The firing range

'What's the difference between being fired and a catastrophe? It's a firing when it happens to you, and it's a catastrophe when it happens to me," says Dafna Pe'er, director of Matan Meitar. Being fired from a job is no different than being rejected in any other facet of life - the gamut of emotions can range from rage and betrayal to feelings of inadequacy and guilt. "If the layoff comes as a surprise, workers often don't react well. Sometimes fired workers get suicidal," says Pe'er, adding that her company runs a 24-hour a day hot line for clients. "We try to give someone who's fired the tools to cope, whether it's having one of our psychologists help him overcome anxiety, or just hold his hand for a while. When a person with five children, a mortgage and living in a bad economy gets fired, there are reasons to be worried." Some of the bigger hi-tech companies and large firms like banks hire Matan Meitar to provide free sessions for their employees who have been let go. According to Pe'er, the package usually includes five to 10 personal meetings for each former employee. The company's team is also available on a private contract basis, with sessions usually running NIS 300 to NIS 350 an hour. "What we try to do is help you realize that while the situation looks very grim, life is not only black. If the worker feels depressed or lacks vitality, we help restore it," Pe'er says. It's not only the worker who needs a hand during times of layoffs, cautions Pe'er, but also the company, which is likely in a crisis which necessitated the layoffs in the first place. "At one company, a fired worker kept coming into work each day for a week. He was in denial. So we work with the management on scenarios like that and provide backup and advice on how to cope with different situations." Modi'in software engineer Ran Gordon, who's been laid off three times during his career, advises his fellow castaways not to take it personally. "It's the same with a million other people. It's just a bad phase we're going through. You need to tell yourself it's not because of you, it's the situation. It's important not to get down on yourself," he says. In addition to working on the emotional side of unemployment, Pe'er's company also deals with the practical side - what a fired worker should do next. "We'll sit with an individual, and help him ascertain what he wants to do in his next job. Someone may have been a project manager for 10 years at a place like Comverse, but he admits that he never really liked it. This person's at a crossroads, and we help him assess his talents and capabilities, so before he starts looking around, he can be sure it's something he really wants to do," she says. The key to overcoming the challenge of being laid off, says Pe'er is to not reject offers of help. "Some people are embarrassed to admit they need help. Don't think you can do it by yourself."