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

Coping with Layoff Survival

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

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

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenAoyGbJBPFucjbQzener@ChacFphQYOYCZCQXGHbaoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A captive white rhinoFour Popular Ways to Mismanage Layoffs: II
Staff reduction is needed when expenses overtake revenue. But when layoffs are misused, or used too late, they can harm the organization more than they help. Here's Part II of an exploration of four common patterns of mismanagement, and some suggestions for those managers and other employees who recognize the patterns in their own companies.
The male red-capped manakinFinding Work in Tough Times: Communications
Finding work in tough times entails presenting yourself to many people. You'll be conversing, interviewing, writing, presenting, and when you're finally successful, negotiating.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Milo Winter in a 1919 Aesop anthologyWhy Don't They Believe Me?
When we want people to believe us, and they don't, it just might be a result of our own actions or demeanor. How does this happen?
A stretch of the Amazon rain forest showing storm damageUnnecessary Boring Work: II
Workplace boredom can result from poor choices by the person who's bored. More often boredom comes from the design of the job itself. Here's Part II of our little catalog of causes of workplace boredom.
Astronauts Musgrave and Hoffman install corrective optics during the Hubble Telescope's Service Mission 1How We Waste Time: I
Time is the one workplace resource that's evenly distributed. Everyone gets exactly the same share, but some use it more wisely than others. Here's Part I of a little catalog of ways we waste time.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Thomas Paine, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United StatesComing December 12: Effects of Shared Information Bias: II
Shared information bias is widely believed to lead to bad decisions. But over time, it can erode a group's ability to assess reality accurately. That can lead to a widening gap between reality and the group's perceptions of reality. Available here and by RSS on December 12.
Feeling shameAnd on December 19: Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt at Work: Creation
Three feelings are often confused with each other: embarrassment, shame, and guilt. To understand how to cope with these feelings, begin by understanding what different kinds of situations we use when we create these feelings. Available here and by RSS on December 19.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenaKLyFsxJKfLbbeSTner@ChacwjoLmcTHCENXnaoPoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.