by Dr. Wesley Carter
Sarah drives 25 miles to the grocery store, on the other side of town, to avoid running into anyone she knows. She is embarrassed to be seen using her EBT food stamp card. Times have gotten so bad that Sarah cannot feed her family without the food stamp assistance provided by the federal government. For an accomplished woman with a history of working and earning an income to support her family, this feels like a handout.
James hides in his house filling out job applications online, too ashamed to make the effort to get out and go to lunch with friends for fear that they will ask about his job prospects. Unemployed for the first time in over 20 years, James struggles to maintain optimism about his job opportunities. James is not alone. According to the Employment Situation Summary published by the Department of Labor, 13.1 million people were unemployed in December 2011.
Vanessa owns a small consulting firm. But, she has not generated any income in over a year. Too embarrassed to let her friends and colleagues know, she runs around town pretending to be on her way to an appointment with a revenue-generating client. She talks a big game and pretends that her consulting practice is still making money.
Taylor sits at the desk of the only employment he could find after being laid off from his six-figure job. Everyday he is browbeaten by his manager, treated like he is dumb, unskilled, and uneducated. He goes to work everyday, full of optimism, intent on making a positive contribution. By day’s end, he is exhausted by being mistreated and belittled. Taylor suffers quietly. He is too ashamed to tell anyone what he is experiencing.
All of these professionals share a common thread – – shame. Millions of Americans are suffering silently. This is the unfortunate consequence of the current recession. The amount of pain and suffering begs the question – - is there a better way to navigate desperate times?
In a recession, the decline in sales revenues and profits, threatens the sustainability of large corporations. In response, corporate leaders exercise cost cutting measures such as lay-offs, hiring freezes, and curtailing expenditures for new products and services.
Even if Sarah, James, Vanessa, and Taylor are the most skilled, accomplished, and resourceful professionals; they may still find themselves living with the consequences of the current economic crisis happening across the United States. There is no need to suffer in shame. This is not a personal crisis.
The United States of America is in a state of flux. During the past 24 months, we have experienced a slowdown in industrial production, a decline in real income, and a slump in consumer spending. So, why are so many Americans taking on the shame of struggling to take care of their families?
The answer lies in the experience of shame. Rightfully so, many of us should have managed our finances more responsibly. However, the recession was also brought on by many conditions outside of our control.
The sense of humiliation and distress causes many of us to suffer in isolation. When Sarah actually opens up and tells her friends and family what she is experiencing, she will find that there are several other families receiving help from the federal government.
James is basically keeping himself from finding employment because the people in his social and professional circles are unaware of his plight. When James finally confesses his lack of success in landing a job, his friends and colleagues will be able to engage and refer him potential employers.
Vanessa’s self-imposed isolation has kept her unaware of funding opportunities available to struggling small businesses. The hesitation to seek counsel, prevents Vanessa from exploring employment opportunities. If she were to make others aware of her available capacity, they could refer business or jobs to her.
When Taylor begins to share his story of degradation at the hands of his manager, he will finally be able to get some guidance on how to address his situation. Perhaps Taylor has friends that are in the same situation. Together, they can create a community of support and leadership to transcend their current working conditions. Whether the solution is a new job or a new attitude, Taylor will have the support to persevere.
The take-away is the same – - suffering in isolation, humiliated, and owning the recession as a personal burden is unproductive. Breaking the silence is the first step toward breaking the pattern of self-flagellation. If you see yourself in the stories above, take the first step and tell your story. You are not alone. There are resources and people willing and able to help you get back into the game. Begin to build your community of support and be empowered!
Dr. Wesley Carter authors a weekly business column in The Charlotte Post newspaper. Carter holds a Doctor of Management (DM) degree from the University of Phoenix with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership, an MBA from the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University, and a B.A in Management from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This information may not be copied or shared without permission from Dr. Wesley Carter. If you have a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (704) 992-1211.