How Can I Feel OK During Lay-Offs?

Question:

On Monday a department meeting was called and the President announced that they would be letting go three people–the receptionist, a marketing rep and an administrative assistant. These are people that many of us have gotten to know and like. It was a shock. To make matters worst they gave them 3 weeks. These people still come in and work with the knowledge that they have to pack up their stuff and go in three weeks. This is just so inhumane and cruel.

I have noticed that people in Management are either not around or they come across as nothing in wrong, laughing and joking with everyone. I don’t feel like joining in and pretending that I am ok with this. What security do I have that my job won’t be chopped out? How do I feel good about coming to work and doing a good job? I feel so sad for the people who were laid off. I feel very sad and down. I have been thinking about getting my teachers license and switching from the insurance industry. Can you provide any tips on keeping up my morale during layoffs? Thank you.

Signed,

Feeling Sad


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Sad:

It’s true that lay-offs can place an entire workplace in a spin of sadness, depression, confusion and anger. But, in most businesses and industries they are recurring situations. Consider some of these thoughts as you decide whether you want to stay or go.

1. You are upset about the three week time-frame, but I can assure you, that is far, far more humane than calling employees in and telling them to leave right then. This way the employees can wrap up their work, do some planning and still be getting paid and getting their benefits.

2. It may seem that managers are cheerful–and they may be. But think about what causes lay-offs: For some reason your company feels it can’t afford to pay those salaries. Managers know that THEIR jobs may be in jeopardy too. But managers aren’t supposed to come to work acting discouraged, as though the company is having bad times. So, they may go to extremes the other way, by acting as though nothing is the matter.

It may be that your managers think they are keeping up morale by joking and laughing with people. They would probably be better off explaining the situation to everyone fully. But they may be prohibited from doing so.

You can bet this: They aren’t happy to see lay-offs and their jocular conversation doesn’t mean they feel good about losing anyone.

3. One of the best ways to deal with any issue is to be as informed as possible. You won’t be able to find out much about the financial aspects of the lay-offs, but you might be able to encourage your managers to have a staff meeting in which they answer questions about the lay-offs and the impact on the rest of the team.

4. Keep in mind too that for an employee to leave a job doesn’t mean they will never be employed again, or that it is a very negative thing for along time. For some, a lay-off is the best thing that happens to them, because it forces them to find better work for themselves.

Of course, it’s frightening to have no job, and my heart sincerely goes out to people in that situation. But if the employees have good skills and can present themselves well, they will probably be able to find something else fairly soon.

This is a reminder though, that when we complain about our work or our bosses, we should remember that if we were going to be laid off it would probably suddenly become a job we want to keep!

5. One thing that doesn’t help is to spend large amounts of time talking to other employees and speculating about what will happen next. Instead, this might be a good time to develop better relationships with other employees, focused on work.

If you can, talk honestly to your boss about what is happening and suggest that others might like to hear more about the situation too.

Write a letter to those who are leaving and tell them how much they meant to you. Give them thoughts from you that they can feel good about.

6. You mentioned getting your teacher’s license and leaving the insurance industry. We need positive, motivated and intelligent teachers, so that might be something that would be good for you. But it’s better to enter into it because of a desire to teach rather than a desire to NOT do something else. Teaching has many issues that result in complaints and grievances too. Maybe you can interview some teachers in the area where you might teach, as a way to help you decide.

I don’t expect that you will be able to grin and act as though nothing is wrong at work. But just as other teams continue when friends are cut from the line-up, so you need to continue with a full work focus. It won’t help those being laid-off to see your sadness. Just show them concern, and give them plenty of support. At the same time, be the one who helps others see that life will continue at work and that the company will regain its strength. Try to understand that everyone is suffering to some degree in this process.

Look for ways to make this a growing and learning time in your life. Take some time every day to self-evaluate about your role at work and how effective you are. Help others who might be having problems with tasks. Also develop even more interests outside of work so your mind can rest when you are away. There is no sure-fire way to feel better, because this IS a sad situation and everyone will grieve over it for awhile. But just as those who are laid off will find a way to continue if they are strong mentally and emotionally, so will those who are still working.

Best wishes as you work through this all-too-common workplace problem.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.