Get­ting fired is one of life’s worst ex­pe­ri­ences, re­search con­cludes

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - CHRIS STOKEL-WALKER BLOOMBERG

“It’s just not work­ing out” may be some of the most heart­break­ing words in the English lan­guage, lead­ing to months of an­guish, self-ques­tion­ing and sleep­less nights.

Even worse: when they come from your boss.

Fired em­ploy­ees never quite re­cover to the same level of well-be­ing, a mea­sure that in­cludes men­tal health, self-es­teem and sat­is­fac­tion with life, ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided to Bloomberg this week from a re­view of more than 4,000 re­search papers.

Los­ing a job can be a sharp blow, one that causes a big­ger drop in life sat­is­fac­tion than be­ing wid­owed or get­ting di­vorced, ac­cord­ing to the re­view con­ducted by the Univer­sity of East Anglia and the What Works Cen­tre for Well­be­ing, an in­de­pen­dent body set up by the U.K. gov­ern­ment.

Un­em­ployed peo­ple con­tinue to be­come in­creas­ingly un­happy over the next few years. Their best hope is to find a new, per­ma­nent job — prefer­ably with high pay and high pres­tige — that can smooth over some of the shock.

“To have mean­ing in your life in this so­ci­ety means to be work­ing.” TRI­CIA CURMI WHAT WORKS CEN­TRE FOR WELL­BE­ING

Peo­ple who lose a part­ner, on the other hand, can bounce back. “Af­ter some­one loses a part­ner, (well-be­ing will) take a big dip and then, on av­er­age, it’ll get back to pre­vi­ous lev­els,” said Tri­cia Curmi, of the What Works Cen­tre for Well­be­ing. “But with un­em­ploy­ment, we just don’t see that hap­pen­ing.”

Bri­tish men’s well-be­ing re­turns to nor­mal lev­els two years af­ter los­ing their part­ner and four years af­ter the break­down of a re­la­tion­ship. But los­ing a job? Their well-be­ing con­tin­ues to de­cline for more than four years. Men are more likely to be hit harder by the blow than women.

Peo­ple can get over be­reave­ments and di­vorces. The ex­cite­ment of meet­ing some­one new af­ter a split can send the heart soar­ing, while peo­ple strug­gle to shake off the dis­ap­point­ment of be­com­ing un­em­ployed, ac­cord­ing to a 2011 meta­anal­y­sis of re­search car­ried out by aca­demics at the Freie Univer­si­taet Ber­lin.

Not enough ev­i­dence ex­ists to defini­tively say why get­ting a pink slip is so dam­ag­ing, but re­searchers con­nect it to the im­por­tance we place on hav­ing a mean­ing­ful job. “To have mean­ing in your life in this so­ci­ety means to be work­ing, con­tribut­ing and to have that sta­tus,” Curmi said.

De­spite the grum­bling, peo­ple ac­tu­ally care about their work and the so­cial sup­port they get from co­work­ers.

Nearly half of work­ers in the U.K. are sat­is­fied with their jobs, while only 25 per cent are dis­sat­is­fied, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased last month by the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Per­son­nel and De­vel­op­ment, a hu­man re­sources as­so­ci­a­tion.

The im­pact of be­ing fired is par­tic­u­larly pro­nounced on younger work­ers, the re­search shows. Tom O’Sul­li­van, 18, was fired from his first job af­ter a three-month pro­ba­tion pe­riod. He be­lieves it was be­cause he took a sick day dur­ing his first month.

“It’s ob­vi­ously not what you want to hap­pen,” said O’Sul­li­van, who lives in north­west Eng­land. “It’s not ex­actly good for con­fi­dence, es­pe­cially for your next job. You’re go­ing to have to say you’ve been sacked.”

Help from fam­ily and friends can mit­i­gate the worst im­pacts. Ex­tro­verts bounce back quicker, if not en­tirely, the re­search said.

Di­vine in­spi­ra­tion can help salve the pain, Curmi said. “Peo­ple who reg­u­larly at­tended church had a buffer­ing ef­fect from the im­pact of un­em­ploy­ment,” she said.

DREAMSTIME

It can be more dif­fi­cult to re­cover from job loss than from di­vorce or even the death of a spouse, stud­ies sug­gest.

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