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What to Do When You Survive the Layoffs

What to Do When You Survive the Layoffs

By Megan K. Scott, Associated Press

May 19, 2009

You’re supposed to be one of the lucky ones. You survived your company’s recent round of downsizing. Then why do you feel sad, angry and scared? Here’s how to cope when co-workers lose their jobs.

Know that your feelings are normal. In recent months, the number of unemployed persons in the U.S. has increased by millions. Those folks surely have had a harder time of it then their co-workers still with jobs. But those left behind may well be experiencing a normal range of emotions, from survivor’s guilt to worry about whether you could be in the next round, say career experts.

“Why were those people let go and I wasn’t?” “Could I have prevented it in any way?” These are some of the thoughts that may keep you up at night, says Marjorie Brody, CEO of BRODY Professional Development in Jenkintown, Pa.

But keep in mind those people were not let go because of you, says Brody, an executive coach. Even if you were the one who did the laying off, weaker economic conditions beyond your control probably played a big part, she says.

Michael Barr of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology says many survivors also feel betrayed by the company, especially if the company was supposedly doing well at the last staff meeting.

“If you want information, and you think you have a good enough relationship with your supervisor, ask for it,” says Barr. “There is a good possibility that she or he was blindsided as well. Things change rapidly in business, so what you are hearing could be the truth — they thought things ‘were’ going well,” he adds.

Barr cautions against complaining to colleagues. It generally results in downward productivity and morale spiral, he says. “If you just want someone to listen, find a supportive friend or family member,” he says.

Ask about your future with the company. Survivors do feel a heightened anxiety because of an increased workload, change in duties and the possibility that they could be let go, say career experts. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, says Barr: Am I on the list? How would I know? Would I get severance? Is the information in that newspaper article correct?

“If your company is doing town hall meetings, attend, and bring questions with you,” says Barr. But be prepared that people may not have the answers, says Paul Facella, author of Everything I Know about Business I Learned at McDonald’s.

Poll: How do you feel about crying at work?

Poll: How do you feel about crying at work?