Grief experienced within your career is indeed real. It can have a devastating effect on our career choices, confidence, performance, and what we believe we deserve when it comes to our career satisfaction.
Career-Grief is a Real Thing
The intention of my articles is to inform. Through the sharing of information and examples, I encourage my audience to see past the currently accepted definition of grief, all while asking them to remain open and willing to learn the correct definition of grief. Though my guidance, readers not only learn there are over 40 reasons why someone may grieve, they come to realize grief was never meant to be a destination and that it IS possible to move beyond this state of being.
Grief, typically described as an emotional loss, can be experienced perhaps as an unsuccessful interview, a missed promotion, or an unrealized raise. Grief is also the result of a change in something which was familiar, such as a co-worker dies, a co-worker is fired, or perhaps when a co-worker moves away. Finally, grief can include happy situations which are the result of a change in something which was familiar such as a promotion, a company move, or receiving a welcomed raise.
Grief can be about the things we wished had been better, different, or more: early retirement; downsizing; a lack of respect or appreciation. Grief can be about unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations: a broken partnership; missing out on a big client deal; or, for an entrepreneur, perhaps the business never reaching the expected level of financial success. Finally, grief can be about things which we never said, or perhaps were said but we felt were not heard: asking for changes in the workplace; project direction; or misunderstandings with a co-worker.
Situations, which result in career-grief, can be broken down into the following three categories.
- Being fired
- A co-worker resigns or is let go
- Relocating for a new position or to keep your existing job
- Returning from maternity/parental leave
- Loosing a customer, client, or patient
- Not getting the job applied for
- Being passed over for a promotion
Not as readily recognizable:
- Getting the job
- Receiving a substantial raise
- Commencing parental leave
- Getting the promotion
- Reaching the successful conclusion of project
More abstract and not as easily recognizable:
- Experiencing sexual/physical/emotional from a customer, a client, co-worker, or your manager.
- The results of working within a toxic workplace environment which result in feelings or a sense of loss: loss of self; loss of faith; loss of safety; or loss of control.
How does career-grief affect us?
When we do not feel supported in the workplace, we can reach for Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviours (STERBS) in order to distract us from our pain. Perhaps we start to drink more than usual, access drugs, shop, over/under eat, watch Netflix, engage in excessive gaming, or use books to escape. STERBS are normal when we first experience a loss because they can provide an outlet for the extra energy grief generates. However, as the label suggests, STERB’S were never meant to be a permanent distraction. The longer they persist, the less supportive they become.
What can we do about career-grief?
As with any required change – awareness is the first step. When we are carrying around unfinished business, or regret from the past, it keeps us in a place of second guessing ourselves. Our confidences may take a hit. Our ability to focus, be productive, be patient, be tolerant, be creative, may all be compromised. Entrepreneurs are most often solopreneurs and therefore a lack of focus and confidence can significantly affect the bottom line. Becoming aware of how grief is affecting us, allows us to intentionally choose to seek help, or support, in moving towards completion of our pain.
Sadly, even though grieving is considered normal, the business world does not support the natural grieving process. We can receive several weeks off of work for a broken bone but we are usually expected to be back to work in only a few days after a loss. As we struggle to find our balance, we are reminded by others of the need to “get over this”, “we need to move on”, or we need to “snap out of it”. When grief is prolonged, we are told it is time for us to stop dwelling on the past.
I encourage asking for support – finding someone to talk to who will listen without judgment or criticism. Support comes from talking with someone who does not try to fix but rather provides a safe place for us to express how we are feeling.
If unresolved grief has moved beyond something which can be worked through on our own, we need to remember it is ok to ask for help. It can be very difficult to identify and process our emotions on our own because we are just too close to the story.
When choosing a coach or specialist it is important to follow the below checklist as we search for someone who is qualified and able to deliver results.
- Does this person have the credentials to deliver the service they are offering?
- Can they provide a minimum of 2 testimonials?
- Have they invested the same time and energy into themselves, as what they will be asking from you?
- Do we feel comfortable with them? Listening to our gut reaction is key.
- How well do we comprehend their communication with us? Trust first impressions.
- Have we compared and contemplated? Speaking to a few professionals before we decide which one to work with will help the overall process.
Many of us have suffered from career-grief for years simply because we do not recognize it as grief. Not only can unresolved grief limit our personal capacity for happiness, it can also have a negative effect on our career success.
It is never too late to complete the unfinished business of our past. In fact, many have found that once the emotional work is done, the patterns of their past experiences cease, and they are able to enjoy a new way of showing up.
While career-grief is real, it is not insurmountable. Recognize, evaluate, seek help and support, do the work, and move past the grief into the life, and the career, you truly desire!
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide.
She is certified in The Grief Recovery Method®, Personality Dimensions™, Reiki, Access Bars®, and Mindfulness. To learn more about the services she offers, book a 20-minute free phone consult, or visit her service tab on her website at www.tadams.ca