You've made the cut. If you're feeling guilt or fear, it's OK.
It's a confusing time: You've survived the latest round of layoffs at work. You think you should be feeling relieved and proud, right? Instead, you're gripped by a horrid concoction of negative emotions. You're worried about the security of your job and feeling hopelessly guilty that you've kept your role whilst others lost theirs. It's no wonder your head is cloudy. Stop for a minute and breathe.
You may be experiencing layoff survivor guilt. This is the term psychologists give to experiencing remorse that one has 'survived' a layoff when their co-workers did not. You may also find that you question why you were kept on whilst other members of the team were let go.
Despite having no hand in it, it's natural to feel guilty.
In fact, it's common to feel low or fearful after major changes have taken place in your company. If left to fester, however, these emotions could start to impact both your home and work lives. So, if you are experiencing layoff survival guilt, you have to move forward and look after yourself. Let's take a look at some of the steps you can take to do just that.
Acknowledge your feelings
Guilt, sadness and fear: When the layoff is over, you may be feeling them all. Whilst your gut likely tells you to keep calm and carry on, you should pause and acknowledge how you feel. Pushing forward whilst ignoring these emotions could lead to problems further down the line when they erupt.
You may want to start by writing things down. Harvard Health Publishing suggests that writing about your emotions can help to ease both traumatic feelings and stress. Grab an empty notebook and get started.
Realise that your reaction is normal
Major life changes will always have an impact on your mental health. Despite the fact that you still have your job, the layoff will have affected you.
For instance, you may have to take on more work as a result of the job losses. Equally, you may be worried about your own job security going forward. With that in mind, it's no wonder that you are struggling with a mixture of feelings.
Telling yourself that you're 'just being silly' or should 'just move on' will only compound the issue. Your emotions are valid.
Talk to someone you trust
Don't keep things bottled up inside. Talking about how you're feeling can be therapeutic, according to research from the University of California Los Angeles. If you find that these emotions are plaguing you, reach out and speak to someone you trust. Of course, you can use a counselling service, should you want to. Check with your HR department to see if there are any services available through your company.
Failing that, speak to someone already in your life. For example, you might want to share how you're feeling with your partner or a close friend. Let them know that you need to talk, and explain what this change has meant for you. You can express that you've been feeling layoff guilt and, most likely, the person in whom you're confiding will understand. Being honest and open with others will help you.
Be honest with your boss
Has the sudden shift impacted your work? When you're experiencing layoff survivor guilt, it can be hard to keep your head in the game. What's more, if you suddenly have more duties than before, you may be finding it hard to keep up with them.
Arrange a meeting with your boss or line manager to speak about this problem. Fronting the issue and explaining how you feel is the best course of action to stay in good graces. If you're feeling overwhelmed or overworked, tell them that ‒ it's their job to ensure that you have everything you need to do your job successfully. Therefore, don't be afraid to shout up when something isn't right.
Stay connected with ex-co-workers
Chances are, some of your closest work friends didn't make the cut. Whilst reaching out to them may feel awkward, your support could help them through their own challenging time. Losing your job can cause grief similar to what you experience when someone dies, suggests research from the Journal of Loss and Trauma. Put simply, that means that they may be experiencing low moods, sadness and fear (not unlike you).
If the fact that you kept your job is holding you back from reaching out, there's one thing to remember: It's not your fault! You had no hand in your staying and their leaving, and your friend knows that too. When you contact them, you're doing so as a friend, not a co-worker. Ask them if there's anything you can do to help or simply be a good listener. Make it clear that though they have lost their job, they have not lost your friendship.
Surviving layoff survivor guilt
Layoffs impact everyone differently. However, the most important thing is how you manage your emotions. Once the round of layoffs completes, it's time to take control and take action. You may not be able to change what's happened, but you can change what you do next to make it through.
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