Monday, May 4, 2015

The White Box Club


"I've called you together this morning to make an important announcement. We're taking a new direction with the company and all of you in this room are not included. You are being let go immediately. You will be given a severance package—including any unused vacation—and HR will be contacting you to follow-up. There are boxes out front for you to take back to your desks, pack up your things, and leave the premises within the hour. We are sorry to do this, but it was a necessary step."

That was my Friday morning.

Midway through the announcement I thought to myself. Wait a minute. This can't include me. This is about the other employees. I must have been invited to this meeting to help facilitate the process. Seriously, I just got a raise last month; I'm developing a whole new program for a new product; and I've been told how fantastic my work is, so this is obviously some sort of mix-up. Right...? 

Nope. I was included. In less than a minute it was all over. We slowly rose from our chairs and quietly left the room. Nobody spoke. Only awkward silence. I was numb.

What just happened?

For the next 15 minutes I walked around in a daze. I picked up my white box and brought it to my desk. I looked around my office at everything I'd created over the last two and a half years, and suddenly realized it was no longer mine. Some people came over to give me a hug. I felt like I was in a dream. The whole situation was surreal.

I finished packing my box with the few personal items that belonged to me, grabbed my coat, and headed out the front door. And just like that, my career with the company was over. I put the box in the trunk of my car, got in, and sat there attempting to process what had just happened. My brain was quickly trying to come up with a plan, but to no avail. Now what? Just drive home.

When I got home, I placed my white box on the kitchen counter, went into the living room and sat on the couch. I stared blankly at the wall in silence. It was 10:00AM on a Friday morning, but if you had asked me what day or what time it was I couldn't tell you. I was in shock. Finally, I called my parents and sent out a few text messages, letting my inner circle of friends and family know what had just happened.

Now every morningand several times throughout the daymy mind replays the scene. I see us all sitting in the conference room, the door closes, the announcement is made, and I start to slowly realize what's happening. And then the unanswered questions resume their relentless cries: Why me? What did I do wrong? This wasn't supposed to happen to me. I coach people about how to deal with losing their job. I'm not supposed to be going through it myself! 

Then reality returns. It did happen. It was you. You did nothing wrong. And now it's time for you to coach yourself through the process. You've got this.

So here's how my inner coach has been guiding me the past few days:

First, get organized. I got online and did a quick evaluation of my finances (automatic payments, bills, expenses) and adjusted them as needed. Even with severance, I'm still going to need to reorganize, consolidate, and redirect my cash flow. I'll take care of the most critical things now and leave the rest for later.

Experience it fully. As one of my close friends told me, "Sit in the swamp for a while." It won't be comfortable, but things like this are never easy. I will allow myself to ride the emotional waves that come and go with major change. If I ignore the disappointment, anger, confusion, and sadness, they will only manifest as sickness and depression. Grief comes in waves, but so does clarity and acceptance. 

Practice compassion. Even though I'm sad and confused, I'm trying to understand this from the company's perspective. I can't imagine how difficult it was to make the decision let alone deliver the message. There's never a good way to deliver bad news.

My biggest feeling right now is profound sadness. I had to leave a job that I really loved, and the people—both coworkers and customers—that came along with it. I didn't get to prepare. I didn't get to say goodbye to more than a few people. I didn't get any closure. And now I'm left to sort it out for myself. This is what hurts the most. 

So now what? Now wait.

I don't need to figure out what's going to happen next for me right away. Yes, in due time I will find new direction, but for now I'm going to take time to step back, process, reflect, and accept. Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to create myself again. In the meantime, I just need to breathe. And today this is all I can do.

Like so many others, I am now a member of The White Box Club.

To Your Better Balance,

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg 

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is an educator, best-selling author, and certified life coach. His passion is to help people reclaim their power of choice and find better balance in their work, relationships, and life. You can follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter, or find out more at michaelsunnarborg.com

Need some inspiration? Pick up a copy of 21 Days, Steps & Keys, or one of the other books in the balance series, and start off 2015 by finding better balance in your career, relationships, and life.

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Photo courtesy of me :o)