Article 43

 

Dealing with Layoff

Monday, September 14, 2015

Unemployment Being Rebranded As A Psychological Disorder

Unemployment being rebranded as a psychological disorder

Birbeck University Of London
June 8, 2015

Unemployment is being rebranded as a psychological disorder, with an increasing range of interventions being introduced to promote a ‘positive’ psychological outlook or leave claimants of welfare to face sanctions, according to a new analysis carried out by social science researchers from Hubbub and Birkbeck, University of London published today.

The research, published in a special edition of BMJ Medical Humanities Critical Medical Humanities, exposes the coercive and punitive nature of psycho-policy interventions in Government workfare programmes designed to get unemployed people back into work. Ill-defined and flawed constructs such as ‘lack of motivation’ and ‘psychological resistance to work’ are being used to allocate claimants to more or less arduous workfare regimes, the paper argues.

Drawing from written accounts of the lived experience of workfare as described by those undertaking it, the authors documentthe impact of psychological coercion, from unsolicited emails extolling ‘positive thinking’ to ‘change your attitude’ exercises Җ with people looking for work frequently perceiving such interventions as relentless, humiliating and meaningless.

Increasingly, workfare mandatory unpaid labour under the threat of benefit sanctions - also includes coaching, skills-building, motivational workshops and training sessions that use psychological approaches to address apparently negative perceptions and instil approved characteristics such as optimism, confidence, aspiration, motivation and flexibility.

Commenting on the study, Lynne Friedli, co-author of the paper and researcher with Hubbub the current residents of The Hub, the Wellcome Trust’s dedicated space for interdisciplinary research said: “Claimants attitude to work is becoming a basis for deciding who is entitled to social security - it is no longer what you must do to get a job, but how you have to think and feel.” This makes the Government"s proposal to locate psychologists in Job Centres particularly worrying.

ғBy repackaging unemployment as a psychological problem, attention is diverted from the realities of the UK job market and any subsequent insecurities and inequalities it produces.

Robert Stearn, from the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, added: ԓMethods drawn from psychology are being used to redefine the aims of workfare. Job Centres and welfare-to-work businesses demand that the only emotions claimants have are employable ones. At the same time, the expected outcome of a forced, unpaid work placement has become just a positive change in attitudes to workђ.

Punitive benefit sanctions underwritethese uses of psychology. But the damage done to people is ignored, by both government-contracted positive psychology courses and the professional bodies that represent psychology.

Critical Medical Humanities is a special edition of BMJ Medical Humanities, guest edited by William Viney, Felicity Callard and Angela Woods from Durham University.

The research originates from Birkbecks Department of English and Humanities. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 75% of research in the department was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.

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Posted by Elvis on 09/14/15 •
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Where Not to Be Old and Jobless

Worst Cities In The U.S. For Older And Unemployed Workers

By Theresa Ghilarducci
September 14, 2015
The Atlantic

Hidden by the steady, optimistic jobs reports in recent months is the fact that unemployment rates for Americans 55 and older have been increasing.

Ten days ago, another monthly jobs report came in, indicating slow but steady progress: In August, the overall rate of unemployment fell to pre-crisis levels, 5.1 percentthe lowest since April 2008. Adding to the mediaגs positive reception of this buoyant news, job growth was widespread across many sectors of the economy.

Meanwhile, though, the slight increase in the unemployment rate for workers ages 55 and over, from 3.7 percent to 3.8 percent, was scarcely noted. While the jobless rate is always lower for older workers, it is unusual for their increase or decrease to diverge much from those of the national numbers.

As of last month, there are about 1.3 million Americans over 55 who are actively looking for a job, but can’t find one. But that estimate is probably low, because it does’t count the older people who are too discouraged to actively seek work or too proud to tell a pollster they are jobless, instead saying they’re a more respectable-sounding “retiree.” It has been suggested that a lot of the older people who report being retired are closet unemployed.

In short, the declining national unemployment rate hides the fact that economic growth is not benefiting everyone. These disparities probably exist because many workplaces are biased against older workers and because older workers who have seen their 401(k)s shrink and their pensions evaporate are looking for more work, increasing labor-market competition.

Looking at city-specific figures can provide some other clues as to why many older workers are being left behind during the recovery. Four metropolitan areas have high jobless ratesҔhigher than 12 percentfor older workers. What is illuminating and disturbing is that the unemployment rates are larger in cities that are vital and vibrant. As of 2014, the latest year with the most complete data, the new economies have been leaving the old behind: Among the 10 cities with the highest rates of unemployment for older workers are San Jose (13.7 percent), El Paso, Texas (13.6 percent), New Haven (13.1 percent), and Austin (12.2 percent).

Some cities extraordinarily high unemployment rates for older workers are not moving in the same direction as the unemployment rates for job seekers 54 and under. While San Jose and El Paso have high unemployment rates for younger workers, at 8.4 percent and 7.3 percent respectively, Austin has one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates in the country for younger workers - just 3.6 percent.

The reasons a city’s economy would prefer younger workers over older ones are complex and murky - there’s more research needed to be sure of anything. However, the types of industries each city specializes in could be to be blame for the age gap. San Jose and Austin are tech hubs, and New Haven’s college-town economy has many stores and restaurants geared toward young peoples tastes. And Ohio’s Rust Belt cities feature similar disparities: Clevelands August unemployment rate was 9.6 percent for workers 55 and over, versus 5.2 percent for workers 54 and under, and Cincinnati’s older unemployment rate is 7.7 percent, versus 6.6 percent for younger workers.

Economists have long understood that high unemployment weakens bargaining power and lowers wages. Adding to the weakened bargaining power of older workers is the downward trend in access to retirement-savings plans at work. This means older workers nearing retirement age have less of a safety net, and are increasingly at the mercy of a less than robust labor market. They are facing pressure from two directions: As older workers are losing their pensions and their 401(k) plans have lost value, they feel the need to work more at precisely the time the economy may be leaving them behind.

Only policies dedicated to affordable and sustainable pensions for all workers - expanding Social Security and creating universal pensions for all, regardless of where they live, are two such policieswill help older workers so that they arenגt desperate to take the first job they might find. But for now, worse than taking a job at low pay and with requirements that dont utilize oneҒs full abilities is finding no job at alla fate likely in many cities for older workers.

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Posted by Elvis on 09/14/15 •
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Letting Go of the Older Employee

By Nancy (Range) Anderson

If you know me, you know my story. I was happily employed for 21.5 years at a company that I loved and respected and doing the kind of work that I absolutely adored and was very good at (Im not bragging; I have the performance appraisals to show it). My co-workers and internal clients were top notch and I smiled a lot because I liked coming to work.

One day (Ok, it was June 8th) our entire group was called into a conference room and told that some of us would be receiving termination papers. We were to go back to our work stations until we were summoned one by one to the conference room to learn our collective fates.

After several long and agonizing minutes it was my turn. My manager silently led me to the conference room where I learned that the program that I taught was being eliminated. But what about other programs? No. Im a professional learning and development expert and can writenew programsԅ No. But what about? No, no, no.” I was later told that I slammed the door on my way out. To this day I don’t remember that.

One thing that I failed to mention is that it was 2008, a year after the beginning of the Great Recession. I was also 53 years old.

Today I met with an intelligent, articulate, youthful-looking woman for a coaching session. While she has a high level job and feels very lucky about that, she is starting to feel subtle nudges of isolation and ageism. Knowing that organizations look for ways to pare down the work force, she continues to stay current in her industry. She refreshes her skill set, reads about current trends and has learned to appreciate the parts of her job that were changed when upper management brought in fresh, young talent to take over. Her story today reminded me so much of my own.

Just because someone is over the age of 45 does not mean that they are obsolete. Of course if someone is not pulling his or her weight and not meeting organizational goals, then by all means, do what is necessary to coach that person or terminate their employment. Termination is “at will” in many states so organizations have every right to eliminate people for whatever reason. Still, that doesn’t always make it right.

This is what happens when an older person is let go:

1. They have a harder time finding new, meaningful work. (Up to a year and longer for the long-term unemployed).

2. No one wants to pay them their former salaries. (Earnings may be up to 19% lower than their former salaries).

3. They may take a couple of part time positions to make ends meet. Those positions may have absolutely nothing to do with their skill set and are mostly lower level (lower paying) positions.

4. They wait many more weeks than their younger counterparts to find work.

5. Many times they just give up and never return to work.

One of the things that personally bothers me about being released is that I didn’t get a chance to retire. That sounds kind of silly but it’s true. Some of the work friends that I’ve remained close with talk about their retirement packages and retirement events. For a person who personally aligned with the company values and who allowed my career to be one of the things in my life that brought me happiness and fulfillment; not retiring with them was a huge disappointment.

I’m not naive, I know about profit and loss, changing skill sets and making do with less. I know that many organizations are young and energetic (I give job search coaching to young adults too). Still, it is so much harder for people at this later stage in their careers and in my very humble opinion, the folks who are doing the hiring and interviewing should take into account the skills, knowledge and better yet, Wisdom of the older job seeker.

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Posted by Elvis on 06/30/15 •
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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Labor Day 2014

“Most people adapt surprisingly well to changes in their lives. Even after tragic events such as the death of a family member or a chronic disease, they restore their former wellbeing, if not always completely (Clark et al 2008). There is one event, though, for which this appears not to be true unemployment. Compared with other negative experiences, the life satisfaction of the unemployed does not restore itself even after having been unemployed for a long time.”
- The Psychological Scars of Unemployment, Washington Post

“Short of death or a debilitating terminal disease, long-term unemployment is about the worst thing that can happen to you in the modern world. It’s economically awful, socially terrible, and a horrifying blow to your self-esteem and happiness.  It cuts you off from the mass of your peers and puts stress on your family, making it likely that further awful things, like divorce or suicide, will be in your near future.”
- Long-term Unemployment is a National Catastrophe, Mother Jones

7 Reasons Why I’m Not Celebrating This Labor Day

By Ann Brenoff
Huffington Post
August 28, 2014

You know how some people get a case of the blues around the winter holidays? Well, I feel that way around Labor Day.

I jokingly tell people that I suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to my job. I have one now, but for two years during the recession, I didn’t. I was laid off in 2009 from the newspaper where I worked for almost two decades and then spent two years freelancing until I was hired by The Huffington Post in 2011. By most standards, I did pretty well for myself for those two years freelancing—no one in my family went hungry, was without health insurance, or became homeless. But don’t kid yourself: The experience left scars.

Here’s what being laid off taught me and why I think many mid-lifers may still not be celebrating this Labor Day:

Job security is just a myth.

When I entered the work force, you had a job for life. Sure, you made moves to advance your career but that was generally accomplished by staying within the same company. When people retired at 65, the company threw big parties for them and gave them gold watches to thank them for their 40+ years of service. Loyalty to your company was a given and the company rewarded that loyalty with annual raises, end-of-year-bonuses and even turkeys at Thanksgiving. One of the tasks of the personnel office was to send flowers to your wife in the hospital after she gave birth.

That all ended in the years leading up to the recession. As companies focused more on the bottom line, they began to refer to workers as “assets” and when times got tough, they looked at which “assets” to cut. “Do more with less,” “Get rid of the fat,” and “leaner and meaner” were the propaganda slogans that sent chills down workers’ spines.

Older workers quickly read the writing on the wall: Those with higher salaries were led into the gas chambers first while corporate lawyers dangled “don’t sue us if you hope to get a dime in severance” agreements in front of our stunned faces.

We signed. All of us did. I STILL QUESTION how this coerced agreement signed under duress was legal and not protested. Why didn’t the ACLU jump in to protect workers from the slaughter? But everyone WHO COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING ABOUT IT instead turned deaf, dumb, and blind.

And the result is that what we are now left with is a workplace culture riddled with insecurity and restlessness. When people are afraid of losing their jobs, they strive to be compliant, not creative. Toeing the line has replaced pushing the envelope. And COMPANY LOYALTY went the way of the THANKSGIVING turkey—killed, roasted, and gobbled up while CEOs belched all the way to the bank.

Older workers stay out-of-work the longest.

This has been long-documented, but we can regurgitate it here for the millennial disbelievers.

According to AARP’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, workers age 55 and up remain unemployed for 45.6 weeks, compared with 34.7 weeks for workers younger than 55.

Sara Rix, senior strategic policy adviser with AARP’s Public Policy Institute, notes that recent research says many of these unemployed people “will never become re-employed.”

While we can safely claim that all generations were hurt by the recession, only one group has the least amount of time to mitigate the recession’s financial impact—and that group is older workers. If you lost your job in the mid-2000’s, you likely also lost your nest egg. And you can’t actually rebuild it unless you find a job, which isn’t happening for many. Time is running out.

Age discrimination is real.

Certain stereotypes exist about older workers—we can’t keep up technologically, we will spend all day reminiscing about the good old days, we don’t fit in to the current office culture.

These stereotypes are at the root of the discrimination. I’d also throw in the fact that employers want to hire the cheapest workers possible, and that’s less experienced folks.

But even the Washington Post is guilty of age discrimination. In an ad seeking a social media manager, the paper said it was looking for someone with the “ability to explain to those twice your age what Reddit or Snapchat or Whisper or Fark is.” I can explain those things to you and I’m 64. And then there was the Seattle Star, which ran an ad saying it was seeking someone “young.” The publisher was unapologetic when it was suggested that this was discrimination against older people. “So sue me. Sheesh,” he said. Can you imagine the outrage if he had written “white” for “young?”

Older unemployed workers have gone underground, and in doing so, have become invisible.

Older workers are the infrastructure of the so-called gig economy. They jump from one freelance and/or part-time job to the next. They work under contracts that don’t pay them when they get sick or offer them health insurance. Vacations? They are on their own.

Having been part of this group for two years, I salute these people. They are a creative lot who have figured out how to stay afloat, if only barely. They get their teeth fixed using Groupon coupons, they shop at thrift stores for their kids’ back-to-school clothes, and they make quilts to sell on Etsy to keep the lights turned on. Some have taken in rent-paying roommates to help cover the mortgage. They barter and exchange services; some times in a pinch, they ask for money. But somehow, each month, they find a way.

What’s truly unfortunate is that we’ve stopped counting them as unemployed. If they don’t collect unemployment benefits, they don’t exist—even though we all know dozens of people in this situation. This is why “unemployment” stats for older workers are lower than the national numbers.

Just don’t kid yourself: There will come a day when each and every one of these workers will no longer be able to exist on this tightrope. They are already calling it the SILVER TSUNAMI and it’s headed toward taxpayers.

“Get retrained” is easier said than done.

No one is arguing that today’s jobs don’t require a different skills set than jobs of old. But have you seen a lot of RETRAINING programs underway in your city? ME NEITHER. Community colleges have borne the brunt of older workers trying to learn new tricks.

My standard advice to every out-of-work mid-lifer is this: Go into healthcare. With the population aging and the need for health services growing, it would seem like a natural place to be.

The question no one has a good answer for is: What do you live on while you are busy getting retrained? It’s not like we can push the pause button on our living expenses while we figure things out. And forget government help. The government has offered very little in the way of retraining programs, let alone figured out how to help people stay afloat while they are being retrained.

Which leaves the old turning our hobbies into businesses. While many midlifers try their hand at entrepreneurial ventures, the wash-out rate is high. Entrepreneur magazine reports that first-time entrepreneurs have only an 18 percent chance of succeeding in taking their companies public. Bottom line: Just because you like to cook, it doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant.

Experience is worth less, if not altogether worthless.

I remember when I was looking for my first job and every place I applied wanted someone with experience. We’ve come a full 180 on this. Experience—probably because it comes with a higher price tag—is less desirable a qualification. Experience won’t get you far in today’s jobs market.

The big news this year is that Google, AT&T, and MetLife and about 250 other employers signed a pledge to “recognize the value of experienced workers.” I’m still LEFT STAMMERING that these major employers needed a pledge to actually do this.

Older workers tend to bomb interviews.

This, of course, assumes you even get an interview. But ask anyone over 50 who has had one what it’s like and the stories all start to sound the same. “The guy asked me a question and then just kept texting away while I was answering.” “I wore a great ‘interview’ outfit and he wore jeans; it was awkward.” “It was like we were speaking different languages.”

Times have changed in the personnel office. Not only aren’t they sending anyone flowers in the hospital, they are also checking out your digital footprint—googling you, reading your LinkedIn profile, checking what you posted on social media sites. The guy may be texting while you are speaking, but just remember that older workers aren’t the only ones who have taken a beating in the past decade: Manners may have too.

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Posted by Elvis on 09/02/14 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Dying America
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Monday, July 21, 2014

For Job Seekers Who’ve Tried Everything

7 practical ideas if you think you’ve exhausted your job-search options

By Marty Nemko
AOL Jobs
July 13, 2014

Ben has reason to be depressed. Laid off twice, not sure how strong a reference his ex-boss will give him, he’s 50 years old and overweight, been job-hunting for eight months, having gotten a total of three interviews and batting 0 for 3. He blames it on his having mainly soft skills, a widely held skill-set.

His wife, too, is struggling despite great credentials. She’s tried to snag a full-time college teaching job but the best she’s ever landed has been a part-time community college instructor position, with no benefits. She said, “It’s ironic that I teach a class in which I champion worker rights yet my own employer pays me what ends up being little more than minimum wage and hires me for 49 percent of the time to avoid paying benefits.”

At 50, they feel the need to pay for health insurance. They’re behind on their rent and their landlord is making eviction noises. Ben has networked, answered countless ads, even cold-called employers that are not advertising a job, all to no avail. He feels he’s run out of options. He’s beyond depressed; he’s thought of suicide.

Indeed, the SUICIDE RATE among middle-aged people is up 30 percent between 1999 and 2010, more than the number that die in car accidents, with men being more than three times as likely to kill themselves. While there are many causes, the researchers specifically cite the economic downturn and resulting financial stress.

But long-term unemployed job seekers have more options than they may think, and Ben and his wife could try some of these approaches:

1. Circle back. The odds of your network having a job lead for you at any given moment is tiny. If it’s been more than a month, circle back to everyone. Here’s sample wording you can use to check in with a contact:

“Susie, I appreciate your having offered to keep your ears open for me. By any chance, is there someone you think I should talk with? If you’ll recall, I’m looking for a people, or project, management job, especially in the health care or environmental space but I’m flexible. I’m even open to a launchpad job, one that’s lower-level but when I prove myself, I could move up.”

If your contact doesn’t have a lead for you, ask, “Would you mind continuing to keep you ears open, and if I’m still looking in a month, may I circle back to you?”

2. Change job targets. Perhaps you’ve been overreaching. If so, maybe you should you drop down your search, say from management to individual contributor positions. Have you been pursuing a job in a field with too few openings or with great competition? For example, sexy fields like the environment, entertainment, biotech, fashion, and journalism tend to be tougher than, for example, the transportation, food, or housing industries.

3. Consider interim jobs. Sitting at home may make you more depressed. So you might want to apply for jobs where the employer would be lucky to have you. Even some low-level jobs can be quite enjoyable. Here are a few ways job seekers can match their interests to a position while they look for something more challenging or better paying:

Sports fans might enjoy selling beer and hot dogs at the

Book lovers might enjoy working at a bookstore or in a library, even if just shelving books

Fashionistas might enjoy working at a favorite boutique or department store

Plant lovers might try landscaping or garden maintenance

Cafe lovers might seek a job as a waitperson or even busser

The most fun job I ever had was as a New York City cab driver. I got to meet all sorts of people, I enjoyed driving and I got to double-park when I wanted to grab a great slice of pizza.

4. Walk in. If someone phoned you asking if you wouldn’t mind taking care of a newborn temporarily, you might well say no. But if the doorbell rang and there was a cradle with a newborn, wouldn’t you be more likely to take it in?

The same is true of job seekers. It’s easy to say “no” to a voice on the phone and or ignore an email. It’s harder to brush away a flesh-and-blood human being, especially one who politely asks for help. That probably won’t work at a large organization where there’s a phalanx of security to keep you out but, for example, in an office building in which many businesses have an office, it might be worth going door-to-door.

Imagine how you’d feel if you were the receptionist and someone walked in and said, for example:

“I’m an accountant or I should say I was. Although I got good evaluations, I got laid off. So I’m looking for a job. I know the standard way is to answer ads but I live near here and so I thought I’d drop in and see if I could get some advice and maybe even an interview. I’m wondering if you might allow me to speak with someone?”

Is it not possible you’d say “yes?” Certainly, if you’re a job seeker, you have nothing to lose. You can survive no. You can survive 20 nos. And all you need is one decent job offer.

5. Start a low-cost business. At least as an interim, you could start a service business with near-zero startup costs. Examples:

Relationship ad consultant. Help people craft their matchmaking ad - how they describe themselves and the sort of partner they’re looking for, then take photos likely to attract their desired type of partner.

Grief coach. People who lose a loved one, even a pet, may want support in getting past their sadness. They may not need a psychotherapist. They may just need a good listener who’s gently encouraging.

Sports tutor. Many high school athletes want to up their game, to compete better or perhaps to win a college sports scholarship. And parents will spend to boost their child’s chances.

6. Find support. For some people, support is the only thing that keeps them from giving up. Here are some options:

Ask a friend to check in daily or weekly with you on your job search.

Join a job-search support group. Here’s a link to a directory of them.

Seek faith-based support. It helps some people to surrender some control to a higher power. They feel, “If I’m doing my part and still am not finding a job, maybe it’s God’s will. When God decides it’s time, I’ll land a job, perhaps a better one than I would have gotten earlier.”

7. Practice persistence. It’s cliche but true that even the most successful people fail and usually have failed a lot. The key is HOW THEY RESPOND to FAILURE: curl up in bed or be resilient. Here are a few quotes that may drive that home:

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”
- Bill Bradley

“When you feel tired, it means you’ve tried. It doesn’t mean you quit trying.”
- Constance Chuks Friday

“I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded.”
- Epitaph on Gail Borden’s gravestone.

“To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity. We must gear ourselves to work hard all the way. We can never let up.”
- Ralph Bunche

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
- Calvin Coolidge

I can leave you with no better advice.

Marty Nemko blogs for AOL JOBS and PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. He is in his 25th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) His most recent books are: How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School and What’s the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. Read more from Marty Nemko HERE.

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Posted by Elvis on 07/21/14 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Job Hunt
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