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Good Feelings About Ex-Employer May Boost Self-Esteem in Jobless

FRIDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Unemployed people who still identify with their former employer report greater well-being than those who do not have this positive connection from their past, according to a new study.

The findings held true even for people who were fired or laid off from their jobs, the researchers pointed out.

"These unemployed people have something to cling to by having had very positive associations with their employer in the past," Jennifer Tosti-Kharas, assistant professor of management at San Francisco State University, said in a university news release. "If you never had a positive association with your employer, now you're out of a job and you don't have something positive in your past to make you feel better."

The researchers surveyed nearly 1,200 highly educated workers in June and December of 2008 about their psychological well-being, self-esteem and continued identification with their former employer. Nearly half of the participants held jobs in the financial industry before losing their jobs.

The unemployed workers were divided into two groups: 45 people who were unemployed when the study began and 41 people who lost their jobs during the course of the study. Those who voluntarily left jobs, were self-employed or were fully employed throughout the duration of the study were not included.

The researchers found that the unemployed workers who still strongly identified with their former companies and did not blame their former employer for their job loss had more confidence, a stronger sense of purpose and a greater sense of belonging during their unemployment. The study authors suggested that this sense of belonging helped to minimize the workers' feelings of isolation.

"When an employee strongly identifies with the organization they work for, they're more likely to go above and beyond and be engaged in their work, which is great for the well-being of individuals and organizations," Tosti-Kharas said in the news release. "But that sense of individual well-being had never been assumed to extend to former employees," she added.

"It's a question of how much is your former organization still a part of who you are and how you define yourself as a person," Tosti-Kharas explained.

The researchers noted that the greater sense of well-being among unemployed people was based on their own perceptions and not the result of continued contact with former co-workers. They also said the boost in self-esteem seemed to assist in the workers' search for a new job.

The study was published Nov. 9 in the Journal of Managerial Psychology.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about the link between unemployment and self-esteem.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: San Francisco State University, news release, Nov. 9, 2012

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