I Lost My Job!

…and it’s really getting me down

Dear Rabbi and Susan (and all happy warriors out there!),

A couple of weeks ago my work contract was terminated. We entered a mutual agreement of termination, which means that technically (legally) I wasn’t fired, even though the end result is not much different.

As I was listening to this week’s podcast about objectivity, I realized that that’s exactly what happened to me. My superior came up with negative feedback about my performance which he could not back up with objective data or metrics. Nor could he provide me with objective goals and milestones that I could work towards in order to comply with the level of performance he was expecting from me.

This has been a tough year for me, so I would be the first to admit that I have not just had the best year of my career, quite the contrary. Nonetheless, I feel that the criticism raised against me is unjustified for the reasons I explained at the start of my message.

I feel immensely blessed that I have already secured another position at a different company. But I am now anxious about the effect that this whole incident will have on my self-esteem. Moreover, I was clearly too naive as I didn’t see the termination coming (even though I knew that my manager had not been very happy about me).

I want my wife to see me as dependable and my kids to know that I am a hard working man. How can I ensure I best navigate my next season?


Dear M.,

We love happy endings, so we are delighted that you secured another position so quickly. We also commend you for doing some introspection to make sure that you correct past mistakes and are a more valuable employee in the future.

You originally posted your question on the We Happy Warriors Discussion Board and you got some great feedback from Jeff. We’d like to incorporate some of his wisdom into our own response and to expand on it a bit.

Jeff recommended not dwelling on past failings. We agree with his advice and want to hone in on two words that you wrote. Those words are “self-esteem.” We have little use for that phrase and explained why in a previous Ask the Rabbi answer. Self-esteem, being baseless and not built on the foundation of achievement, is a destructive rather than constructive emotion. As Jeff pointed out, look for the lessons you can extract from your failure and move on.

In terms of practical steps, we would encourage you to take advantage of employee feedback and assessments. If your company doesn’t have a built-in system where your manager meets with you and reviews performance and expectations on a regular basis, then request such meetings, perhaps once a quarter. If we may suggest, it sounds that you were perhaps more in denial than naive at your previous position (you knew you weren’t having a good work year and that your manager was unhappy). When we are having trouble in one part of our life, as it sounds like you were, it is natural not to look for trouble in other parts but to hope that they just flow along smoothly. Unfortunately, they seldom do.

This leads us to our second practical piece of advice. The whole point of our valuable free ebook, The Holistic You, is that all parts of our lives intersect. In this book, we highlight the five Fs – family, faith, finances, fitness and friends. We recommend that you set up your own regular performance review, where you check in with yourself as to how each of those areas is doing. You might occasionally choose to invite your wife, a mentor or a trusted friend to this review. That will force you to face reality on a regular basis and perhaps develop some accountability with the help of these resources in your life.

M., one of the fascinating messages that emerges from the Ten Commandments is the idea that we can control our thoughts. Number 10 tells us not to covet that which belongs to other people, even though we were prohibited from stealing back in number 8. How amazing! God expects us not only to control our behavior but even our thoughts! It follows that He must have created us with the ability to control our thoughts as well as our actions. Extract the lessons from your past experience, put steps in place to do better in the future, and “change the channel” if your mind lures you into beating yourself up.

Wishing you great success in your new position,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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