If you are a leader charged with laying off employees or you’ve been laid off, your job now is to make sense of what’s happened.
The long goodbye at Salesforce continues with more layoffs reported today.
Tech Layoffs Really Are Rising, and Here's Why.
Google, Microsoft, Amazon and other tech companies have laid off more than 95,000 employees in the last year.
Big layoffs are happening in the tech industry.
It’s a story most of us are familiar with. Our reliance on technology expanded dramatically during the early days, weeks, and months of the pandemic. Work from home meant that every employee had to access remote technology. Stay-at-home orders meant that all of our shopping — everything from groceries and daily staples to cars and furniture — happened online. We gathered with friends and family over Zoom and FaceTime and Teams. Connecting with life meant connecting through technology.
Pandemic stimulus relief money enabled tech companies to raise capital and invest in growth. They went on a hiring spree with jobs to fill. They may have over hired.
Then, the trend sharply reversed in 2022. Facing a downturn in the economy and a slowdown in growth, tech companies began cutting employees.
If you’ve been personally affected by a layoff, your job now is to make sense of what’s happened.
Those left behind may be experiencing survivor’s guilt, especially if you’ve lost a dear friend and colleague to a layoff. You not only miss their presence, you may even have the thought that it should have been you. Perhaps you hold your colleagues’ work in higher esteem than your own. You may experience diminished self-esteem, fear and anxiety about your future. Will you be next? Is your job safe?
And then, of course, being the one who was laid off is a gut punch. Layoffs can cause feelings of shame or failure. It certainly impacts relationships and your family. I know this personally as I was laid off from a job years ago. I went through the familiar territory of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ Stages of Grief: shock, anger, denial, bargaining and acceptance.
These stages aren't linear or predictable. Shock seems to arrive first for most of us when we get the news that we’ve been cut. Then anger: “Why me?” It took me a year or so to get myself to the other side — to acceptance — when I started my own company. That was 30 years ago, and I’ve built two successful companies since, putting my fate now firmly in my own hands. Looking back from my perspective today, I’m really grateful I was laid off.
Self-Care and Optimism After Being Laid Off
In November, I spoke to Taylor Soper, managing editor for Geekwire, about the psychological impact of layoffs and how employees and leaders can navigate job cuts more easily. In it, I address the need for self-care and optimism — not that this is easy, and it may not even occur to you as a possibility in the early stages of grief and loss.
Taking good care of yourself means you prioritize your well-being. Pay attention first to the basics: eating well, exercise or movement, and sleep. And they really are basic. With too much time on your hands, you may find yourself overeating, drinking too much, or using other substances to numb out. Think about what you would do to calm a child who is hurting or sad. Yes, you may buy them an ice cream cone, but you wouldn’t let them eat the whole quart. You might encourage a nap or a short walk to distract.
Please know that I’m not suggesting you are a child. I am suggesting that you may already know how to take care of someone who is vulnerable and frightened. Apply this to yourself and you may increase your level of self-care.
Finding optimism after you’ve been laid off is trickier. Pessimism is one of the ways you protect your heart. If you lower your expectations enough, you will never be disappointed again. A pessimist can always be right: “I knew it wouldn’t work out.” But living life as a pessimist isn’t a great answer.
Watch your thoughts. Be on the lookout for negativity and pessimism. Your inner critic may have its way with you: “You’re not good enough.” “You’ll never find another job.” “Who do you think you are?” These are a few of the mean thoughts that may run through your mind in the wee hours of morning. Shifting away from these thoughts matters. Train your mind to drop them like you command a dog to drop a sock he’s not supposed to have picked up.
Swap negativity out for a new perspective: “Things are always working out for me.” Or: “There is nothing wrong here.” Challenge your mind to think bigger than the spiral it may be in.
These are a few of the ways you can take better care of yourself when you’ve been laid off. In a future post, I’ll dive deeper into the survivor’s guilt you might experience after layoffs.
Previously published on Forbes (March 19, 2023)