The Coach's Corner

Surviving a layoff brings its own challenges

2023 layoffs are setting a record in the tech industry, according to Tech Crunch.

Tech layoffs conducted to date this year currently exceed the total number of tech layoffs in 2022.

The running total for layoffs at this writing is nearly 225-thousand people since January.

As all of these people are now scrambling to find work, today’s headline explores the impact of layoffs from those who survived. The hundreds of thousands of people who remain in their jobs have growing concerns about work overload, grief, frustration and outright fear. I’m working with more than a dozen people experiencing various waves of survivor guilt and feeling overwhelmed across the board. In today’s insight, I’ll share a perspective from a layoff survivor and what he’s doing that is giving him a better handle on how to cope, relate and move forward. That leads me to offer today’s tool. When your frustration over what you don’t want exhausts you, what might happen if you turn to what you want instead? Let’s dive in!

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #10


Surviving a layoff brings its own challenges

Whether you work for one of the biggest names in tech or in a startup – you’ve watched the industry face monumental pressures. The layoffs, which began last year, are still taking place. Even if you’re a survivor and kept your job, you’re facing a host of issues that are front and center in this new study by Leadership IQ.

There is a great myth that following a layoff or downsizing, the surviving employees will be so grateful that they still have a job that they’ll work harder and be more productive. But as this study shows, the opposite is usually true (and that layoffs place a heavy burden on surviving employees).

Here are some of their key findings after interviewing more than four-thousand people who survived a layoff:

  • 74% of employees who kept their job amidst a corporate layoff say their own productivity has declined since the layoff
  • 69% say the quality of their company’s product or service has declined since the layoffs
  • 87% of surviving workers say they are less likely to recommend their organization as a great organization to work for
  • 64% of surviving workers say the productivity of their colleagues has also declined
  • 81% of surviving workers say the service that customers receive has declined
  • 77% of surviving workers say they see more errors and mistakes being made
  • 61% of surviving workers say they believe their company’s future prospects are worse

This study reveals how crucial it is for leaders to handle the actual layoff with clarity and kindness and what is necessary after the layoffs occur. In these moments, ICs and staff must have access to their managers for direction, rebuilding trust and answering their questions – even if there are no solid answers.

You have to keep the surviving employees engaged and productive, or your company won’t ever recover.


How to manage the daily fear, sadness and guilt

Steffan had an inkling that a layoff was coming, he shared with me. Still – when he was on the call with everyone in the company and they were told that layoffs would be taking place that day – he was devastated.

While Steffan survived the layoff, he says he immediately felt as if he had been thrust into a swirl of uncertainty. He told me that he was afraid he’d have to work even longer hours, he didn’t know what to do about his colleagues who are now gone, he looked around and wondered if this is the company he still wants to work for and he found himself feeling extremely sad.

After agreeing that he needs time to be grieve this loss, he wanted to unpack all the things he doesn’t want. He threw everything on the table, shared his frustration, and then in a bitter twist as he fumed about creating boundaries to protect his working hours, he blurted out, “What’s the worst that could happen? They could fire me!”

That’s when he reached an insight for himself and started putting together an outline of what he wants instead. He arrived there after flushing out the pieces that he doesn’t want. Our work will continue next week.


What do you want instead?

Andrew Halfacre, author of “First Know What You Want,” says sometimes it’s important to use what you don’t want to get what you want instead. He explains,

First you go with your natural focus – the moan, the irritation or the thing you don’t like. Then ask yourself “What do I want, instead?” To answer this question you have to take your eyes off the rear view mirror and glance in some other direction. The question causes you to search around until you find something you like; then you can steer towards it. It also feels different because it releases different chemicals in the body. And it changes the script you run in your head. You may not have been aware how negative that script was until you try this.

So here’s a template you can reuse with your own answers: whether you’re a layoff survivor or finding something you don’t like about your work and want to flip the script.

My takeaway

What a privilege to watch a client walk through such difficulty – to observe him be angry and sad and afraid and vulnerable – and then get an aha moment in real time. Turns out he needed to hone in on what he no longer wanted to arrive where he wanted to be.

Every one of us knows someone who’s gone through a layoff and lost their job. Now they’re in the position of being intentional, brushing up their resume, checking with their references, crafting their pitches and looking for work. Given what they just went through, they can clearly tell you what they don’t want – and they know what they’re looking for instead.

For everyone who didn’t get laid off, but is feeling the pain of being a survivor, there is a dim light at the end of the tunnel. It gets brighter as you go through the tunnel – only then will the shift happen.

The next time you’re really frustrated and unable to figure out what you want, go ahead and lean into what you don’t want. When you clarify what you don’t want and get it out of your system – flip the focus to what you want instead. See what transpires.

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