Seeing the Big Picture
On the following pages is a short story about a man who lost his job recently. Read the story and immediately write down your answers to the questions that follow. Set a timer for 25 minutes before answering the questions – when the timer goes off, stop writing. The objective is to quickly write down your thoughts (no need to pay attention to grammar or spelling!).
Rick Patterson stood still and stared out onto the quietly humming production floor. His mind went blank. He was trying to process the news he had just received but the only sensation he could feel was an overwhelming sense of numbness.
Rick was 52-year old. For the past 20 years he had worked at small electronic sensor manufacturer called BOLT Industries where he had slowly worked his way up the ranks to the position of Vice President of Production.
Now, for the first time in his adult life, he was unemployed. Rick had been told just minutes ago by the company’s new management that they were cutting his position. The newly reorganized company wouldn’t be needing his particular skillset any longer given its new direction. He’d get two weeks of severance pay and he had until the end of the day to clean out his office and say his goodbyes. He wouldn’t be allowed back into the building once he left that evening.
For years, Rick’s daily life while at BOLT Industries had looked the same. He would wake up at 6 am, have coffee and cereal, shower, and drive to work so he could be there half an hour before the production shift began at 8 am. He spent the half hour reading through and responding to company e-mails, and then would make his way out to the floor to say good morning to the 30 or so production workers he managed.
As one of the longest tenured employees at BOLT, Rick knew everyone by name and always made a point to ask each day about his co-workers’ families and life events big and small. He’d had known many of these people for over a decade, had lunch with them on a daily basis, and had watched their kids grow up with his own.
Rick had earned $95,000 a year at BOLT. In the small Washington suburb where he and his wife had settled two decades ago to raise their family, that made for a comfortable, but not extravagant, life. His son and his daughter were both in college now – one at the state university a few hours drive away and the other at a private college in the Midwest. His salary had been just enough to cover the first few tuition bills for his kids, so he had to convince his wife just last year that it would be okay for them to take out a second mortgage on their house so they could have some breathing room financially. She wasn’t thrilled with that at the time, but he had assured her that if she was able to get a part-time job at the local school district (which she wanted to do), they could make it all work and still go on their annual vacation to Arizona during the winter.
Rick’s trance was broken as one of the production workers waved over to him. He smiled a weak smile back – no one besides management knew what had happened yet. He turned away from the floor and began walking towards his office to start packing its contents into boxes. He wasn’t sure he could bring himself to say goodbye to anyone – he intuitively knew that he might break down crying in front of them which he realized he was terrified of.
After the boxes were packed, Rick quietly walked out to the parking lot and got into his car to drive the 25-minute commute home for the last time. As he turned the ignition, his feeling of numbness subsided, and his mind began to race...
Spend roughly 5 minutes writing answers to each one of the following four questions.
1. How does Rick feel on his car ride home? How should Rick deal with the negative feelings he will probably feel in the weeks or months to come? (for example: isolation, anxiety, and depression) (~5 minutes)
2. Now, consider the different challenges Rick suddenly faces in his life. For each of the following categories, write down a specific challenge or two he might now face. (~5 minutes)
3. Now, it’s your turn. How did you feel when you lost your job? How are you dealing with the negative feelings often associated with unemployment? (~5 minutes)
4. What are your challenges across the six categories in question 2? (~5 minutes)