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Resilience and Post-Traumatic Growth after Discriminatory Job Loss: The Case of Academics Dismissed after Turkey’s 2016 Coup

Resilience and Post-Traumatic Growth after Discriminatory Job Loss: The Case of Academics Dismissed after Turkey’s 2016 Coup

Erhan Atay and Serkan Bayraktaroglu

Volume : 78-1 (2023)

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A recent study by Erhan Atay and Serkan Bayraktaroglu focusing on discriminatory job loss (DJL) has made significant contributions to the existing literature on job loss and workplace discrimination. The research aimed to improve our understanding of the psychological outcomes of job termination and loss while exploring the specific causes behind such discrimination. Unlike previous studies, this research reveals a hidden and veiled side of DJL, where changes in attitudes may go unnoticed until individuals take action or voice their concerns. By examining the effects of discriminatory job loss on skilled workers, the study provides a broader perspective that includes positive aspects such as resilience and post-traumatic growth.

Conducted in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup in Turkey, which led to a state of emergency being declared for an indefinite period: over 6,000 academics lost their jobs and were permanently barred from working in Turkey's public service. Purged academics faced numerous sanctions, including unfair imprisonment and the cancellation and confiscation of their passports, preventing them from seeking employment abroad. Many individuals chose to leave the country illegally, believing that staying posed risks to their safety and security.

The study underscores two main contributions to the ongoing discussions on DJL. Firstly, it expands the existing research by exploring the attitudinal outcomes of discriminatory job loss, shedding light on how job loss and discrimination shape the mental and emotional state of victims. By investigating attitudinal outcomes, this research provides a comprehensive understanding of the full impact of DJL. It highlights the need for individuals to develop positive attitudes towards their life, self-image, career, and future while rebuilding their lives and mitigating external negative outcomes.

Secondly, the study emphasizes the macro nature of DJL and its potential positive outcomes, including resilience and post-traumatic growth (PTG). While resilience refers to the capacity for successful adaptation despite challenging circumstances, enabling individuals to bounce back from setbacks and grow through adjustmen, PTG is defined as the ability to return to the pre-traumatic state while experiencing profound changes and transformation. Unlike previous research that primarily focused on individual termination and discrimination, the Turkish case examined in this study involves collective discrimination and mass termination. Purged academics and publicly banned individuals faced stigmatization and negative stereotypes from society. Collective discrimination, rooted in societal norms, values, and beliefs, presents a unique challenge that requires further investigation. The study aims to address this gap by exploring the positive implications of discriminatory job loss for personal growth.

Gratitude, patience, and one's outlook on the future and career were key determinants of individuals' ability to cope with discriminatory job loss. Surprisingly, contrary to expectations, unfair firing and punitive discrimination did not deter highly skilled workers from holding onto their hopes, expectations, and future plans. Instead, they relied on a combination of resilience and post-traumatic growth strategies, along with internal attitudes of optimism, gratitude, and patience, to mitigate the negative external consequences of DJL.

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