When coworkers are laid off

The last few months have been fraught with change. Most of us have been working from home and are social distancing from our family and friends. The corona virus has also wreaked havoc on our economy. Millions around world have lost their jobs and scores of small business are shutting down. It’s possible that some of our own colleagues have lost their jobs too.

When that happens, it is possible for those who continue to hold jobs to feel guilty, although it is not totally rational. This is referred to as Survivor’s guilt, and is similar to the feeling one would have if they survived an accident or calamity while someone alongside them does not. You wonder if it is fair that you have been retained while your colleague has been let go of. You may miss the person who shared your office space, with whom you had conversations and who was possibly a friend. You may know of their personal circumstances and feel bad thinking of the difficulties they must now be facing.


Along side this guilt and sadness, there can also be worry about the safety of your own job, and possible salary reduction – something that is happening in a lot of companies now.

Dealing with your feelings of loss

When a co-worker is laid off the survivors may experience  a sense of loss. Coping with this loss is a matter of letting go over time, after passing through stages of grief. This includes acknowledging to yourself all that you valued about your relationship with your colleague.

Responding to those who have left

You may also be wondering how to respond to colleagues who have lost their jobs. Should you speak to them or stay quiet rather than aggravate their distress?

Be a source of support. Reach out and show that you are ready to listen. If they are willing to talk, be a good listener and help them deal with their emotions. Validate their sadness and anxiety and their worries about the future. Don’t try to tell them that everything will be all right. You might not have solutions to their problems but having someone to talk to, can help them deal with their issues better. If they reject your overtures of friendship, don’t take it personally. They are probably going through a range of negative emotions themselves. Don’t push it, but do leave the channels of communication open.

Continue being friends. If you shared a good relationship, do continue being friends with the person. Ending of the work relationship need not mean the end of the friendship. However be careful about sharing any work related information. This could be difficult because you may have a pattern of discussing work and it might be difficult to change this. However this is essential.

 Coping with your anxiety at work

Do not speak ill of your employers. While the urge to talk to other colleagues about the situation might be high and it is natural to want to analyze the situation, most experts agree that it is wise to refrain from criticizing and in other ways being negative about employers. This can jeopardize your job and it can also create a toxic work culture that will inhibit both yours and the company’s growth.

Have a frank conversation with your manager. If you are worried about your future in the company, it is advisable to schedule a meeting with your manager and talk about your concerns.

Take stock of your own work life. Think of an action plan yourself. From upgrading your skills to improving your efficiency and getting the additional work done, there are tasks that you need to focus on. Work out what you can do to remain productive and adapt to changing requirements.

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