Copping with job loss: a first-hand experience

BY ALEX TAREMWA

Losing a job is probably the most heart-rending thing anyone should endure. If it doesn’t break your spirit, it will – like in CHRIS MUGASHA’s case leave you with a tale to tell.

After eight years of ‘hard-work’ as a sales executive of an insurance company, Chris Mugasha, 39, was discharged indefinitely for alleged sexual harassment.

Mugasha remembers being summoned for an urgent meeting on a Wednesday morning of May 25, 2016 only to be lectured about how ‘reckless’ he had been.

He was then sent on forced leave – more like a suspension really – to pave way for further investigations after which he was permanently sacked.

In a wink, the once powerful salesman covering West and South Western Uganda went from employed to jobless.fired-642x336

All he had – after the four hours he was given to clean his desk –  was a laptop bag, a pack of business cards, three books and a golf cap.

Although Mugasha admits to having had a sexual relationship with a co-worker contrary to his terms of employment, he maintains that the manner in which he was dismissed was not only disgraceful but also illegal.

“They organized kangaroo panel to try me. They didn’t even give me time to respond to the allegations. Even after they sent me on leave, they seized paying me and after I was publicly fired, my benefits and allowances were withheld,” he narrates.

What was perhaps the more perturbing is that the lady with whom Mugasha was having [sic] an ‘inappropriate sexual affair’, was one of the committee members trying him.

This, to him, was the most hypocritical thing he had ever witnessed. His letter of dismissal, a copy of which TTM has seen, reads that Mugasha was dismissed for sexual harassment on a fellow staff and inappropriate behaviour.

“You see I don’t deny having had an affair but I didn’t have it with myself. I don’t understand why she was exonerated, later on allowed to even take a stand not to testify but to prosecute me,” he says.

The organisation did not stop there. It went to further to publish his picture in the newspapers warning the public as he (Mugasha) was no longer its employee asserting that he should be dealt with at one’s own risk.

Despite the cited conflict of interest and arguably unfair dismissal, he decided not to sue. Asked why, he says he neither had the strength not the money to fight back.

“I no longer had an income. If I was to sue, I would have to use my life savings to fight a battle that could go both ways so I decided to divert my frustrations elsewhere.”

Luckily or unluckily enough, Mugasha is not married – at least not yet. He however has a cohort of dependents, mostly school going siblings who have suffered effects of his lack of an income.

They did not only have to change to third-class schools that he could afford, they also had to leave the boarding section to the more affordable day-school section, a change that affected their academic performance.

Previously, Mugasha who rented a two-bedroomed self-contained apartment in upscale Ntinda at shs750,000 had to shift to a modest one-bedroom rental in Kisaasi, in the outskirts of Kampala where he pays rent of shs250,000.

This is not the only thing that changed about Mugasha’s lifestyle. He also had to sell off his Toyota Mark II to meet financial demands.

Like the former Apple founder Steve Jobs (RIP) described his dismissal from the tech giant in a commemoration speech to graduates at Stanford University back in 2005, it was “an awfully tasting medicine.”

Although Jobs later returned to Apple, it is unclear whether Mugasha will have a similar opportunity and even if he did, he would most likely turn it down owing to his life’s recent turn-around.

SILVER LINING APPEARS

firedFor a man of his experience, Mugasha has gotten a number of job offers since his dismissal.

He has however been reluctant to take up any opting for more relaxed consultancy work.

Together with his two of partners Joshua Wadada and Sheila Ngabo, Mugasha is finalising plans to register their firm CK Consults in a bid to formalise operations.

“We have been doing some trainings for organisations already but the big companies want to deal with registered, formal and organized people who pay their taxes so we want to move a step ahead,” he says.

Stress, they say, is the fertiliser of creativity and Mugasha is certainly proof of this assertion.

Besides his consultancy work, he opened up a retail shop in which he sells groceries and other household supplies to keep financially afloat.

EXPERTS WEIGH-IN:

According to Connie Musisi, the Career Development and Placement Officer at Uganda Christian University (UCU), an employee goes through five emotional stages following a job loss.

These stages include: denial, inner self-criticism, withdrawal, reflection and acceptance.

“You’ve known for months that it’s over but you cling to the hope that it was a mistake. After all, you have been with the company for many years. You have produced great results. The company can’t survive without you. You’re living in denial,” says Musisi.

Musisi advises that the earlier someone recognises the different stages, the quicker they move through them lest they waste valuable time languishing for weeks yet they still have to face the arduous task of conducting a tough job search with all its inherent frustrations.

After a job loss, Musisi urges victims to open up to family and friends, keep regular work plan and sustain the momentum to necessary for success in the job search.

When one no longer has a job to report to every day, she says, they can easily lose motivation. Therefore, one has to treat their job search like a job with regular times for exercise and networking. This helps one remain more efficient and productive.

“Don’t let your job search consume you. Make time for fun, rest, and relaxation—whatever revitalises you. Your next plan will be more effective if you are mentally, emotionally, and physically at your best,” Musisi adds.

Mugasha acknowledges undergoing the emotional stages but he offers a different remedy to the nightmare of job loss.

For him, it is always about people and one’s relationship with them that makes all the difference. Had he not had a supportive family and a good network to begin his next life charter with, he would still be crying over what he calls ‘split milk.’

“Network like crazy. Whenever you get within three feet of someone, engage them in a conversation and find a way to help each other. You’ll be amazed at how resourceful people are,” he says.

In spite of how hard a knock that losing a job is, it can be overcome with hard work and persistence.

With the combination of the two, Mugasha is confident that anyone will come out of recession saying that losing his job was the best thing that ever happened to them. Mugasha may regret having had a sexual affair with a co-worker but what he doesn’t regret is losing his job. It only validated the Luganda proverb that “akugoba yakulaga ekubo.”

alex.taremwa@yahoo.co.uk