Oddly calm after being laid off
September 2, 2013 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I was laid off last week, and instead of feeling angry, I just feel … well, calm. Is this even remotely normal?

In the middle of a lovely vacation in Newfoundland, I got a call saying that my branch office had been closed effective immediately, and everyone laid off. I was very briefly angry, but that melted away quickly. I have received their offer of severance, and it's with an employment lawyer now. I know what I need to do; I'm not numb. I have a clear plan forward (though no concrete income source defined yet). I'm getting sterling support from family, friends and former colleagues. We can be financially secure — if very frugal — for a few months, possibly years.

In the past year, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and I have an effective treatment plan. I have also recently started meditating and find it to be at least as valuable as the medication. This is going to sound weird, but all I'm feeling is forgiveness for my former employer; I genuinely wish them well, and hope they find a business plan before they go out of business.

I'm a mid-career engineer, so feelings aren't my strong point, especially with untreated ADHD clouding my insight for most of my life. I enjoyed my job and I was good at it, so it's not relief. But this calm is unfamiliar territory. Has anyone experienced something similar? Did it pass? Did it increase?
posted by A Friend of Dug [sock] to Work & Money (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This happened to me when I was made redundant with no notice in 2009, at the height of the GFC. When they gave me the news, I snapped into a completely different head space. I was preternaturally calm - so much so that my employers were unnerved as they gave me the speech.

I was good at the job, although I didn't enjoy it, because the people I was working for were unreasonable and abusive. Like you, I got a good payout - enough not to have to worry for about a few months. I had low overheads, a good support network, a plan for what I was going to do next. So I was calm, because I felt like I was in control. Later I was happy, because I had time and space to unwind, work on my hobbies. It was effectively a holiday.

I know what I need to do... I have a clear plan forward (though no concrete income source defined yet). I'm getting sterling support from family, friends and former colleagues. We can be financially secure — if very frugal — for a few months, possibly years.

Why shouldn't you be calm? A bad thing happened, yes. But you're set. You've got cash, you've got support, you've got a plan. You have nothing to worry about. You are in charge, in control, managing the situation. Of course you're calm.

Enjoy your extended holiday.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:22 PM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]

This sounds perfectly healthy to me. I really like how you're framing it as "life happened, I'm in control and can deal with it," rather than "life happened to me, woe is me, I'm a victim."

I haven't been laid off, exactly, but I've had employment plans change out from under me with almost no notice, and I felt calm and accepting. For me, it came from a place where I had this serene self-confidence that I'd figure something out, and was comfortable that I was doing everything that I needed to. I was also confident that there was no malice - things just happened. What good would it do to take it personally at that point?

I sincerely hope that you manage to enjoy the rest of your vacation!
posted by Metasyntactic at 7:23 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's fine to not freak out if there's not a whole lot to freak out about. I've never been laid off alongside an entire location, but I can see that situation feeling a LOT less personal than being laid off individually, which is hard not to take personally.

You may panic at some point, or you may just get on with it. You may have some other normal stages of grief as well. And that's fine too, if you do.

The last time my husband was laid off (we'd both been through it twice before), I was just irritated. Age and experience will temper these things.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've usually been able to be relatively calm about such large things as being laid off (which has happened to me twice). In these cases, the calm was derived from a feeling that I knew what was coming, was prepared for it, and that even the worst case could be handled by me and mine. In other words, there wasn't any place for fear to catch, and without fear, no anxiety, no dread, no anger, no feeling of victimization.
posted by fatbird at 7:24 PM on September 2, 2013

Best answer: There's nothing "wrong" with the way you feel. You have control of your life, you've resources to allow you to deal with something that is a common occurrence (getting laid off), you have a plan, and it sounds like you have confidence.

Good for you... Best wishes on whatever the new adventure might be...
posted by HuronBob at 7:25 PM on September 2, 2013

I think this is the perfect indication that your meditating is working. Congratulations! You've achieved inner peace! I think it's great that this is your reaction - we're so used to a cultural narrative of being angry, upset, feeling hopeless etc. after losing one's job. You've just showed us that another way is possible and that things are going to be ok. Thank you!
posted by foxjacket at 8:05 PM on September 2, 2013

Best answer: No, you are awesome. Keep being the Tao-filled coworker I envy at your next gig. Enjoy!
posted by thirdletter at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, this has happened to me. I was in a relatively junior position, overworked, fighting constant fires, and one morning I got the call to the HR floor. I was laid off because my desk had had a bad year, and it wasn't even my fault. I was just the easiest person to get rid of.

I felt calm, and mostly relieved that long nightmare was over. I thought it would pass and I'd eventually get anxious about being unemployed, but nope, I stayed calm through the entire three month spell of joblessness. Even went on vacation! (It probably helps that I had a decent chunk of cash saved up). The most I felt was the occasional anger at my boss who'd laid me off, but not intense anger - I've certainly been more upset about more trivial things.

To this day I don't really think anything of it - I was lucky enough to find another job that wasn't anywhere near as bad.
posted by pravit at 8:28 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nope, I got laid off, and I was upset for a day, then totally fine. As long as you have money to get you through it and decent job prospects, then being calm is the rational response, IMO.
posted by empath at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just got laid off a month ago, and my biggest feeling was a sense of relief.

However, this was my situation: my job was very stressful, and I barely had direction or support.
The commute was horrid.
For the past few months, I could see around me that my company was in trouble.
I was making concrete plans to quit at the end of the year anyways to go back to school, so I've been squirreling money away for months now for that.
It even got to the point where I told my boss to lay me off first if it came to that, because I was in the best position to handle it.

So when it did happen suddenly, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for it. While it was a shock, I feel no resentment or anger at my former employer at all.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:40 AM on September 3, 2013

It's uncertainty, frustration and conflicting pressures that stress people worst, I think. You've at least got clarity.
posted by Segundus at 1:54 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your feelings are totally valid, no matter *what* you're feeling. Peoples' reactions usually come down to, Was it a surprise or at least somewhat expected, combined with the individual's financial situation.

I've been laid off twice, and it's never fun. The first time, I was a total panicky emotional wreck --- but then again, that layoff came as a complete surprise out of nowhere, and was a financial disaster for me since my savings were low, I had recent larger-than-usual bills, etc. etc. The second time I got laid off, it was pretty expected (more like 'the other shoe finally dropped') plus I was in a much more stable financial situation, so it gave me a feeling of relief like "Whew, THAT's finally over.
posted by easily confused at 2:30 AM on September 3, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you. I'm not quite used to being able to think straight yet.
posted by A Friend of Dug [sock] at 5:20 AM on September 3, 2013

2nding Segundus. I often feel paralysed by the unknown, because I don't know what actions to take without knowing whats going on, but as soon as something happens, at least I have more information to move on.

You got the triple whammy of being on vacation and having "the known" and feeling financially secure. Keep on truckin.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:32 AM on September 3, 2013

Best answer: It sounds like you'll be back to work soon enough, and you're financially secure for the time being - what you're experiencing is a dividend of being in a good position and emotional maturity. Enjoy this time*.

One of the happiest times in my life was six months of involuntarily unemployment in my late 20s. It took a while to admit how much I was enjoying it, but I did a lot with that time and still look back on it fondly. I'm a big believer in the Taoist notion of being "gainfully unemployed".
posted by ryanshepard at 8:53 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm an engineer and I found out about my impending layoff in June (my last day is this Friday). Even though I kind of wanted the layoff (the severance package is really generous, I'm in school for a career switch, I don't love this job), I've spent the whole summer feeling like I should be feeling something. But I really haven't -- except now, I'm really looking forward to being unemployed next week.

So, I kind of hope that what you're feeling is normal, because that means that I'm normal too. Don't get too complacent though -- make a budget, update your resume, linkedin, etc, but enjoy your extended vacation.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:08 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I had a briefly relapse into anger when I'd engaged a lawyer to try to get a slightly better settlement. I should've let it go, rather than spending $1000 finding out that my former employer was intractable. [Except for the bit where they'd illegally stopped health insurance cover short of the required notice period; it was fun reading the law to the HR people…]

But yeah; after a round of promising interviews and incredible support from my industry and former colleagues, I'm still feeling good. I'm picking up a little consultancy work here and there. I could be slightly more employed, but I'm getting to like this gainful unemployment thing. Just shows me that the busier I was, the less effective I was too.
posted by A Friend of Dug [sock] at 9:01 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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