Toronto Star

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


“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.
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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