The People Forced to Make a Fresh Beginning

Layoffs pose the challenge of a lifetime

Bobbie Cooper, a communications manager for MCI, the long-distance phone company, had just returned from her Thanksgiving holiday when she was called into her boss's office. "We are eliminating your position," Cooper was told. At first the message did not quite register. "So where am I going?" she asked. The explanation that followed was painfully clear: she was being fired. Recalls Cooper: "It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in a state of shock." Cooper, 44, had worked for IBM and one of its subsidiaries for 24 years. She was transferred to MCI when IBM bought a minority...