The 10 Stages of Losing Your Job: Better Stock Up on Vodka

Last Updated Oct 28, 2010 7:40 PM EDT

10 Stages of Losing Your JobLaid off, fired, canned, terminated, booted, dumped, ousted, call it anything you want, but a rose by any other name is still a damn rose. And losing your job still sucks.

I've fired people and I've been fired. Having spent most of my career in the tech industry -- famous for its boom and bust cycles -- I've been involved in dozens of RIFs (Reduction in Force). And while HR consultants have plenty of euphemisms and methods for handling those wonderful occasions, the result is always the same; a lot of really bummed-out people.

In fact, I've noticed that folks tend to have similar reactions to losing their jobs. So, having observed it all-too-many times and even gone through it myself, here are The 10 Stages of Losing Your Job:
  1. Suspicion. When a layoff's coming there's always a leak, a rumor, and plenty of idiots with nothing better to do than to yap it up and get some sort of perverse thrill from the misery of others, like sharks sensing blood in the water. You start to get suspicious.
  2. Apprehension. From that point on, it could be days or even weeks, you sort of hold your breath in apprehension, assessing the odds of your survival while waiting for the other shoe to drop. You begin to notice people whispering around you.
  3. Shock. The day comes. Somebody walks into your office or you're called into a surprise meeting. You hear the well-rehearsed words, as if from a distance. Later you try to remember what happened after that, but it's all a blank.
  4. Resignation. When you finally fade back into reality, you realize the decision's been made, it's all over, and there's really nothing left for you to do but give yourself over to the void.
  5. Hope. That is until you realize there may be a termination package in it for you. Time off and money; this could be cool. You suddenly become wildly excited and hopeful, like a kid on Christmas morning.
  6. Disappointment. Nope, the termination package isn't the sweet deal you'd hoped for. Instant, heavy-duty disappointment. You feel like you're falling for a very, very long time. Then you crash.
  7. Numbness. Now it's okay to give in to the void. For a long time after that, you have no idea how long, it could be hours or even weeks, you don't feel a thing. Just quiet, calm, like driftwood floating on an endless sea.
  8. Depression. Somewhere in the void you hear someone crying and realize it's you. Food loses its taste and your favorite sitcoms are depressing. Having forgotten where the shower and closet are, you walk by a mirror and wonder why there's a homeless person in your house. You move into the living room and sleep on the couch.
  9. Anger. You suddenly wake up one morning mad at the world. Your spouse gives you the "welcome back sweetheart" and "don't take it out on me" speech, so you direct your anger at the a**holes that did this to you. How dare they!
  10. Elation. When the anger begins to dissipate, usually the morning after you run out of vodka, you start to think about all the things you hated about that god-forsaken place where you used to be enslaved. Hung over but ecstatic, you take a shower, put on some clothes, and head for Starbucks. Let the job search begin.
Incidentally, my absolute favorite quote on the subject is, "I've been fired by better people!" Try saying it. It feels really good.

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