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A Resilient Spirit Saves a Job

Susan’s Story

by Al Siebert, PhD

Author of The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back From Setbacks (2006 Independent Publisher’s Best Self-Help book), and best seller The Survivor Personality: Why Some People Are Stronger, Smarter, and More Skillful at Handling Life’s Difficulties…and How You Can Be, Too.


When it comes to the effects of downsizing, resiliency may takes different forms. It may be to adapt quickly and find a new career direction or it may be to bounce back in a way that leads to a surprising outcome.

Many years ago an acquaintance of mine, Susan, was working in the environmental engineering department for a large metropolitan county. When an economic recession decreased tax revenues she heard that about 300-400 county employees would be laid off. She expected that her department would be downsized and reorganized, but felt secure in her position because she was very skillful, productive, and effective. She also felt unconcerned because the reliable internal rumors were that the new Director of her department had announced no women would be laid off.

Susan says:

"On Wednesday morning my two immediate bosses called me in. They said they were letting me go and handed me my layoff notice. I was so shocked I just left, I got in my car, and went home. I was angry. I felt indignant, I knew this wasn’t right.

"About an hour later I called the Director. I said I wanted an appointment to see him. He agreed to see me right away. I drove right back to work and walked into his office.

"He was very new to his position, he’d only been there about a month, so he didn’t know me or who I was. I walked in and said to him ‘I’m angry about being laid off. I’m one of the best people you have and you don’t have too many. If you have ten really good people in your department, and I doubt that you have ten, I am one of them. I’m really bright and have no doubt that I can do what you want. Selecting me to be laid off is not right!’

"I’m not an egotist. I didn’t think about what I was doing or saying. I didn’t have a motive. It was just a reaction. I really believed what I said. I felt better telling him how I felt and I left.

"The next morning I didn’t go to work. What could they do, fire me? I was surprised when the Director telephoned me. He said he might have something for me and asked me to come and see him. I drove to work right away and met with him. He said he wanted me to produce a report by Monday morning. It would be for a presentation he had to give on what the department had accomplished and where the new, smaller department was going.

"I went back to my desk and got on the phone. I called the six division managers. I told them I was doing an urgent special project for the new Director. I spent Thursday and Friday interviewing them. They all met with me and answered my questions.

"I spent all weekend in the office typing up the report. On Monday morning I gave the report to the Director. He was very impressed with the report and the way I had handled all the division managers. He said they had all called him to ask who I was.

"Several days later the Director called me into his office. He said he had created a new position in the department. He was appointing me to be Community Coordinator. My responsibilities were to handle public information and increase community involvement, even though I had no experience. My experience was in engineering!

"The next week I was working for him at my new position. I never was laid off!"