When Work Related Stress Turns Into Major Life Transition
Work related stress is part of the day-to-day demands of work. Yet a work related major life transition combines even greater stress with a huge emotional impact.
This is not in any way meant to minimize or dismiss the amount of work related stress stemming from such “everyday” things as strenuous long distance commuting, almost-impossible deadlines, dealing with conflict and office politics, or any of quite a number of other factors.
Yet some stress connected to work stems from a whole other range of factors. This type of stress involves fundamental life changes related to a person’s work.
In the first part of this post we’ll look at the nature of work-related major life transitions, and in the second part, we’ll examine the personal work of moving through such a process as a part of the journey towards wholeness.
When Work Related Stress Involves Fundamental Life Change
Sometimes the changes brought about in a person’s working life can be so significant that they amount to a basic change in a person’s life and identity. This can be particularly true for individuals who derive a great deal of their meaning and value from their working lives. Consider the following examples.
Merger or Takeover. Consider the individual who has a long and successful career at an organization where the level of responsibility has increased steadily over years of engagement with the firm. The individual is conscientious and very devoted to work. He or she has developed a strong network of connections within the organization, and derives his or her identity to a considerable extent from the role in the organization. When an amalgamation occurs, the structure of the organization can change dramatically. Often there is a whole new cast of staff, and the mission and business goals of the organization may change out of all recognition. This may have a profound impact on the individual affected.
Change of Leadership. Change of organizational leadership can have just as dramatic an effect as a merger or takeover. It can completely change the character of an organization, and of an individual’s role within it. If the individual has been largely identified with that role, it can mean that the individual is suddenly struggling to hold onto an identity that once seemed secure, meaningful and unshakable.
Long Distance Moves and Transfers. When large organizations require their employees to move to a substantial distance, or even internationally or intercontinentally, the work related stress impact can be enormous. Individuals and their families can be torn out of environments where they felt rooted, and forced to leave supportive communities, networks of relationship and personally meaningful locations behind. Given that this can occur with regularity for some corporate employees, this can have an enormous cumulative impact.
Work is Terminated. Once again, if termination occurs to an individual whose identity is largely work-related, it is produces enormous work related stress and is clearly a major life transition. This is particularly if it occurs to the older employee who might be nearing retirement age.
Meaning, Identity and Work Related Stress
These types of work-related major life transition can clearly put a huge focus on questions of personal identity and meaning. They obviously also create enormous work related stress and anxiety.
Depth case studies recognizes that these issues of meaning, identity and personal connection must be addressed directly to bring healing to the individual. Yet it recognizes that the individual must often confront strong reactions of anxiety and grief associated with the loss of established identities and roles.
Often, working within the secure container that /a-midlife-transition can provide, the individual is able to safely explore his or her own true feelings and reactions in a healing, in-depth way. Gradually, a renewed and more solid sense of identity and meaning emerges as the individual moves through such major life transitions.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst