Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 9, Issue 12;   March 25, 2009:

Coping with Layoff Survival

by

Your company has just done another round of layoffs, and you survived yet again. This time was the most difficult, because your best pal was laid off, and you're even more fearful for your own job security. How can you cope with survival?
The USS Indianapolis on July 10, 1945, off Mare Island

The USS Indianapolis on July 10, 1945, off Mare Island. Mare Island (which is actually a peninsula) was the site of a US Naval shipyard. On July 26, the Indianapolis delivered to a base on Tinian, parts of the bomb known as Little Boy, which would be used against Hiroshima. She then left for Guam, and after departing Guam, she was attacked and sunk by a Japanese submarine. She did send distress calls, which were received, but tragically ignored for various reasons. Over 300 of her crew of 1196 died in the attack, and of the 880 who went into the water, all but 317 were lost to sharks. Survivors of this attack, by man and by sharks, truly did (and do) experience survivor guilt. The survivor guilt some of us are now feeling is real, and pales by comparison. If you're experiencing survivor guilt following layoffs, it is well to keep your experience in perspective. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center.

Layoffs feel bad to almost everyone, even those who aren't laid off. True, the financial problems survivors face aren't anywhere near as serious as those faced by the people laid off, but even those who do keep their jobs feel hurt and face problems and traps. What are those problems and what can we do about them?

Survivor guilt is real
It's not unusual to feel guilty about keeping your job while people more senior or more able or more astute lost theirs. Not unusual, but not really appropriate either. Feeling responsible for a decision in which you had so little role is unrealistic.
That sense of responsibility might be connected to an overestimate of your own importance. The layoff was not about you. Injustice might have been a part of the layoff, but you didn't carry it out.
You can't personally save the company
Some of those who do keep their jobs feel an overwhelming urge to pick up the burdens that others used to carry. They try to carry too much load, and their personal lives suffer.
Now that the company has fewer people to do the work, less work will get done. It might take some time for the company to figure out what it has to drop, but it will. Some of what you now do will be dropped, and some (but not all) of what other people did will be redistributed. In the meantime, guard your personal life. Step forward when called upon, up to a reasonable limit.
Rebuild your support network
If some of your best friends are no longer your co-workers, your support network has probably been somewhat disrupted. You might feel alone and lonely. Your lunch crowd might be smaller and wounded.
Rebuild your network. Reach out to others, repairing wounded relationships Treat those who are laid off
not as you would wish to be treated,
but as they wish to be treated
if necessary. Recognize that others have feelings very much like your own, and they will probably be happy to join you in a new set of friendships.
Keep in touch with your friends who were laid off
They are no longer your co-workers, but they can still be your friends. They might require some time alone to recover, or they might require immediate attention. Everyone is a little different.
Treat those who are laid off not as you would wish to be treated, but as they wish to be treated. If you aren't sure, and your relationship is close enough, ask. These friendships can sometimes last beyond one job, or two or three. You might need their support sometime soon.

These suggestions seem so reasonable, but it wouldn't be enough for me, because I need a good laugh once in a while, and this list is way too serious. You probably have your own coping strategies, too. What are they? Go to top Top  Next issue: Discussion Distractions: I  Next Issue

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