The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 7, 2001 Issue
Counselor's Corner

'My wife seems depressed since she lost her longtime job'

Whether one is fired, quits or is forced to leave, there is a real loss

By Jim Neuser

QUESTION: I am concerned about my wife. She recently quit her job of 17 years - a job she really enjoyed - and is depressed and feeling worthless. The company she worked for was taken over and the new management began cleaning house and replacing personnel with their own people. Long-time employees were told to "get up to speed or get out," and the stress became too much for her. How can I help her?

ANSWER: Your wife's situation is becoming all too common. Takeovers or mergers often lead to a demand for current employees to prove themselves to the new management or else be forced into being fired or having to decide to quit.

To increase productivity or reap higher profits, demands, deadlines, and expectations are put in place that often cannot be met, resulting in employees feeling threatened, inadequate, and/or insecure. It is not uncommon for new management to resort to behaviors that could be described as bullying.

There is a tendency to over-control, micro-manage and display contempt for others with snide remarks and repetitive, unfair criticism. This does not foster a positive work environment. Resisting demeaning treatment often results in retaliation or further threats. That leads to reduced productivity which results in being dismissed or forcing a decision to leave, as in your wife's situation.

Whether being dismissed from or deciding to quit a job, a loss occurs. Your wife will need your moral support for a period of time. Since she worked at her job for 17 years, she was likely doing a good job and felt appreciated by her former employer or supervisor. Remind her of that.

Her years of experience and commitment to her employer are indications of her strengths. Encourage her to identify other strengths and don't be afraid to point out to her the strengths you have seen in her over the years.

She will probably struggle not only with depression and a feeling of worthlessness, but she also will have to deal with feelings of anger. Let her know that how she is feeling is normal and to be expected as with any loss. Create some pleasant distractions for her, such as a special night out or a mini-vacation.

She will likely plan to return to work and may want to use the time off to improve her job skills. Don't push that, but let her know you will support her in this effort. Frequently, people later comment that what they first perceived to be a tragedy, was a blessing in disguise. I hope and pray this will be true in your wife's case.

(Neuser is the supervisor of Catholic Charities, Manitowoc. Catholic Charities is supported by the annual Bishop's Appeal.)

Send questions to Counselor's Corner, c/o Catholic Charities, P.O. Box 23825, Green Bay WI 54305-3825. All questions will be answered in print or through the mail. Identities will remain confidential.

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