Money 2010

In this era of economic anxiety, the question of how your paycheck stacks up looms larger than ever. A shameless accounting of who's making what — and how they're spending it.

Could I Be Suffering from a Case of Layoff Envy?

Maybe those who got the ax were the lucky ones. How to stay sane in a workplace gone mad.
By Alyssa Giacobbe

When 37-year-old Kerry Epstein was laid off from IBM last winter, she was crushed.

For about a minute.

The Back Bay resident had been at it for more than a decade, but pushing software was never really her thing. Shopping, however, was. And so, with a small amount of effort, Epstein transformed what had previously been a side gig as a wardrobe stylist into a shiny new career that has left her “completely fulfilled,” both professionally and financially.

Here in the Hub, about 50,000 of our coworkers got canned last year, and we all know a Kerry Epstein or two: chipper go-getters who made lemonade out of their occupational lemons. For a while there, when things looked truly bleak, their job loss was our solace: At least we weren’t them. But oh, to be them! Armed with a powerful combination of severance cash and free time, a good many of those fallen colleagues finally followed their dreams and entrepreneurial instincts. All those lukewarm platitudes dispensed a year ago — Things always work out for the best! You’ll land on your feet! — came true. Our friends landed on their feet. Damn them.

Those of us “lucky” enough not to get sacked were left to watch our work life slowly crumble: First it’s the paper cups and free hot chocolate, then it’s the vision plan. That 401(k) matching is now a relic. Doing the work of half a department is the new norm. Raises? That’s cute.

“At first, it’s depressing and guilt-inducing to see coworkers go. Then comes the resentment and envy,” says Susan Lewis, a clinical psychologist in Brookline. Those of us left in the cubicles end up bearing the weight of greater responsibility, which leads us to feel trapped. If this is you, Lewis says, don’t spend a lot of time telling yourself that you really don’t mind working on Sundays, or that instant coffee is the greatest. Accepting that you don’t like your situation will set you up for more success once the job market improves. Don’t let these feelings permeate your personal life. Rebel a little; skip a meeting. Just for the hell of it, call in sick. Because once ambivalence and depression set in, you’re a goner.