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 treatedif 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? Top Next Issue
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on December 26: Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt at Work: Coping
- Coping effectively with feelings of embarrassment, shame, or guilt is the path to recovering a sense of balance that's the foundation of clear thinking. And thinking clearly at work is important if you want to avoid feeling embarrassment, shame, or guilt. Available here and by RSS on December 26.
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