehensive email on the matter but basically said that as you harbor bad feelings, the deficit in happiness lies with you. You may not be able to apologize or move on from a situation for various reasons, such as pride or pain, but ultimately, continuing to hold onto the burden of bitterness detracts from your life much more than it impacts others’. She also said that when she is mad, going through the motions of telling herself she isn’t and acting in a positive manner was something that helped her out. It seemed like a variation of a science experiment where if you hold a pencil in your mouth that forces a smile, you tend to have a better attitude. So perhaps some mind over matter is the best way for me to move past this and get on with my life.

So that’s been me in the past few weeks. I know that this post is kind of a bummer. I thought it was worth writing because it’s the truth. But I am in a better space today and hopefully my future blog posts will be a) more frequent and b) more upbeat.

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