Layoffs are an aspect of business that most companies try to avoid, but unfortunately, layoffs are sometimes an inevitable option companies must rely on in order to survive. While layoffs may be necessary for ensuring the survival of a business, they always come with some human costs. For example, with layoffs come a loss of income, feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, and a bunch of other negative elements that individuals try to avoid whenever it’s possible.

Then there are those employees that survive a layoff. These individuals are deemed essential by the company, and at least for now their services are still required. For many of these remaining employees, surviving a layoff can be quite difficult. These employees often wonder: Why me and not them? Will I be next? Should I be prepared now?

In the following sections, we’re going to talk about how you can cope with the survivor’s guilt that’s commonly associated with company layoffs. This information may help you navigate through a difficult company circumstance, turning something unfortunate into an educational experience.

Understanding Survivor’s Guilt

While it’s true that the term survivor’s guilt is not often used in the context of layoffs, it is applicable when you think about how companies usually operate in the aftermath of a layoff. The employees that make it through the layoffs often have to cope with remorse, transition, losing colleagues and friends, and many other negative aspects. Furthermore, a layoff almost always means that a new round of employees will eventually be added, which means new teams and relationships will have to be formed, and all this takes work and considerable effort!

In many ways, layoffs that are done to ensure a company doesn’t go under are in fact destabilizing events, especially over the long term. A layoff can shock a company’s system in both good and bad ways. For this reason, it’s essential for companies to weigh the pros and cons before going through with a round of layoffs.

Focus on Acceptance and Confidence

If you’re an employee who’s recently survived a round of company layoffs, then it’s likely the immediate feelings you have are guilt, happiness, confusion, and uncertainty. If the negative aspects are dominating your frame of mind, then you should give yourself some time to cope with what just happened.

You may want to console those who are no longer going to be working with you, but this may actually be counterproductive to ensuring your own well-being. After all, you can’t adequately console somebody when you yourself are going through an emotional roller coaster.

It’s best to take things alone. Process what just happened so you can see where you’re going moving forward—this doesn’t have to be a long process. Once you’ve cleared your mind and you’re able to see the way forward, then you can begin to reach out to those who no longer have a job.

You should also try to validate your feelings with coworkers who, like you, did not get laid off. There is strength in numbers, and when you process with those who are in a similar situation you’ll notice positive results.

Don’t Fall Victim to Imposter Syndrome

The feelings that survivor’s guilt brings can also lead employees to experience what’s commonly referred to as imposter syndrome. In this context, imposter syndrome refers to when employees believe they are not capable of fulfilling the duties they were once hired to perform. An employee may think there are others who are more capable of doing their job, and they may ask: “Why was I kept on when so many valuable individuals weren’t?”

Employees that face this situation have to first recognize their skills and value. From there, they can see how they contribute to the business overall. When layoffs come down, you can use this time to reflect on where your position is at the company; do you see yourself being involved in the next round of layoffs? Do you think you’ll be with the company until you retire? When you figure this stuff out ahead of time, it’ll help you prepare for the future.

Outlining a Backup Plan

Having a backup plan is a wise idea, even if you don’t foresee yourself using it in the near term. If you create a thorough backup plan that’s tailored for what could happen if you should get laid off, you won’t have to worry about uncertainty. You’ll also be able to focus on what you’re doing now. In this article, we’ve talked a lot about how mental health can significantly be impacted by a layoff, and if you’re particularly concerned with this aspect, then creating a thorough backup plan should be one of your top priorities. These plans will give you peace of mind and confidence, and they’ll assure you that, even in the worst situations, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.


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