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Survived a layoff? Here’s how to cope when your co-workers have lost their jobs.

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It’s fair to say 2020 has been an unsettling year.  Ever since the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have been struggling to adapt to change. Be it restructuring, revising key policies, or downsizing — there has never been a more turbulent time, especially with the number of layoffs rising across industries.

Interestingly, while many studies have addressed the various issues impacting laid off workers, less research has been conducted on those who have survived and the mixed emotions of relief that you still have a job after a retrenchment round and guilt that you still have a job whilst your friends weren't so fortunate.

The team at Half The Sky hopes to share ways to help you cope with the mixed emotions after the loss of your co-workers in a layoff.

Read on to find out more!

1. Acknowledge Your Thoughts and Emotions, And Deal With Them Healthily.

First, it’s important to recognize that your emotions are real. No matter your relationship with your former co-workers, like them, you might feel an intense sense of grief. Perhaps, you might feel guilty that you’ve managed to keep your job. Additionally, there’s that increased level of stress that comes with the heavier workload, and a sense of loss of losing your close work friends. You also may feel a lack of motivation that comes with the lingering uncertainty that retrenchments cause in any organization.

Pro Tip: Remember to treat yourself with kindness. A retrenchment process is an emotional rollercoaster and the after effects last for years – address your immediate.

feelings first. You may have feelings of relief, joy, or guilt and it's ok – don’t suppress them. It might take a while to have your fears quelled, but when you take your time through the process, you’ll realize how integral your emotional health is, to your work performance.

2. Communicate: Seek Wisdom From Your Manager Or Supervisor

Following a layoff, communication is critical. Schedule an honest conversation with your supervisor or manager. Speak candidly about your concerns, ask questions, and go after what you need. We can imagine the level of anxiety you must be feeling about your job stability. When the questions start building up in your mind — especially if you’re starting to wonder if you might be next — speaking with your manager is your chance to get your critical questions answered.

It's important to ask your supervisor or manager the business reasons behind the layoff. When you begin to understand the current situation from the company’s perspective, you will get a sense of what’s to come. Being informed enables you to prepare for the near future, and help you feel reassured, instead of letting your fears get the better of you. 

Pro-Tip: View this conversation as a potential opportunity to get feedback on ways you could improve yourself. Show your supervisor or manager that you are eager to grow and contribute to the team. This might be a good way to help the company by taking on board more responsibility, making your current position more secure and avoiding future layoffs, or you may even put yourself in a prime position for a pay raise, or a promotion.

3. Empathize With Your Co-workers Who Were Laid Off.

This is the time to show empathy. Losing a job is emotionally, psychologically and financially stressful, and as a former colleague, you’d want to support them through this difficult time. These are people you have worked with, and friends you have shared great memories with. In the wake of sudden events, they might encounter feelings of loss, and doubts about their competence and self-worth.

In other words, they could use a much-needed self-esteem boost. Your goal is to be kind — be attentive to their needs. Continue with your weekly lunch dates or dinner dates with them, or simply, ask them out for a coffee. Practice active listening! Send words of encouragement their way, let them vent, and let them know that you are here for them to lean on. You could even remind them about the great work you’ve done together —or the times when their expertise was indispensable to the completion of a project. Essentially, with your words and actions, you are helping them see that their work matters, and that with their unique skills and experience, they have left an impact.

In the same vein, avoid engaging in unnecessary speculating and gossiping about your former co-workers in public and private spheres. At first, it may only feel natural to analyze the situation, but keep your eyes on sustaining a culture of compassion and respect. Breeding gossip would only create a toxic culture at work, which inhibits your growth, and puts your position on the line. It might even negatively affect the predicaments of the people around you, too. So, if you do hear mindless chatter going around, make a point to shut it down, and redirect the conversation to lighter, and more meaningful topics.

4. Be Proactive: Lend A Hand.

If you’re close to your co-workers who were laid off, make the choice to reach out, and help them land on their feet. Other than providing emotional support, you could also offer practical help, which boosts morale too! You can start by connecting them to your network. Recruiters you may know that could assist them find a job or open up your professional network on LinkedIn.

So, pay it forward and help your former co-workers expand their networks. This way, performing an effective job search would be easier. Skilled in CV-writing and resume-editing? Go a step further and ask if you could help to critique their resume and offer your feedback. Your comments could make their job search even more productive.

5. Stay Positive.

It may be a tumultuous experience for you, and it’s okay to take time to process your emotions. Amidst the turbulence, know that these effects are part of a world that is trying to get used to a new normal. It might be a year of unprecedented change, but difficult times shall pass, and things will look up again.

They say your outlook will predict your future — though there’s no way to affirm your job security, exhibiting an ability to stay positive, maintain productivity and a stellar work performance amidst an environment of uncertainty will do you and your career some good. Be the key motivator for the people around you, and work on keeping the team spirit alive and upbeat. As you stay positive, you are essentially building resilience, a kind of inner strength that will help you pull through even the stormiest of times.

So, keep your head up, keep moving forward! Learning how to handle the pains of retrenchments and layoffs now will only help you in the future. 

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About half the sky
 

half the sky (HTS) is a career platform for women in Asia. We connect women to career opportunities at companies that care. We also want to equip you with information, tips and strategies to navigate the workplace today and the future.

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