Whether you’re laid off or fired, losing a job can generate strong emotions—from a sense of new opportunity to financial fears and anger.
The most threatening to landing a new job is anger.
“If you go into an interview with an angry attitude or you bad-mouth your past employer, that’s a red flag for interviewers,” says psychologist Tony Fiore, Ph.D., co-author of Anger Management for the Twenty-First Century. “The thought is: you were disgruntled in your past job and you might cause trouble in your new one.”
You don’t have to express your anger overtly by yelling or shouting. Passive-aggressive anger can prove just as fatal to your job hopes.
“People should avoid indirect expressions of anger that the interviewer will pick up, such as pouting, sarcasm about their last job, or presenting oneself as being victimized by their employer,” says Dr. Fiore, program director of Dr. Fiore & Associates, a Southern California-based company that specializes in anger and stress management (firstname.lastname@example.org).
So it’s best to resolve your anger before you begin interviewing for a new job. The first step, Dr. Fiore suggests, involves learning to think like an optimist.
“Optimists tell themselves the match with the job wasn’t right; their job loss is temporary and won’t last forever; and it won’t ruin their whole life,” he says. “Whereas pessimists are convinced it will last forever and it’s going to affect all areas of their life.”
Dr. Fiore advises working on developing optimistic thinking skills that will enable you to explain your job loss to yourself in ways that don’t make you angry.
That can be easier said than done. The key step lies in examining and reinterpreting why you lost your job, and not taking the loss personally. Did you really mesh well with the company? Did the plummeting economy cause your dismissal? Did your boss want her own choice in the job?
And don’t look at yourself as inadequate or prone to foul-up. “It’s like a marriage or a relationship. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right, or it’s not your fault. So it’s not something intrinsically wrong with you,” Dr. Fiore noted.
Sometimes, however, people get fired for cause. Then it’s time to assess your deficits, decide what professional or interpersonal skills you need to succeed in the workplace, and begin acquiring them.
Some other techniques for resolving job-loss anger:
- Write about your dismissal. It’s a proven therapeutic technique to deal with trauma called journaling. Write down the problems you encountered at work, your emotional hurt when being terminated, and all the things you wished you’d said to your boss. Keep listing each new detail as you remember it.
- Talk about your emotions with friends who have lost jobs. Empathy can be a powerful boost. But use these talks to build your self-confidence and move forward. If these chats reinforce your negative feelings, stop them.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain that produce feelings of well-being. Running or swimming three or four times a week, for example, can help maintain an upbeat attitude. But start slow and work up as you body becomes used to the exertion.
- Seek professional help. If your anger continues unchecked, consider consulting a mental health professional or anger management specialist, for the good of yourself and your family.
Freelance writer Patrick Young is a former editor of Science News and a winner of the American Chemical Society’s Grady-Stack Award, which recognizes outstanding reporting that promotes the public’s understanding of chemistry and chemical engineering.