How to Survive/Handle Layoffs

Well, I’m sitting here waiting for layoff round 4 to get to my group and I figured I may as well put together a little blurb on how to survive layoffs. Now, by survive, I don’t mean how to come out with your job, I mean how to literally survive. Layoffs are tough mentally. Multiple rounds of layoffs are exhausting mentally, physically and ethically.

Any of you who haven’t been through layoffs won’t realy understand what I’m talking about but maybe you will read this and remember it in the off chance you’re unfortunate enough to be in my situation.

Round 1

The first set of layoffs. You may hear bits a pieces about this coming but it will always be a shock. This is the round that most “good” workers can avoid being affected in. Unfortunately, depending on how your company treats seniority, if you are new to the company, you may be the sacrificial lamb. It sucks but realistically, a “young” employee doesn’t have as much bagage and can move to a new position somewhere else.

Round 1 can hurt the most though. That’s the round where everyone asks “Why Me?”. Sometimes you can answer that question, sometimes you can’t. Believe me though when I say that Round 1 people may have been given the best deal, especially if there are any more rounds of layoffs.

After Round 1

Well, now those that are left look around at who got laid off. Typically there will be some “Glad it was them and not me” talk and usually some “Well they sucked anyways” talk too. There is also a fair bit of “Tough luck for Joe, he just got married after graduating and has lots of school debt”. All people aren’t heartless, some just need an outlet for their frustrations. The best thing is when you hear of Round 1 people who get re-hired within a couple weeks. Then your guilt level goes down a bit.

Round 2

This is where things get nasty. Round 1 usually comes as a shock. Round 2 usually has lots of rumours leading up to it. Rumours. These are what can kill you. Remember that Rumours are just that, Rumours. Don’t beieve everything you hear. Before you start passing on Rumours, you must determine if they make sense. Round 2 is where you will often hear some outrageous rumours just because some people are still in “rose coloured glasses” mode. They make up rumours because they are evil and think they are invincible.

Before passing on a rumour, decide if your source is reliable. If they are, pass on the rumour but only after you can validate it. Rumours should come from more than one source. Rumour etiquette says that you never disclose the name of your rumour. That normally means you don’t pass rumours by email. Bad idea, especially if you get someone not well versed in the etiquette of rumour passing. Rumours can come back and bite you in the ass.

Back to Round 2. After the announcement, work typically stops. People mull around and take long coffee breaks to pass on the latest rumours. Some people will even speculate on how or why the company got into whatever hole it is in. This is normal. Use your brain and you can often figure out what areas are most “at risk”. If you don’t already have an updated resume, start working on one now. You may also want to become familiar with your local laws regarding mass termination. Most companies don’t want to go to court so they may offer you more than the legal minimum severance. Apparently my employer does this but I don’t know since I have yet to be laid off.

Round 2 is when bad things start to happen. People start to compare themselves to others and start to wish harm on others. They will sometimes even try to make other look bad in an attempt to “save” themselves. One thing you have to remember about Round 2 is that the “poor performers” were all laid off in Round 1. Everyone left is (usually) a decent worker. Layoffs from Round 2 on are cutting into your “good” employees. Sometimes “good” employees will be thrown a life line and hired into another area. This is good for the short term, as long as there is no Round 3.

If you don’t get laid off in Round 2, start treating your paycheque as an extra couple weeks of severance. If you haven’t already started, go into “layoff mode”. This means stop spending unless you have to. Don’t go buying new computer games. Don’t go on crazy shopping sprees. Get your finances in order. If you can, it might be time to get that line of credit from your bank. Just in case you need it down the road. It’s a helluva lot easier to get a line of credit while still employed.

Round 2 is hard but Round 3 is even worse.

Round 3

Well, by this point in time, you’ve had a couple realy good friends and co-workers laid off. If you haven’t already taken off the rose coloured glasses, you probably should. Round 3 is going to be bad. If Round 2 didn’t have product cancellations or parts of the company sold off, Round 3 is guaranteed to.

For me, Round 3 was the worst. This is when half of my team was laid off, including my manager (who is a good friend of mine). Why was I kept? Beats the hell out of me. If I knew that, I would be writing a book on how to not be laid off until you want to be.

Mentally at this point you are drained. You’ve probably started planning scenarios in your mind for the “What Ifs”. You’re either scared out of your mind or you’re comfortable. If you started taking action in Round 2 to get everything in order, you may be ok for another couple weeks/months if you do get laid off.

This is also when you may hear the most doom and gloom from outside the company. If you are publicly traded, the “analysts” have probably started saying how terrible the company is and how it’s going to fail. Remember, those analysts are the same ones who were saying that your company could do no wrong back when things were good. They don’t know SFA so don’t let them get to you.

Morale right now is just a word. I no longer care about my job. It’s something I do every day now. I come to work, do what needs to be done, and go home. I used to love this stuff but after having so many friends laid off, it’s hard to want to go to work. Especially with Round 4 announced.

Round 4

Wow. In just over one year, the company I work for has reduced the number of employees by almost 60%. Round 4 means another 7000 layoffs which should bring the company down to about 36% of what it used to be. Yikes. So far I have been “lucky” and I still have a job here.

Now the question is, who is the “lucky” one? With so many reductions, do we think that there is a chance for bankruptcy? That wouldn’t be good. At least with layoffs you get a severance package and you also get into “juob hunting mode”. With bankruptcy, everyone just comes to work one day and finds the doors locked. Typically it means you’re going to lose that paycheque you were working on, and you’re definately not getting severance. You and *everyone* in the company are now looking for a job. Did I stress *everyone*?

Round 4. Here I am. Do I hope to get laid off or do I hold those rose coloured glasses up one more time to take a glance into the future and try to convince myself that it will get better.

Methods of Maintaining Your Sanity

Play computer games. Seriously. D2 has allowed me to escape all the worrying night after night. What’s better than some mindless cow runs? GTA3 helps me take out my anger after co-workers were axed.

Don’t become a recluse though. If you’ve got a bunch of friends, go out for a drink with them or have brunch once a week. It helps if you’ve got friends in the same boat as you because they will understand what’s going on when you just need to talk about something. Parents and Significant Others may be the worst people to talk to. They will only tell you that everything is going to be fine since that is what they are hoping.

Believe it or not, a vacation is a wonderful way to forget. If you planned to take one anyways, go. Don’t cancel vacation plans just because you “may need the cash”. Of course, splurging while on vacation may be a bad idea, but getting away from the Rumours is the best thing you can do.

Layoffs are not the end of the world. They can truly be the beginning of something much better.

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