Al Siebert Resiliency Center web nameplate

Have a Positive Plan for Dealing with Negative Developments

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.

How well or how poorly a person reacts to disruptive change boils down to an important difference in people. That difference is one’s answer to the question "Who is basically responsible for the way my life goes?" People who react like victims feel helpless and blame others for their distress. People who thrive feel responsible for themselves and often prepare for potential difficulties with "Plan A and Plan B."

I conducted a workshop at a large chemical fertilizer plant to help employees cope with a 70 percent reduction in the work force.* Many of them felt shocked, bewildered, and glum about the future. Four months later, after the layoffs had been completed, I returned to the plant to conduct a team building workshop with the managers, employees, and supervisors that had been retained. As I walked across the parking lot with one of the few remaining supervisors, I asked him, "How does it feel to be one of the survivor"

He looked around as though to make sure we wouldn’t be overheard and said, "Frankly Al, I’m kind of disappointed."

"You are?"

"When corporate headquarters announced the layoffs I assumed I’d get the ax. I always wanted to get a college education so I wrote for catalogs. I talked to several advisors, picked my courses, and had my application forms all filled out. I was ready to send in my check the day my layoff letter arrived." He smiled and said, "I’m glad to have a job, but disappointed about having to postpone college."

I could understand why the plant managers had decided to keep him and let most of the others go. Whatever life threw at him, he was ready with a positive new plan.