Conflict Thesaurus Entry: Losing a Job

Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

Conflict: Losing a Job

Category: Power struggles, increased pressure and ticking clocks, failures and mistakes, duty and responsibilities, losing an advantage, loss of control, ego

Being fired
Being laid off due to budget cuts, a merger, etc.
Having to leave a beloved job due to personal circumstances beyond the character’s control (needing to relocate, having to care for a sick relative, etc.)
Being intimidated into quitting (through discrimination, harassment, etc.)
Reluctantly choosing to leave because of difficult work circumstances (dealing with an inept or abrasive boss, being unable to advance professionally, the company making a moral shift that one can’t support, etc.)

Minor Complications:
Difficulty finding another job
Leaving valued co-workers
The character having to explain to people that they lost their job
Having to downsize or relocate one’s family
Dealing with the inconveniences that accompany a job change (finding new insurance coverage, etc.)
Having to deal with work associates after the termination is complete (to fill out paperwork, to bring someone up to speed on a work project, etc.)
Being contacted by a client who doesn’t know about the termination and having to rehash everything after the fact
Lack of organization resulting in a long, drawn-out termination process

Potentially Disastrous Results:
Angrily saying or doing things during the termination process that make a positive recommendation less likely (in the case of being laid off or let go reluctantly)
Having to take a job one doesn’t want or is overqualified for, resulting in a lack of fulfillment
Having to take a pay cut
Seeking vengeance against the party responsible for one’s departure
A lack of support about the decision from one’s spouse or children (if the character chose to leave, even reluctantly)
One’s family struggling to adjust to less income
Getting stuck at a certain point in the grieving process
Being rejected by former co-workers, friends, and colleagues
Floundering in the aftermath; being paralyzed with indecision or too stunned to move forward
Attempting to strike out on one’s own and struggling to succeed

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Struggling with bitterness or resentment (if the character didn’t want to leave)
Embarrassment over the termination
Internalizing any unfair accusations or claims that caused the termination
Second-guessing the decision to leave
Losing one’s sense of identity

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: family members, clients and customers, co-workers, employees, subordinates

Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, annoyance, anxiety, apprehension, betrayed, bitterness, defensiveness, denial, depressed, despair, desperation, determination, devastation, disbelief, discouraged, disillusionment, doubt, dread, emasculated, embarrassment, fear, hurt, indignation, insecurity, intimidated, overwhelmed, panic, powerlessness, rage, reluctance, resentment, resignation, sadness, self-pity, shock, stunned, unappreciated, uncertainty, unease, vengeful, vulnerability, worry, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Abrasive, childish, cocky, confrontational, controlling, disloyal, disrespectful, indecisive, inhibited, insecure, lazy, martyr, melodramatic, nervous, pessimistic, resentful, uncooperative, vindictive

Positive Outcomes: 
Being able to pivot into a new career that is more fulfilling and rewarding
Having the freedom to relocate to a better place for one’s family
Choosing to fight back against an illegitimate termination, thereby righting a wrong
Hindsight providing clues to the end result that allow the character to recognize those clues in the future and avoid the same situation
Adopting a positive, forward-looking mindset instead of one focused on the past
Accepting the part one played in being fired and resolving to do better

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

While this conflict thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is available at our main site, One Stop for Writers

If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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5 months ago

Great source of conflict. Some years ago I read that job loss/job change is second only to divorce in precipitating heart attacks. Thanks for sharing–and all that y’all do.

5 months ago
Reply to  Elias

Yikes. But I could totally see that. It’s quite often a huge shock, something the person didn’t see coming.

Mary Hagen
Mary Hagen
6 months ago

This is great information. Thank you.