How to Survive and Thrive During Layoffs

by Kevin on June 9, 2009

Yesterday our small office was sadly surprised as two of our co-workers were laid off due to a lack of business. Two seems like a small number until you realize it is 10% of our office headcount. Add onto this the three other people we’ve lost since the beginning of the year (one voluntarily) and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

But it’s happened. They’re gone and I thought I’d share some of my still fresh, raw, and hurt thoughts about what you can do when layoffs are occurring.

Embrace the Opportunity

It sounds so cliché. It is.

When one door closes another one opens. Often we are so upset about the door closing that we don’t see the other one opening. We miss out on opportunities.

I’m determined not to let this happen to me.

Make Yourself Invaluable

It’s hard for the boss to layoff the best or most valuable worker. That’s the idea here. You want to do anything you can to raise your status in the eyes of those that are above you managerially. Grab as much client and industry information as you can. Help out your co-workers. Solve those irritating problems that really bother the boss. Get on high profile projects and be the best team player you can.

Grab Responsibilities — Quickly

You will feel like a vulture… swooping over the yet still warm bodies of your laid off co-workers.

But they had duties and responsibilities. Someone has to do them. It might as well be you.

Again, the boss isn’t likely to lay off the person doing three people’s jobs. You’ve got to be careful here because you can initiate (or accelerate) your own personal burnout by putting too much on your plate.

Nonetheless it is a safe play. Whatever they were working on it, finish. Whatever was next on their plate, step up and take a swing.

Work Through the Emotions

You’ve got to take care of yourself mentally and physically. Layoffs are stressful.

Talk it out with your spouse, significant other, or a friend. Go for a walk. Play with your dog. Sit quietly and sip a cup of coffee.

Whatever it takes you’ve got to work through the emotions surrounding the situation. It won’t happen overnight, sure. But you’ve got to get back to as close to 100% while at work as quickly as possible.

Also realize that by surviving a layoff you have proven that you are at least marginally needed by your firm. They two empty desks at my office, sadly, mean the rest of us are a little bit more secure. Those that survive are in a better place than the day before. It hurts to look at it like this, but it is true.

A Second Chance to Prepare Financially

If you’ve survived a round of layoffs you have been given a second chance to prepare financially for the possibility of you being laid off.

Hopefully you are well prepared — you have an emergency fund and you are spending less than you are earning.

If you’re not consider this your lucky day. Use the emotions you are feeling to adjust your lifestyle now. You’ve got to be prepared because, well, you could be next.

Layoffs aren’t fun. I hope you can use these tips to put yourself in a better position. And we can all hope the economy turns around soon and then, hopefully, we won’t have to worry about layoffs as much. Good luck out there.

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Corporate Barbarian June 9, 2009 at 1:09 pm

We’ve also had a recent layoff. This has led to an increase in unpaid overtime to pick up the slack. The unpaid part had been a source of misery, but nobody is complaining now. I look at the extra work as an opportunity to learn some new job skills, and count my blessings. Although you may take on extra work, don’t expect to be rewarded for it, as everyone is taking on extra work now. The time to be rewarded for extra work was before the current recession.

Ryan P Smith June 9, 2009 at 4:07 pm

This is sound advice that will serve you well whether your company is laying off, growing or in any stage of the business cycle.

Ken June 10, 2009 at 7:05 am

Great tips! If you’re the MVP of the office it will be hard for them to let you go. We all have things we can do to keep our jobs secure.

Kevin June 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm

@Corporate Barbarian: Very true, and the same is pretty much true. In fact taking on too much extra responsibility can actually lower my income because I work in a base+commission job. If I take too much time away from earning that commission, my income drops. So I’ve got to stay extra diligent.

@Ryan: Thanks!

@Ken: Thanks! Love that phrase… “MVP of the office”.

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