July 20, 2023
July 20, 2023
Managing Layoffs as an Employee
Implications for the Affected and Tips on How to Navigate These
Some of us may have been affected by a layoff, once at least. If not, then we might have been one of the employees who witnessed your colleagues being let go. Layoffs are stressful. For everyone. And in many different ways. But at the same time, the current uncertainty also presents us with the opportunity to truly reflect on what we want and how we want it.
In this article we will dive into potential impacts as well as tips on how to navigate them.
Short-Term Emotional Impact
- Receiving the news that we were one of the people on the list can make us feel many different things: not feeling good enough, feeling undervalued and unappreciated, etc. This may come with stress and panic, and leave us feeling tense for quite a while - emotionally and physically. “Fight or flight?” - “Survive” is probably the most common answer.
- As we leave things to our survival instinct, the most common thought is to find a replacement for the job we just lost. We might plan to check out dozens of job boards every day and get ready to apply to many different jobs, while constantly asking ourselves many self-destructive questions and thoughts. The loop of questions could feel endless and we may face a time of intense self-doubt and potential loss of identity. At the same time, however, these questions also come with an opportunity and we might want to ask ourselves questions that carry a different tone:
So, let’s take a few steps back here and recenter:
1. Understand: This is not your fault and it’s not a decision that companies want you to take personally - at the end of the day, more than 200,000 employees in Tech were laid off in 2023 because their companies took this business decision to ensure their companies’ future existence.
2. Assess: What’s the current job market like? A) Do you need a job immediately? B) Or do you need a break to re-assess your life and next steps?
- If A), are you looking for the same job? Does the current market give you those? What are your other options? Do you have existing resources?
- If B), what do you want to do next? How do you want to use the break and for how long? Do you want to learn anything new? Do you want to explore different things?
⚠ It’s important to set deadlines for everything including breaks, to ensure a smooth process to disconnect (if at all) and facilitate a less stressful comeback. Potential consequences of not setting deadlines are procrastination, delays, and regret.
3. Reflect: Once you are ready, ask yourself; what do you want in your next step?
- Define your dealbreakers. What are must-haves and nice-to-haves in your next step (your role, finances, work-life balance, the team, the culture, etc.)?
- There is a helpful coaching framework from animas, Centre for Coaching that leads you through a journey of describing your desired “LIFE outcomes” and helps to create a vision for the type of life you want.
- Lifestyle: ideal week, work-life balance, how do you want to spend your time
- Impact: problems you want to solve, the legacy you want to leave behind
- Financial: minimum revenue needed, expenses to cover, ideal profit
- Emotional: how do you want to feel as you embark on this journey?
4. Define: what you need to get there.
- Does your current life (including your previous job) offer you that?
- How might you get there?
- What needs to change?
- You might want to consider re-/up-skilling, leveraging available resources, and asking for external support.
5. Explore: ALL your options, go beyond the traditional norm.
- Is a full-time job really what you need and want right now?
- Lazer (2023) highlights very interesting perspectives on the mass layoffs describing how many knowledge workers are “breaking up” with full-time employment. Instead, they take steps towards more control and flexibility and freelancing became a more viable option to many.
“[…] In light of layoff betrayals, knowledge workers are ready to break up with full-time employment. […] layoffs have made them lose trust in the stability and security of full-time employment.” (Lazer, 2023)
Now, how do we feel about that?
Mid-/Long-Term Mental Impact
Once the search period extends longer than anticipated and we still haven’t found our next step that fulfils our financial and/or emotional needs, we may start to see and feel a stronger impact on our mental health. Many of us take a huge hit in our self-esteem, confidence, and self-image. Anxiety starts to show in our day-to-day life through disrupted sleep, lack of appetite, or even sickness. And even depression may walk into our lives, as we live through many days without relief or moments of success, and a lack of purpose. Our mental well-being is at serious risk, especially when we do not have a sufficient support system that keeps us safe. Read more about managing stress, anxiety and burnout here.
This is a tough stage. It is an incredibly hard period of time, because feelings of failure may start to knock really hard on our doors. Many people see a strong sense of purpose in their work and when this is not in place for a long period of time, we can feel lost. It is very common and you are not alone in this. Let’s check out the following resources, shall we?
1) Understand: You don’t have to do this alone. Ask for help. When we have this feeling of failure, we might start to withdraw. Some may have the feeling of shame and not talk about their struggles at all, forgetting that many valuable perspectives can be gathered from the people around you - your support system. And don’t forget to think outside of the box. Looking for the next opportunity means you need to be in touch with people who already do it, so leverage that.
- Workplace: people team, manager, senior leaders, and founders
- Family, partner, and friends (and friends of friends!)
- Community: meet-up groups, Slack groups, LinkedIn network
- Professional help: career coaches, business coaches, therapist/psychologist
2) Assess: Review your strategy to date.
- Do you have a daily & weekly routine that supports you? If not, create a schedule if you like - as if it was a full-time job.
- Are you physically and mentally in the right headspace? Don’t forget that looking after yourself is as important as finding a job. It is an exhausting period. If you are not well, then this will naturally impact your ability to find your next challenge.
- Are finances tight? Pick up a side hustle, while on the search for the next thing. There is no shame in that at all, but it shows grit and determination.
- If you are looking for a full-time job: Set goal(s), define your actions to achieve the goal(s), and lay out your routine to execute all your actions. And never forget - Job search is a full-time job.
3) Reflect: about your How? The What is important, but the How describes the path to achieving your What - so be your own project manager and lead it accordingly!
- KEEP: What went well? - Keep doing it, and improve it.
- STOP: What went not so well? - Stop or change it, try something else.
- START: What needs to change? - Focus on 80/20. What brings you the biggest impact?
We will probably need to try out quite a few things to achieve what we want.
4) Define: what can equally give you a sense of achievement and growth?
- Create a list of achievements! Think of it as a bucket list of things you have always been wanting to do, to learn, to understand - and do it. Now is the time.
- Create KPIs / goals for yourself to achieve every week
- Work on passion projects
- Learn something new that is relevant to your next gig
5) Explore: What have you not considered or not yet explored?
Impact on Company Culture and the “Survivors”
Not to forget are the employees who were not laid off. It goes hand in hand that team morale and engagement are most affected during this challenging time, accompanied by employees feeling nervous about their jobs, their performance, and their future.
Some of us might develop an impostor syndrome, asking ourselves why we were not on the list, and whether it will be us next. It is impossible, to “survive” a layoff without a lot of self-doubt and insecurity.
As a consequence, survivors can respond in different ways: they might decide to leave regardless as they found something more stable or they may start to overwork and overcompensate for proving their value at work. The latter, however, is not sustainable and does not promote a healthy work environment.
If you are in a position where you decided to stay at the company, then please carefully evaluate for yourself if it is still an environment worth working in. If yes, then great! Remember, however, that this does not mean that you should be overworking yourself and dealing with the stress on your own. Also, understand that the stress may come from the unknown, so feel free to check if you can ask for more transparency in your organisation.
Things you should ask about and can expect answers for:
- What are the expectations towards my work? Has anything changed with the layoffs?
- If it’s more work: how will my additional work be appreciated once we are “out of layoff danger”?
- Whom can I approach for help when I struggle with layoff stress and my mental health?
- What is the company doing to rebuild trust with the team?
- What’s the process for deciding on who is going to be laid off? What’s the process once it’s decided?
- What needs to happen to regain stability as a company?
So, Is Tech Still the Place to Be?
As mentioned, layoff news are loud. Especially, when some of the biggest tech giants are affected. Oloruntade (2023) interestingly highlights that the tech unemployment rate is falling despite the layoff wave. In fact, if we go behind the noise, we still find many companies hiring - especially in small and mid-sized companies that represent the biggest share of the tech industry.
“Among industries, the highest volumes of job postings for tech positions were reported in the professional, scientific and technical services (40,712), finance and insurance (30,576) and manufacturing (24,269) sectors.” (Oloruntade, 2023)
What we do know is that the layoff waves have yet again demonstrated that uncertainty indeed is a norm that is inevitable and the only thing that is constant. We also understood that learning how to assess and manage uncertainty is a responsibility that employees need to carry themselves. Not all employers know how to manage layoff processes effectively and employees should not be the ones to suffer from that.
We are holding our breaths as we move into the next quarter of 2023 and we hope that this article helps you to navigate layoffs more effectively.