How To: Survive Layoffs

I caught word of layoff rumors at my employer last week. Our factories have gone through cut-backs this year, and a couple even closed. We're hurting just like.... well, every other company. We've gone through all of the cost cutting exercises, temporary travel restrictions, best cost practices, etc, etc... But so far, the restructuring really hasn't hit the white collar staff let alone my department.

You keep hoping that things will turn around, things will get better.

And they will, but likely not soon enough for some. The rumors got a hint of credibility this morning when it was reported on the local news. Reported as a rumor, but they felt is was credible enough to read.

Today, it was all the buzz around the office - everyone hoping that the next guy had answers, or maybe you had heard something? It was getting deep, and I couldn't wait for the day to end as management's actions gave hint to the impending notices.

One friend asked, "Have you been through this before? Why aren't you worried?!?"

The answer is, yes, I have been laid-off before, and I watched several happen as an outside observer in the tech-town we used to live in. But now the bigger and more important question: Why aren't you worried?

I wish this post could be some magic formula, some secret trick to avoid being one of the unfortunate few. It's not. No-one can give you that. Maybe a pill to make it all better after it all goes down. Nope, not that either. But it is what I know about surviving a layoff, about keeping it together, about keeping your sanity, and thus why I am not worried.

  1. Don't Panic. Panic is contagious, and spreads fast. It does no good and you tend to make bad decisions when you panic. When was the last time someone when through a horrific event and later said, "Wow, good thing I panicked!" Never. Doesn't happen. Besides, whether you know it or not, there are people who look up to you, people who depend on you. People who look to you as their rock. The best thing you can do is be that rock. Be that calming voice of reason when all hell breaks loose.
  2. Find Solace in Your Diligence. If you've been on the ball, then you've likely got one of those budget things, and maybe been saving some money in an account or something. The Mrs. came out looking like an absolute genius after I was laid-off some years back. When we got home that day, we went over the budget to find that we were.... ok. We could make it on her income alone. Especially since we had been aggressively paying down our debts. We also had some cash tucked away in the baby emergency fund. Those three things gave us great peace on what was one of the worst days of my life. Seeing that storm coming, she had us in high gear leading up to it. If you haven't been doing these things, this is why you do them. If your plan is based on the best-case scenario, then welcome to life - it doesn't work that way.
  3. Put it in God's Hands. This is likely the most important one. Maybe you've heard the phrase, "Control what you can control". Well, this one is out of your hands. Seriously. Your past actions and performance may determine your fate, maybe not. Either way, it's out of your hands and quite possible that anything you do will only make matters worse. This is likely the largest part of why I can be so calm during something like this. Because I choose not to worry or act foolishly, but rather to pray to God, and put it to Him. If it is his will, if it is my time to go, then so be it. We don't know his plan and if you want to make him laugh, tell him your plan! When I was laid-off, I later saw it for the blessing that it was. I'm not saying that it was easy, but I later saw that it was time, and that God removed me from a poisonous situation that was only bound to get worse.
That's it. By the time you hear that it is coming, likely everything has been decided and all that is left is the formalities and the announcement. Let's say that the worst has happened, and you now find yourself unemployed. What now?
  1. Don't Panic. Yeah, we're still not going to go there. B r e a t h e. Maintain your dignity and your composure - be professional. If you play your cards right, then you'll walk out with a healthy severance and maybe even a letter of recommendation. The world hasn't ended, just your job.
  2. Know your rights. You may want to do a bit of research if you know that this is coming. Know what your employer can and cannot do. Know your rights as an employee. Can you collect unemployment? Have you been unfairly treated or discriminated against? Don't just assume that they know what they are doing and remember who's best interest they have in mind. Document everything, and know that all internet activity is monitored on the company network, so do your research from home.
  3. Your New Job Starts Today! That is, your full-time job of finding a new job. Time to hit the bricks and press the flesh, because the sooner you get a new steady income, the sooner that severance package looks more like a big bonus. Or maybe it's time to consider a job in the art of homemaking. Yes, you too can be a stay-at-home-mom or dad. There is no shame in it, and it can be a great time to bond with your kids. Take the opportunity if you can.
If you were not one of the ones cut from the pack, then take a deep breath and thank God. While you're at it, say a prayer for the people who were laid-off and their families. And if you can, send them this post. They could use some sanity about now.

As for my company, we should know more in the coming days. Maybe tomorrow.

What is your best job layoff advice? How did you survive?


Seestellar said...

Thank you for this entry! I'm facing a layoff December 23rd and appreciate hearing how other people have survived and thrived through changes like this. It's hard not to feel like you're a failure when something like this happens so thanks for focusing on what I CAN do.

Mr. (not) the Jet Set said...

Nothing can fully prepare you, but at least you know it is coming. I was blind-sided with mine years ago - no warning, no nothing. Make a list of what you want from your desk, and go.

Take advantage of the time you have.

Mary@SimplyForties said...

That old saying that when a door closes a window opens really is true. It's nice to hear from the voice of experience.

LAL said...

I've always said during a recession, the idea isn't frugality. NO. It's keeping your JOB! You need income, because expenses do not necessarily go down.

You should not panic, but rather focus on doing the best job you can. Work harder, longer, take on more projects. The more valuable you are, the better you look.

Income is always more important than spending. You can't spend what you don't have.

Mr. (not) the Jet Set said...

LAL - I agree with you, I think.... maybe. Our plan doesn't change with the economy, the wind, the Dow. Frugality is a way of life and the down economy really has had little affect on us.

During this time, it is very important to keep your job since there are so few jobs available. How you do that... well, is debatable. Taking on more projects, also means taking on more risk. You are more likely to drop the ball if you are the only one carrying it. Also, spending more time at work can be read differently - "Is he getting more done, or just inefficient?"

Rather, I'd recommend refocusing yourself. Make sure your priorities are in line with your boss's and the company's. Also, while I hate office politics, it's a good time to be seen getting into work on-time or early. Do the little things - get your paper work done and done well, do the little things. It's a good time to make your accomplishment's known. It's a very good time to ask, "what can I do?" Most importantly, keep a good attitude. It makes a difference.

Greg said...

The key is to survive the layoff by keeping the impact as low as possible. I have been through at least 3 layoff in my 20 year career and personally I feel that it the best way to ride this wave is to be prepared for the extreme . I firmly believe in the Murphy ’s Law especially the 3rd one, " Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way”

if any one interested in a no-nonsense game of “layoff survival” check out http://www.crootpad.com , a fun way to see different options to survive layoff.

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