“I’ve got some bad news. Well, for you, anyway. The senior team was talking and we won’t be needing you anymore.”
This was the call that changed my life, and this year the anniversary passed without even a blip on my radar. I can tell you how I felt at the time and it was pretty much in this order:
- Relieved to not have to work in a stunningly toxic environment
- Abject terror because my husband and I had made a mutual agreement that I would be the breadwinner while he quit his job after 25 years to start up a gym
- More abject terror because I'd just returned to work after having twin boys, and my daughter was 2 and I had NO IDEA what we were going to do with no health insurance or income
- Relief that I wouldn’t have to fire managers that I had brought in to the company
That was probably the worst. I felt so STUPID. I mean, I was the head of HR. I knew how these things worked. I had seen the top decision makers and even people who had declared themselves ‘friends’ break promises to virtually everyone, so I felt incredibly stupid to have been surprised when it happened to me.
If you’ve been laid off, even from a company that you’ve outgrown, it’s probably true that you’ve gone through the same emotions. There’s never a good time to lose your livelihood, and when you take pride in your work, and love what you do it’s devastating to lose it.
But this article isn’t about the day after.
This article is about what happens five years later. Because I want to tell you how I feel today.
Today I get enough sleep. I enjoy the people I interact with. I have interesting clients and fun business opportunities. I am blessed to be making significant impact in peoples’ lives and businesses. I know my kids. I really know them. And they know me. I’m part of their lives on a daily basis. I take care of myself. I LOVE my life today and am excited when I wake up in the morning about what they day holds. And I have enough.
In reflecting on the anniversary, I am SO grateful for that experience! Every piece of it couldn’t have been engineered better to give me the motivation to finally launch my coaching and consulting business. In the early days after the lay off, I made a conscious decision not to waste any more emotional or mental energy on negative thoughts. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but I worked hard to channel my negative feelings into positive action of building my own company. Some days the only thing that drove me was the determination to NEVER place my family’s financial well-being in anyone else’s hands again.
I was surprised by the shame I felt, to be honest. I had to work on that too…that feeling that there must have been something wrong with me that they could have made the decision to let me go under the circumstances. I spent some time doing an inventory of my part, and whether there were things I could or should have done differently that could have made the story turn out differently. This was helpful because it really helped me tap into my values, my strengths, and where I needed to work harder.
The biggest hurdle for me was leaving behind the resentment I felt for specific people in that company. I was so disappointed in the behavior of a couple of individuals from whom I genuinely expected better. It’s always hard when people you admire don’t display the character you thought they had. I tend to put people on pedestals anyway, so that makes it all the worse.
I believe with everything I’ve got that the extent to which we hold onto resentment is the extent to which we’ll fail to have joy, so I knew I didn’t want to resent them. It wasn’t about what they’d done at all and whether I was justified or not in how I felt. I just knew I had to get rid of that crap. What helped me was when a good coach friend of mine who’s also a praying type came over and she helped me pray for the people I was upset with. I prayed for all of their dreams to come true. I prayed for the success of their company. I prayed for their health and happiness. I prayed to mean what I was praying.
And then I didn’t think about them again.
And my business grew, and my kids grew, and my life got better and better. And when I did think about them, if anything negative crept in, I’d acknowledge it and then focus on feeling happy feelings for them.
It could have gone another way. I could have tried to sue them, or focused on the bad, or told stories out of school. Whenever anyone goes through a layoff and we’re hurting so much and feeling so powerless, the thought of lashing out gives us a feeling of taking our power back. But I don’t think that route brings peace. Revenge never brings the satisfaction we think it will.
Today I am just genuinely glad I don’t work there. If I would have stayed, the last five years would have been intolerable and my job wouldn’t have been any more secure today than it was then…I’d just have been 5 years later in getting started on making my dream happen. And I would have missed all the amazing memories and adventures that I’ve had in the meantime.
If you've been through a layoff and think it might be your jumping off point to starting your own business, please check out my video about how I started my consulting company after the layoff, or just schedule a call with me!
There IS life after a layoff, and it's a beautiful thing!