Layoffs: The Stress of Waiting

Over the last few days, I’ve talked to several people waiting to hear about possible layoffs.  It’s the end of the fiscal year and either they will be laid off  July 1st or not.  The waiting is the hardest.  Even for the most resilient and optimistic people this suspenseful time of not knowing is very difficult.

Employment changes are always challenging.  The “What Ifs” take over and you can find yourself imagining and worrying about all kinds of scenarios.  “What if I can’t find another job?”  “What if I have to move?”  “What if I can’t pay my mortgage?”  These may be very realistic concerns and the worry can quickly escalate especially in the middle of the night.

Taking Control of the Uncontrollable

The stress of the unknown is really all about control.  When you or your spouse is facing a layoff it’s easy to feel that you have little control over your future.  And that may be true as it relates to your paid employment.  But what about the rest of your life?  You (and only you) have control over that and once you take back that control there is a ripple effect on your paid work as well.  Here are three steps to get you started.

First, what isn’t changing in your life? List out the  main areas of your life (health, family &, friends, employment, hobbies, community etc.) that you spend time and energy.  I like to use the image of the 5 Olympic Circles because they connect creating synergy between the circles. And it keeps it simple with the 5 main areas of my “whole” life.

Second, have a realistic talk with yourself.  Are these other areas really changing significantly? Sometimes yes, but many times they are staying relatively the same.  Life goes on with many of the same routines and traditions – that’s actually quite reassuring.

Third, make a Plan B and a Plan C.  Have backup plans if you are laid off.  Know your options. Get an accurate picture of your financial situation.  You may be pleasantly surprised that it’s better than you had imagined.

Taking Control is Empowering

This is a new life chapter which you can design for yourself.  In my work as a career coach, I’m seeing people take this opportunity to create new career paths that they previously never thought possible.  Yes, a forced change such as a layoff is unsettling and disruptive.  But remember, that in the midst of chaos is the opportunity for incredible growth and possibilities.  It’s exciting and the sense of taking back control is incredibly empowering.

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