The past week has been an oddly quiet one for some 270 Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems workers who were placed on indefinite lay off status as of Jan. 26.
Among those getting acquainted with an abundance of unexpected free time is Bill, who has spent his days at the Lockport plant for the last eight years. The 37-year-old Barker resident, who asked that his last name not be disclosed, admits to feeling a little lost.
"I don't really know what to do with myself. I've basically been watching TV and going over our finances," he said. "After the first couple days it started to feel weird not having anything to do. It doesn't feel good."
Latrice Gray, of Buffalo, has had more time to reflect on her involuntary unemployment. The former ClientLogic supervisor was among some 40 of that local call center's workers who got pink slips in mid-December, as part of a company-wide work force reduction.
"At first I was really mad," Gray recalled. "It was an ugly day. Black Tuesday, is how I refer to it."
Gray felt fairly secure in her job. She'd been with the company for five years, weathering a series of ownership and name changes. And her work had earned her promotions. Prior to being axed, the senior supervisor was in charge of seven lower-level supervisors, with 15 employees each, in a hectic call center environment.
But all that came to an abrupt end in an impersonal, hurried meeting with a senior manager where she learned she was being let go because of corporate financial woes.
"At this point, I'm really happy and calm. They actually did me a favor because I hated the job and should have done something about it," she said. "My stress level has dropped off and I'm feeling better about myself. I think I'm ready to find a job that fits me."
These two area residents are among hundreds locally, and tens of thousands nationwide, who have been forced to deal with lay offs in recent weeks. The list of companies clearing out workers due to corporate belt-tightening or mergers reads like a who's who of U.S. businesses; big names such as AOL Time Warner, Whirlpool, AT&T, Motorola, Lucent Technologies, Sara Lee, DaimlerChrysler and Amazon.com.
Locally, displaced workers from Delphi and ClientLogic, can share their misery with counterparts from Computer Task Group, Tops Markets, Empire Specialty Steel, Andalon.com and New Era Cap.
And the amount of misery they are feeling should not be discounted, according to Ruth Luban, a California psychologist who specializes in career-related counseling.
"The emotional impact is bigger than we know," Luban said. "These are innocent victims being yanked out of their livelihoods by forces beyond their control. Even if they didn't like their jobs, it's all gone, the daily structure of their tasks, co-workers, their cubicles, even the commute."
In her new book, "Are you a Corporate Refugee? -- A Survival Guide for Downsized, Disillusioned, and Displaced Workers," Luban explores the emotional stages of sudden unemployment, from initial shock and disorientation, through letting go and finding a new employment home.
"Even if these people are lucky enough to get out-placement services, its rare that anyone talks with them about how they're doing, how they're coping. The focus is on getting them into their next job," Luban said. For some, the emotional transition from downsizing victim, to upbeat job seeker takes place in a few weeks, for others, it can take months.
For those who are still employed, but see work force turmoil on the horizon, Luban suggests doing some pre-pink slip legwork, such as updating you resume, building a network of employment contacts in your field, and getting your financial house in order.