I heard last night that JCPenny is closing stores and laying off 2000 people. I know they’ve been having problems defining themselves. I know sales in retail across the board was lower than hoped during the holidays. And I know the feelings of fear that is rippling now through JCPenny employees as they wait to see where the ax will fall.
For them it doesn’t feel as though the economy has turned a corner. For them the future doesn’t look bright. They can’t see the end of the tunnel. For them it’s not a news story, not a statistic, not a theoretical unemployment figure. It’s personal. It’s like someone is shooting fish in a barrel and they are the fish, scary in its randomness. Who will survive? And why?
I speak from experience when I say there is a kind of survivor’s guilt during times like these. “Downsizing” is a nice word for what actually feels like multiple deaths in a family. Often sudden, surprising, unexpected. You are unprepared even though you knew times were slow. You see closed office doors as if they are casket lids, and you feel sharp, unexpected pangs of loss. These are family members who are suddenly gone through no fault of their own – for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every day while downsizing is going on you go to the office as if going to a funeral.
These are the times we are in. And it isn’t happening to other people, it is happening to all of us. Some of your friends or neighbors or acquaintances are waking up today without a job they had yesterday. Families are figuring out what the new normal is and how to make do.
Those left behind are trying to figure out what the new normal is too. And feeling sad and guilty. Those left behind are in mourning and I’m not overstating that. Mass layoffs are tragedies. People on both sides of the ax will need time to regroup. Grief comes from unexpected places.
Today I’m headed for the office like usual. But I’m going to miss some very nice people, good people, hard working people that won’t be there.
I wish them the absolute best.