Q: I recently was told that my job was going to be eliminated after nearly 20 years. While I found a new position and am moving on, the whole process was very impersonal and felt unfair. What would have been fair to expect, and what can I do?
A: First of all, ouch! It's hard enough to lose your job, but even worse when it is handled in a callous manner. Keep in mind, though, that people vary a lot in how well they communicate, especially when making hard decisions.
If I'm not mistaken, your challenge is less about the practical impact on your life, as you've found another position. However, if you've had to accept a lesser position and if you think you're being pushed out unfairly, you might want to consider whether you want to take legal steps. Given that I am neither an HR expert nor an attorney, I'll leave it at that.
Returning to the personal aspect, you may find it helpful to try to think about the motivation underlying the lack of compassion. First, they may just not be very nice people. If there were changes in leadership, for example, the new people may have no sense of personal connection to you. And they just might not care. There's really nothing you can do there, except to accept that it truly has nothing to do with you.
On the other hand, they may be extremely uncomfortable about the decision they've made, and have poor skills for handling it. Think about all of the people who are uncomfortable with dealing with other people's personal losses, like a death in the family. They don't know what to say, and often just say nothing at all. This actually feels likely to me, given that it's a smaller firm and you have a long history with them. While it doesn't change the outcome for you, it may help you experience the emotions in a different way.
Let's assume that they're being clueless, not indifferent or malicious. Can you relate to this in some way, thinking back on times when you may have fallen short with someone else? Note that I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't feel hurt, but just trying to help you find a way to understand how someone could let you down. It may be beneficial for you to find compassion for them, strange as that may seem.
As far as moving forward, try some activities that help you express your emotions. Writing would be a great way; for example, writing farewell letters that can help you process the experience. These would be for you, not to be sent; a personal ritual of writing and then burning or tearing up the letters can be very liberating. You could decide, of course, that sending a brief note to your old firm would feel good, but make sure you sleep on anything you'd send. Most important, make sure you really understand that you're launching a one-way communication so that you're not disappointed again.
It's really a matter of moving on. Time will help, and embracing your new reality will speed it along.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.