How to move beyond an employer’s betrayal

Question:

I was laid off last week, as were two-thirds of those who worked for my former employer. These layoffs happened without notice. We all received pink slips midday Friday and were told we were paid until the end of the day. Big whoop.

I worked for this man for three years. I gave him and his practice 110 percent and he told me he considered me his “right hand.” Despite this, I couldn’t convince him to address things that needed to change. When I told him my concerns, he assured me he wanted to do the “right thing” and would “get around” to making improvements. I believed him but he never did. The problems stacked up and led to the downfall of his business.

On the one hand, he got what he deserved. On the other hand, what happened to his business, into which I poured my time and effort, broke my heart and has left lasting scars on many of my former co-workers. As the former office manager, I feel partially responsible to my fellow employees; however, I wasn’t given any more notice than the others. This angers me, as it has since become clear to me that this is the reason he began having confidential meetings with our company attorney and CPA more than a month ago.

What can you tell the four of us, his former core staff, who feel anguish over his breach of trust in laying us off without notice? How do we deal with this and move on?

Answer:

You’re grieving and feel betrayed. You put your trust in your former business owner, did everything you were supposed to, and he let you and the others down.

You have a choice — you can stay stuck or move on. Here’s how.

First, allow your feelings to surface. If you fully experience your shock, anger, resentment and other emotions now, they’ll be less likely to surface later at inopportune times. Don’t, however, recycle your anguish by staying stuck in this venting stage. Give yourself two to three days to let your feelings erupt, then acknowledge what happened, how you felt and what you’ve learned.

Second, put the situation in perspective. You lost your job, but you’re likely a great hire. Make a list of why any employer would be glad to have you join his or her team. To begin with, you have the capacity to give an employer loyalty and you’re not one of those employees who annually moves from job to job. Further, you have the perfect answer to why you’re on the job market — your former employer went out of business.

Third, stop beating yourself up for missing clues or not asking the right questions. Being laid off or even deciding to resign from a job initially accepted with high hopes can lead you to doubt yourself, question your judgment, and wonder how you didn’t see the final end coming. From what you’ve said, this situation has more to do with your former employer than you — which means you couldn’t have fixed it.

Fourth, take responsibility for your future. What choices lie ahead? Which ones lead to a career future in which you won’t be working for an individual or company who stays mired in “getting around to” making needed changes? The cliché is true, when one door closes another opens.

This means, of course, you need to emotionally put your former employer’s problems in the rear-view mirror and not carry forward resentment, anger and bitterness baggage, nor fear that what happened with this past employer may happen with your next. Moving on requires emotionally moving forward — hard to do once you’ve been betrayed, but possible.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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