Relief, Anger, Despair and Finally Balance - Wonderful & Horrible Layoff

Pirve Harakka

By: MPI Finland | elo 3, 2020

Monday morning. It’s a little over 8 am. I have just sat down in front my computer with a coffee mug in my hand. Another work week is about to begin. At this point I have lost count of how many weeks I have been working from home. And to be honest, I don’t even care that much anymore. I am becoming sick and tired of remote work. It used to be a nice change to office work and gave flexibility and easement when needed to the normal chaos (also called life) of a family with kids. But now. All the time and compelled to it. Me not like. Working and responding to my child’s needs and wants do not go very well together. Also, I cook like ten times a day. At least it feels like that. And cleaning has become an every day chore. I feel deeply uneasy.

My phone rings. My boss is calling. Wonder why..? Our weekly office meeting in Teams is about to start soon. ”Good morning, it’s a new week again, have you started your work day.. Well, now it’s time for the conversation you asked earlier that is it possible to happen..” Ok. No need to say more. I already know. I am laid off. I don’t really listen to what he says after that. I hear words flying by: procedure, advance explanation and hearing. Okay, yes, yes, I understand. As weird as it sounds, I felt relieved.

Picture: Unsplash 

Why am I reacting like this?

Relieved that I don’t have to work remotely. Relieved that I don’t have to try to work and take care of my child at the same time.  Relieved that I don’t have to make up digital events to replace the live ones that were cancelled or postponed. Relieved that I don’t have to attend any ”how to organize a good webinar” -webinars anymore. Relieved that the situation came to a solution after feeling like being left hanging in the air for some time.

I knew that this would happen. The company’s main business is events, I am an Event Manager and organizing events is forbidden by the government at the moment due to covid pandemic, so it’s not that hard to see the end result. But still. I had hoped it would not come to this. That there would be other options. I did propose earlier to our managing director that we would apply for the covid support funding, but I did not get any response to that. It seemed weird to me. I felt like that and some other things could have been resolved before making the decision on furlough. Towards the end of the phone call, I reminded of the suggestion, that I had made and the answers was ”oh, that, yes” followed by some murmur..

My mood changes

A few days after the phone call we had the advance explanation required by law. Somehow my mood started to change. Reality kicked in hard. In two weeks I would start my summer holiday and straight after that a 90 days furlough. What the hell?! I will be gone 16 weeks from work and come back in September, when the event industry should be at it’s busiest time. But no one knows, if it is or not.

In the conversation I was informed, that I had been given enough time to come up with new ways to compensate the loss of cancelling or postponing all events from spring.  When the state of emergency caused by COVID-19 started, most of my work time was filled with trying to figure out what events have to be cancelled and what can be postponed. It’s not that easy and simple to reschedule or cancel several two-day seminars and conferences. Contact people that have already signed up and all the speakers, other performers, venues, logistics, catering services and all other suppliers. At the same time, I started to explore and learn on my own how to organize interesting and good online events. Unfortunately, me or anyone else in the company were very experienced in that area.

Picture: Pexels 

The anger builds up

And then suddenly I was really upset. And angry. I felt upset because I had been sick at the start of transferring to remote work. So, I felt that I had no time at all to plan for new business. My time was consumed with dealing with everything that was going on. No one does my work when I am sick, so when returning to work, there was a bunch of urgent things waiting for me. I had just planned the first online events and there were supposed to be a few more, but none of them would happen as I wouldn’t be there to plan and execute them.

I had earlier expressed my anxiety to my boss and said that I need support in this sudden new state of things and developing new business, but I hardly got any help. Not even understanding. I felt that everything and all the responsibility to solve it was poured over me. The company as my employer was not ready for these unexpected circumstances. I felt I was left alone to survive.

And yes, I am very aware and understand that the cost of staff is the biggest expense and probably the only one where savings can be made. But still, I had hoped for a more humane approach to personnel policy. To research and figure out what to do without having to lay off people. And boy, was I angry. About everything. It felt like my boss did not understand me, my work or my situation at all. Keep your damn jack! I am going to find another job!  (edit.  well, to be honest, where is one going to look, since everyone in the event business is in trouble..)

This is the situation now, so make the most of it

Someone probably guesses already what happened next. Slowly I started to accept the situation. It’s not going to change and I am only making things worse with being offended and mad with everything, especially with my boss. The anger started to fade away, but then I became worried. I had planned to prepare in May and June as much as I could for the coming fall. But now I could not do that. I worried that we wouldn’t be able to do events in the fall either, since there was no one to plan them. And that would bring even more pressure to balancing out the budget.

And the ugly feeling, that someone else will be doing my work, creeped in. This is something that should not be done since I am furloughed on the grounds that temporarily my employer can’t offer me work. Though, that is not entirely true. Maybe not as much work as usually, but still all kinds of things should be taken care of. I made a list of all those things that need to done, if we are going to have events in the fall. I could feel the amazement in my boss as he was reading my memo, even though we were in an online meeting. I believe in that moment he realized just how much work it requires to produce an event. That the work I do is not so easy and simple as it seems when attending a ready-made event where everything works. Behind all that there  is a lot of hard work. It also dawned on me why I had been so angry. I had felt being just an unnecessary cost and letting go of me being easy, because it won’t affect anything.

Picture: Pirve Harakka 

Not quite zen, but close enough!

And then I was on my way to adapting to the situation. One of the biggest things, that helped in this was, my good friend, who was in a similar situation. She is my soul sister, so it was great to share my thoughts and feelings with someone who understands me, my work and also the situation I was in. Another thing that was helpful was a support group conversation in Zoom that was organized by MPI Finland.  I realized there were a lot of other people with the same experience and feelings. It was relieving to hear that it wasn’t just me. And my boss. I also learned a new word to describe the situation, but unfortunately it doesn’t translate to English because it is a word play with Finnish language combining  words meaning summer vacation and being laid off. Anyway, the term had been come up by accident in one organisation and had stayed with the staff since it gave more positive vibe to the unpleasant situation.

My reactions and attitudes to the furlough followed quite accurately the pattern how people respond to change. Mari Laari, a psychologist  specialized in occupational health, writes about this in her blog. First phase is total paralysis and protecting yourself by denying the new situation. After that comes resistance which creates anger and critique. Slowly then one starts to understand the reality and accept what has happened. New things and ideas are taking over as one lets go of the past and then balance is found as one sees all the good in the new situation.


The change path (

I also was able to see all the positive things in the not-so-nice situation. The biggest one was that I finally finished my Master’s studies that had been on and off for way too long. I also had a chance to spend more time with my child, since he was on a vacation from daycare the whole summer. Normally I have a constant bad mom feeling for not having enough time and energy to play, read books or do adventure trips to the nearby woods. I would also have more time to focus on myself, find time to exercise and pay more attention to my well being. This is also what Mari Laari advises to do: with more free time in your hands, focus on things that are important to you, but do not demand too much from yourself!

Have you had similar experiences? Have you been laid off or do you see it happening in the future? How do you feel about it?

The original post in Finnish can be found here: Helpotuksesta kiukun kautta tasapainoon – ihana, kamala lomautus

PS. Luckily it was summer time I was laid off. Things might have been different in the dark Finnish winter months..

PS 2. I returned to work earlier than I was supposed to since the covid situtation is good in Finland at the moment and events are allowed with certain restrictions.



MPI Finland

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