I got laid off last week; today’s my first day of unemployment. There were three weeks remaining on my three-month contract, but we started running out of international tax returns a couple of weeks ago. One day the work cart was empty. They sent us all home without pay for a day, and warned us layoffs were looming. They said the shortage of work was due to a combination of factors, such as the downturn in the world economy and the increasingly automated tax-filing environment.
It’s only three weeks out of my contract, and three weeks isn’t going to make me or break me. But there’s a part of me that takes being laid off personally. They didn’t lay everybody off, so why me? My production was good, I never missed a day, I was punctual, etc. etc. Rationally, I know it’s not personal, but I can’t help it.
I keep thinking about the job I had for 18 years that I eventually was laid off from. Harper had cut the organization’s funding to the point it could no longer afford staff. There was a series of layoffs, and I was repeatedly spared. Some people were laid off but required to continue working for months in order to get their severance pay. They were expected to complete their projects and remain committed to the organization that had just rejected them. Needless to say, the atmosphere became toxic, morale plunged, and it was really hard to be anyone in that organization – survivor, walking dead, management or union member.
With each successive round of layoffs, I felt increasingly guilty for not being laid off, and then, when it was my turn, part of me felt I deserved it. I had a lot of respect for the people who were laid off with me and the quality of their work, but I didn’t have much respect left for myself as a worker. The problem was that I was the webmaster, and they kept laying off the researchers. Without any researchers, there wasn’t any content for me to put on the web. By the time they finally laid me off, I was just killing time and feeling guilty.
But I never really had much time to process my feelings about it, because the layoff was quickly eclipsed by breast cancer and other more pressing problems.
I think this current layoff is stirring up unresolved feelings from that old layoff, and causing me to over-react to those three missing weeks.
I’m also worried, because I personally know an alarming number of people who have lost their jobs in the last three months. Ottawa has been especially hard-hit with the government layoffs. I don’t think the local labour market can absorb us all.
I’m an optimist at heart, but I’m feeling pessimistic today.