I have experienced several lay off events in my tenure. Sometimes they are referred to as restructuring, reorganization, shake up, shuffle, business viability calibration.. These events go by different terms and they all usually have their own nuances but the one thing they all have in common is that they can be terrifying. It never gets easy to witness or experience but I think after having been through so many, I want to share my thoughts on the subject.
I am not going to name the specific company, but one in particular managed this about as poorly as I can imagine. It wasn’t volume of exits or the proximity of it or the way they were informing people or anything to do with their process that made it so bad. It was what they didn’t do. They didn’t tell anyone, anything. Over the course of about 6 months, hundreds of people were being laid off or incentivized to find new jobs. They also tied up managements hands with what information they had and what they were able to disclose. I don’t know anyone that was able to sleep during this. Morale was was dead, no one was focused, actual work slowed to what I could call “maintenance mode”. Remember really really wishing someone would just say “Look, this sucks but the business is removing X number of jobs”. Having to do this comes easy to no one, but I will always remember and appreciate the managers that stepped up to the plate and gave me the decency of honesty and transparency.
Eventually in our quarterly monthly updates, everything was sunshine. Business was good, revenue was up, but best of all, leadership was satisfied with “voluntary attrition”. This was my cue to evaluate my career path.
There are some important things I think people should understand about this if you ever find yourself facing this kind of a scenario.
There is a really string temptation to talk about it, especially with any shortage of information. Talking about it can be really helpful but you need to be selective about where, who and how you talk about it. With anything that isn’t considered public knowledge, try to keep it off work comms. Talk to your family, talk to a therapist, talk to your friends, talk to your own support network. Over speculating spreads rumors and panic.
For some people these kinds of things are like water off a ducks back, especially if they have some confirmation they or their team is unaffected. Humor can be the best medicine during these, but it’s important to remember that everyone is fighting their own hard battle even on a normal day. You never know what someone else is experiencing. When there are rumors of layoffs, dropping walking dead, or “calm before the storm” memes in public chat doesn’t make you comic relief. It makes you a douche-bag.
People experiencing these things are still human. They have lives, families, responsibilities and they’re facing the possibility of total disruption and hardship. If you see someone buggin out or if you know someone that ended up getting laid off or terminated then reach out. Add them on linked in, get their personal email, give them a hand.
Whether you know someone going through this, or you yourself find yourself going through it just remember that it’s going to be okay ultimately. If you are regularly facing uncertainty, the best advice I can give is to move on. This is hard for some people, myself included. Brush up your resume, work with a recruiter, be clear about what you want, see what’s out there. Don’t let work consume your mind and impact your life. If it is, and you decide to move on, no one will hold it against you. If it moves past uncertainty and you are ever let go - The best thing to do is connect with your network, brush up the resume, keep your head in a positive space and move forward. Don’t be reactionary, don’t do anything rash.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline