Downsized: Navigating and Thriving in the Midst of Layoff

Downsized: Navigating and Thriving in the Midst of Layoff August 20, 2023

It’s Tuesday morning and a meeting invite appears on the calendar from your boss.  Not your manager, but your boss.  Immediately your mind enters a tailspin as you review the recent events of the past couple of weeks to see if there is anything that may have triggered this event.  After unsuccessfully identifying any issues, the next thought is to reach out to your manager.  After reaching out to your manager, you discover they have a similar meeting request.

Time seems to move in slow motion as the hours creep by until the designated Zoom meeting time.  Upon logging into the meeting, not only is your boss on the screen but a representative from HR.  The meeting starts with “Good Morning.  In a fast-paced economy, it becomes necessary for organizations to restructure.  Our organization is currently undergoing restructuring, and the decision has been made to eliminate your position effective immediately.”  If this is your first time experiencing a situation like this, it becomes difficult to listen to what is said next.  It sounds more like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher.  However, per statistics, approximately 40% of Americans have been laid off at least once in their career.  With that being said, the next steps are for HR to discuss the exiting process and benefits.

“Good Morning.  In a fast-paced economy, it becomes necessary for organizations to restructure.  Our organization is currently undergoing restructuring, and the decision has been made to eliminate your position effective immediately.”

For many, the question becomes “What do I do next?”. Oftentimes, layoffs are not announced in advance. Experiencing such an event can lead to shock and disbelief.  It is a complete upending to regularly scheduled programming of one’s life.  The set schedule of daily life which included going to work, now comes to an immediate halt with nothing scheduled for the next day.  As the shock of the event begins to set in, emotions become raw and unstable as one begins to think of the reality of the moment – loss of income, loss of status, uncertainty of the future.

What is a Layoff?

When companies lay off individuals and teams of people, the company is considering their economic status.  A layoff is defined, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as an “Involuntary separation instituted by the employer”.  Companies decide to lay off staff because of economic uncertainty, economic slowdown, rising inflation and even the potential for war as we are currently seeing in the Ukraine.  With such uncertainties, companies begin to look for cost-saving measures which usually mean a reduction in staff.

Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash

Impacts of Layoffs

While the organization is considering its financial health when implementing layoffs, what is not being considered?  One of the issues not considered is the impact on the employees impacted by downsizing.  Employees who are laid off tend to experience:

  • Financial Issues: Employees will have a significant financial impact as they will no longer receive a paycheck.  Some will be supported as they will be able to depend on the severance package and unemployment.  However, many may have to depend on savings to keep them afloat while awaiting a new position.  According to Personal Finance Statistics as found on, a 2021 Bankrate survey stated, “Only 39% of Americans had enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency”.  Additionally, according to Bankrate’s July 2021 Emergency Fund survey, “more than half of Americans (51%) have less than three months’ worth of expenses covered in emergency funds.  That includes 1 in 4 Americans (or 25%) who indicate they have no emergency fund at all.”
  • Mental Health: Employees experiencing downsizing are more likely to experience mental health challenges.  Persons may experience issues such as: depression, anxiety, and stress.  They wrestle with feeling like a failure or feel shame.
  • Physical Health: Due to the stress factor, laid-off persons may experience higher rates of health challenges.  They may experience increased blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety attacks.
  • Relationship Health: The laid-off individual is not the only person who may experience challenges.  The layoff can affect marriages and families economically which leads to relationship stress and family breakdowns.

Corporate Culture Impact

Laid-off employees are not the only persons to be affected by corporate restructuring or downsizing.  Employees who remain will be affected.  In turn, it can lead to issues with employee morale.  Employees may begin to experience heightened anxiety as they become uncertain about their own positions.  Employees may even experience survivor’s remorse because they were able to keep their positions while their colleagues and work friends were let go.  The effects of organizational restructuring and layoffs have a ripple effect which can cause more harm than the financial savings it may create.

Ways to Thrive During a Layoff

If you are a person who experiences a layoff event, what can you do to navigate the instability you may be experiencing:

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: Losing a job or career is a real experience. It can lead to feelings of sadness and grief.  It is an authentic loss.  In order to process what has happened, allow yourself to grieve the loss.  Though you may grieve the loss, do not allow the feelings to become permanent.  If the feelings linger, it may be helpful to seek support or therapy to process the emotions.
  2. Don’t Take It Personal: Organizations seek what is best for the organization from an economic standpoint.  It is not about the individual contributors.  Do not allow your job to define your worth or value.  A helpful exercise may be to list out of your strengths and your accomplishments while in this career or position.  Once you can see your worth and value, you will see how you can be an asset to another organization.
  3. Practice Holistic Self Care: The layoff event can take a toll on an individual mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  Be intentional to prioritize your self-care during this time.  Get physical.  Take a walk or begin an exercise regimen.  Journal to process your thoughts and emotions.  Make time for prayer and meditation to connect with your Source.
  4. Communicate: While one may tend to experience feelings of shame or failure, don’t isolate yourself.  This is the time when you need the support of family and friends.  Share what is going on with you and how you are feeling.  Allow the positive energy of those around you to help you navigate this time.
  5. Develop a New Routine: Layoffs can be disturbing because it shakes up the routine.  During this time, develop a new schedule or routine.  Develop a schedule for the job search.  Include time in your schedule for self-care activities.  If you need a way to feel valuable, look for ways to volunteer or serve.  A new routine will help to ground you and provide a sense of balance and purpose.
  6. Change Your Perspective: Rather than seeing the event as a failure, consider how this may be an opportunity.  Perhaps you have a side hustle or business idea you want to give more attention but couldn’t due to work responsibilities.  Maybe you wanted to go back to school but didn’t know how because of work.  What looks like a loss could actually be the setup for a long-term win.
  7. Develop a Budget: Many people do not have a budget.  Since funds may be limited in the temporary, evaluate what expenditures may need to be reduced or eliminated.  How can you generate income outside of your career while you determine the next steps?  Take control of your financial health during this season.

Layoffs or downsizing suck.  No one wants to lose their job.  Most people would prefer to leave of their own free will.  However, the reality of our economic climate does not always allow for such changes.  Though we may not choose to experience a layoff, it does not have to define us or take away our control.  Instead, we have the opportunity decide how we will see this event in our lives and make a plan to navigate through it.  Does it mean it will be easy? No.  Is it doable?  It will take some creativity on our part, but we will come through this event.  There is a better day ahead of us.  We must keep the faith and believe there is something before for us.  The adage says, “When one door closes, another one opens.”.  Stay open to the possibilities of greater opportunities.  Keep the faith.

Have you experienced a layoff?  If so, share your experience.

About Evita L Smith
Evita L. Smith is the owner of Exceptional Living Empowerment Coaching and Training (ELECT). As a certified Leadership and Wellness Coach, she seeks to help leaders develop the tools to live holistically healthy lives in order to lead others well. Evita is a licensed and ordained pastor. She serves as the founding Pastor of Kingdom Seekers Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. She currently resides in Lithonia, Georgia. You can read more about the author here.

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