Layoffs and furloughs: Victimization in the workplace

This Week's Prescription: Take control. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, October 16, 2013 – When things are going badly and the reasons are beyond an individual’s personal control, he or she often feels victimized. This happens frequently when individuals who have been dedicated to their jobs get laid off or furloughed. 

Many quality workers have been unexpectedly laid off or furloughed nearly everywhere in the country in recent years. It comes as a shock to them every time.

No one is ever mentally prepared to be let go from a job, even temporarily. They like their company, feel their job is important to the company’s mission, are certain that they perform superior work while also getting along well with their coworkers. So when they are told they are being laid off or furloughed due to the economy, they have trouble disentangling their performance on the job from their organization’s economic decision. 

As a result, they often blame or find fault with themselves. 

They play the mental game of “what if?” For example: What if I had worked harder or longer days? What if I made myself more visible to management and let them clearly see my importance to the mission? What if I had been nicer to my boss?

The “what if” game is not only unproductive, it is fundamentally flawed. It suggests that the person who was laid off or furloughed actually had control of the situation when, in fact, they did not.

SEE RELATED: U.S. workers must protect themselves from uncontrollable influences

The best strategy for any workers who feel as if extrinsic factors are out of their control is to focus on controlling areas that are clearly and legitimately in their control. For example, preparing an exceptional resume is within a person’s direct control.

Actively searching for a job is within an individual’s control. Workers at loose ends can practice interviewing to improve their interviewing skills or enroll in educational or training classes to prepare for job tasks that continue to evolve.

Many laid off or furloughed workers also keep themselves occupied with tasks that they normally would have no time to complete. For example, they clean out closets, they perform charity work or donate to charity, and they catch up with friends they have not seen recently. These activities are healthy, productive and keep a person who is temporarily not working engaged, helping lessen anxiety.

We sympathize with all workers who are suffering in this job market. Most people, who cannot find work or who have been laid off or furloughed can take proactive steps such as those cited here, while getting ready either to be called back to their job or to be ready for that next vacancy.  

SEE RELATED: Transitioning programs for new employees: Enhance or replace mentoring

Proactive behavior is taking control.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from The Career Doctor's Prescription
blog comments powered by Disqus
Cassi Fields

Dr. Cassi Fields has provided expert opinion on career and workplace issues for nationally recognized media outlets including Forbes, TheStreet TV,, FOX News Live, US News & World Report,, WUSA9, News Channel 8,, and more. Dr. Fields, who received her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from George Washington University, lives in Virginia with her husband and two children.

Contact Cassi Fields


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus