Article 43


Dealing with Layoff

Friday, January 15, 2016

How to Help the Older Long-Term Unemployed


Recommendations from a Next Avenue Influencer In Aging

By Ofer Sharone
Next Avenue
December 15, 2015

In my RESEARCH of LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT among 50+ workers, I frequently hear stories like Kens.

Ken graduated from MIT with a degree in math, and for over 30 years had a very successful career as a software engineer. Three years ago, he was laid off together with hundreds of other workers - following a merger. Ken began his search for a new position with much confidence given his in-demand skills.

But since the layoff, Ken has depleted his retirement savings and last year, he was forced to sell his house. Today Ken works at a retail store in a position that pays a little above the minimum wage and makes no use of his skills.

Kens story is sadly all too common. Nearly half of all unemployed workers OVER 55 become TRAPPED in long-term unemployment, meaning that they have been searching for work for at least 27 weeks.

Financial Pain, Emotional Pain

Long-term unemployment puts workers and their FAMILIES at great risk for losing their homes and life savings. What’s more, as my recent book, Flawed System, Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, shows, the financial fallout for many of these 55+ job seekers is matched by the EMOTIONAL PAIN of being excluded from MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION in economic life.

One important reason that older workers are more likely than younger workers to get trapped in long-term unemployment is unfounded employer stereotypes.

While some employers fear that older workers will not stick around in their jobs, my research (involving in-depth conversations with hundreds of unemployed job seekers) suggests just the opposite. I’ve learned that no group of employees is more committed than older workers to contributing to a company that gives them a chance to prove their value.

In addition to age discrimination, those who get trapped in long-term unemployment must confront another distinct barrier: discrimination based on duration of unemployment.

What HR Recruiters Say

In confidential interviews, HR recruiters have told me that in the absence of a referral, older long-term unemployed job seekers often face an uphill battle when competing with currently-working younger applicants. Research confirms that the likelihood of an employer inviting a job seeker for an interview is lower for someone with relevant experience but long-term unemployed than someone lacking relevant experience but who is not long-term unemployed.

For older workers like Ken, these hiring patterns mean financial disaster. But for society, they represent an enormous waste of experience and talent. Such outcomes also violate a basic premise of meritocracy: that hiring should be based on one’s ability to do the job, not his or her age or current employment status.

What can be done?

The persistence of long-term unemployment among older Americans suggests that simply APPPEALING to companies self-interest in finding talented workers is not enough.

Recommendations to Deal With This National Problem

A step in the right direction would be passing laws that make it illegal to discriminate against workers based on unemployment duration. While anti-discrimination laws are DIFFICULT TO ENFORCE, as evident from today’s pervasive age discrimination, they would nonetheless send a clear moral message that it VIOLATES THE AMERICAN VALUES of meritocracy and equal opportunity to engage in hiring practices which systematically exclude from consideration workers who are (for whatever reason) long-term unemployed.

Moreover, funding the expansion of effective support interventions can make a dramatic and immediate difference to the prospects and well-being of millions of older American workers, as my current research with the Institute for Career Transitions (ICT) reveals.

A range of other policies can make a difference, too, but all of these steps require proactive and concerted action.

Long-term unemployment among older Americans is disastrous for workers and society, and the time to address this issue is long overdue.

Editors note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging. Here, OFER SHARONE, one of the Influencers and an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, discusses what’s needed to assist older long-term unemployed men and women.


Posted by Elvis on 01/15/16 •
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Friday, November 13, 2015


Loneliness, layoff and loss of hope.  For the long-term unmemployed, it’s a downward spiral all tied together.

The deadly truth about loneliness

By Michelle H Lim, Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist, Swinburne University of Technology
The Conversation
November 8, 2015

Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point. It is the pain we have felt following a breakup, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or a move away from home. We are vulnerable to feeling lonely at any point in our lives.

Loneliness is commonly used to describe a negative emotional state experienced when there is a difference between the relationships one wishes to have and those one perceives one has.

The unpleasant feelings of loneliness are subjective; researchers have found loneliness is not about the amount of time one spends with other people or alone. It is related more to quality of relationships, rather than quantity. A lonely person feels that he or she is not understood by others, and may not think they hold meaningful relationships.

For some people, loneliness may be temporary and easily relieved (such as a close friend moving away, or a spouse returning home after a work trip). For others, loneliness cannot be easily resolved (such as the death of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage) and can persist when one does not have access to people to connect with.

From an evolutionary point of view, our reliance on social groups has ensured our survival as a species. Hence loneliness can be seen as a signal to connect with others. This makes it little different to hunger, thirst or physical pain, which signal the need to eat, drink or seek medical attention.

In affluent modern societies, however, turning off the alarm signals for loneliness has become more difficult than satisfying hunger, thirst or the need to see the doctor. For those who are not surrounded by people who care for them, loneliness can persist.

Researchers have found social isolation is a risk factor for disease and premature death. Findings from a recent review of multiple studies indicated that a lack of social connection poses a similar risk of early death to physical indicators such as obesity.

Loneliness is a risk factor for many physical health difficulties, from fragmented sleep and dementia to lower cardiovascular output.

Some individuals may also be biologically vulnerable to feeling lonely. Evidence from twin studies found that loneliness may be partly heritable.

Multiple studies have focused on how loneliness can be a result of certain gene types combined with particular social or environmental factors (such as parental support).

Loneliness has largely been ignored as a condition of concern in mental health. Researchers have yet to fully understand the extent of how loneliness affects mental health. Most studies of loneliness and mental health have focused solely on how loneliness relates to depression.

Although loneliness and depression are partly related, they are different. Loneliness refers specifically to negative feelings about the social world, whereas depression refers to a more general set of negative feelings.

In a study that measured loneliness in older adults over a five-year period, loneliness predicted depression, but the reverse was not true.
Addressing loneliness

Loneliness may be mistaken as a depressive symptom, or perhaps it is assumed that loneliness will go away once depressive symptoms are addressed. Generally, lonelyӔ people are encouraged to join a group or make a new friend, on the assumption that loneliness will then simply go away.

While creating opportunities to connect with others provides a platform for social interaction, relieving the social pain is not so straightforward. Lonely people can have misgivings about social situations and as a result show rejecting behaviours. These can be misconstrued as unfriendliness, and people around the lonely person respond accordingly. This is how loneliness can become a persistent cycle.

A study examined the effectiveness of different types of treatments aimed at addressing loneliness. The results indicated that treatments that focused on changing negative thinking about others were more effective than those that provided opportunities for social interaction.

Another promising way to tackle loneliness is to improve the quality of our relationships, specifically by building intimacy with those around us. Using a positive psychology approach that focuses on increasing positive emotions within relationships or increasing social behaviours may encourage deeper and more meaningful connections with others.

Indeed, even individuals who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness have reported improvements in their well-being and relationships after sharing positive emotions and doing more positive activities with others. However, research using a positive psychology approach to loneliness remains in its infancy.

We continue to underestimate the lethality of loneliness as a serious public health issue. Contemporary tools such as social media, while seeming to promote social connection, favour brief interactions with many acquaintances over the development of fewer but more meaningful relationships. In this climate, the challenge is to address loneliness and focus on building significant bonds with those around us.

The growing scientific evidence highlighting the negative consequences of loneliness for physical and mental health can no longer be ignored.


Posted by Elvis on 11/13/15 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Personal
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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.


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.


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.


Posted by Elvis on 06/30/15 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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