Financial Crisis Watch: We are up to sulking?

Psychologists have a good 5 point rubric for understanding our reactions to grief, and anything unsettling.

First, we can’t take in the bad news.

Then, we get angry and look for someone to shout at.

When that doesn’t work, we sulk and bargain.

Failing again, we are confused, dejected and flail about without a plan.

Eventually, thankfully, we fall in love with life again.

Working, living and leading the bereaved

When we watch someone dealing with the death of a loved one, these stages are very clear.  Because the death is a fact, it is clear that they are having trouble absorbing the new reality into their life.  We do it easily because the person didn’t play such a big role in our lives and we have less to rearrange.  Our time will come.

Adjusting our identity

When the loss is something more nebulous, like our identity (not our credit cards but our sense of worth), then it is harder to see that someone is travelling a painful path. We just see someone who is being ill tempered, confused, difficult.

When the little boy asked Obama this week, “Why do people hate you?, Obama took great pains to explain to to the 9 year old the grief that his opponents feel in losing the election. He has the political maturity to understand why people are difficult and work with them anyway.

How long does it take to move through the grief cycle?

As a distant observer, I’ve been watching the underlying changes going in the States. Because I am not so close to the action, I watch dispassionately to see what is happening and to learn something that is not written up well in the psychological literature.

How long does it take for a population to adjust to stunning and inescapably bad news .   .   .  .  like Bank crashes, like the assumption of power by a new generation (Gen x)(if you are a Baby Boomer), by the invention of science we did not learn at school?

At lot has happened in the last two years.  When will we find our way out of the grief reaction?

2006 – We couldn’t believe that we were overspending.

2008 – Once Lehman crashed, we railed at irresponsible bankers.

2009 – We don’t want to work with the incoming President, redesign our banks, work with Nobel winning scientists even though they are already in the WhiteHouse.

When will we move into depression, and when will we fall back in love with life?

I suppose we must expect a period of depression and dejection soon.

And after that, we can get on with the job of using new developments in science, reaching out to other countries to build a new world order, include more people at home in the decision making and in the benefits of a strong economy, use the internet to make everything easier and work out the rules of a newer more respectful economy.

Why some people stay cheerful in spite of the recession

Psychology of loss and gain

Economists who study behavior will tell you that we value something we lose, much more, than we value something we gain.

This is a pertinent emotion during a recession.   Most of us will lose something.  We may not get the  increase in salary we worked so hard for, or we might make less profit.  We might suffer a large loss, such as our job, or our business.  Some of our possessions may get repossessed.  We could even lose our houses that we saved and skimped and spent many weekends working on.  What chumps we will feel!

Loss is devasting, and distracts us from possibility.

Tom Peters today passed on a fabulous anecdote about Kurt Vonnegut,  Joseph Heller and a hedgefund manager.

“At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.'”

Amen!
And thank you, John Bogle!
(And Judith Ellis.)

Coping with loss

It’s really difficult not to focus on loss when it happens.  Indeed, we shouldn’t move on too soon.  Grieving has its place.

I find the advice from the 5 stages of group formation useful: forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning.   The leader’s task during ‘adjourning’ is to help an individual break their tie with the group, and to proceed back into the world quite happily as an individual.

Applying that advice to the horrible events that happen in recessions, we have three broad steps.  We need

  • Signal that change is going to happen in sufficient time
  • Plan a rite of passage (like a graduation ceremony)
  • Get people visualizing life without the group (or house or whatever).

No, that’s not quite right.  To talk about ‘life without’ brings our attention back to what we have lost.

Endpoint

We need to talk about our story, all the good times we have had, and gradually get to the point that we see jobs, companies, businesses, not as the end in themselves – just as ENOUGH.  They are there to help us get what we want.

What do we want?  And how are those projects going!  Incredibly hard to focus on those things when confronted with loss – the economists tell us so!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

Enhanced by Zemanta