Survivor’s Guilt: Handling Work Life After Layoffs

We all hope that we will not have to experience a mass layoff in our careers, but the truth is it happens.

As reality has it, the bottom line is just that - the bottom line. Business are in business to make money, and even if they are not (think non-profits), they still need at least some money to operate. 

I can tell you from years of experience, it is never a great feeling when the organization has to downsize, even by a few employees. From the business perspective, there is a long and hopefully unbias process in deciding whom those employees will ultimately be. In many cases, it simply comes down to organizational structure or amount of business.

In any case, layoffs can create a sad, confusing and anxious place for all the employees remaining at the company.

Remain Calm

We know it sounds like a weird statement to begin with but in our career experience, we have seen many employees immediately quit after a mass layoff. It is natural to feel like you may be the next one cut, but if you can take a step back.

Instead of quitting without a plan, come up with a plan of action if you were to get laid off tomorrow. Then, if you still feel the need to make the jump, come up with a plan to begin your job search. By doing this, you will relieve the stress of the unknown and feel more prepared for any outcome.

Feel Your Feelings

Even though we do not want you to make any rash decisions, we still think it is important to feel your feelings. You and the team may be sad without your co-workers, scared of what is to come or overwhelmed with the new workload. Allow yourself to feel those feelings and recognize they are legitimate.

When we lose our co-workers we may even find ourselves moving through stages of grief. Afterall, you may see these people 40 hours or more per week and suddenly they are not part of your life anymore.


If you are fortunate to work in an environment with open communication, whether within the whole organization, your department or your manager, make sure to utilize them.

Discuss your concerns or worries with your supervisor, manager or even other co-workers. This also includes the potential new workload you may have after the layoffs. There are competent and supportive team members in almost every environment that may help you put your mind at ease.

Just be careful not to fall into a negative cycle of conversations, as it could affect your work, engagement, and future with the organization.


You can also try to reach out to old co-workers through social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn to stay in contact. If you feel they were a great worker, you could even ask if they would like you to recommend them for anywhere you know is looking. Afterall, they may just have a career opportunity for you down the road!

Get Back in the Swing of Things

It's true, things will never be quite the same when a team dynamic changes - whether it was voluntary or not. But trying to get back to normal routines as quickly as possible can help the transition along. 

Just remember if you do experience a mass layoff at any point, there are many resources available to help you out there including your co-workers, managers, mentors and your favorite career consulting firm.

Have you been laid off before? Let us know your experience in the comments below!