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Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Advice

What to do when layoffs hit your office, but not you

Sometimes, when a sinking feeling creeps up on you at work, it can be difficult to shake the feeling— especially when it’s a result of mass layoffs that seem to have avoided you … for now.

You might even find yourself struggling with “survivor syndrome,” or feeling extra stressed out amid all the work you have to do now that people have been let go, and dealing with its negative impact on your performance.

All of this being said, here’s how to handle the choppy waters ahead.

Keep a dialogue going

Anthony J. Nyberg, a professor at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, and Charlie O. Trevor, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, write about the results of research in the Harvard Business Review.

The recommend that company leaders focus on “communication.”

“Downsizing tends to disrupt social networks and information exchange within companies, adding to employees’ negative feelings. Leaders should encourage increased contact among managers and employees, promote active listening, institute open-door policies, and get employee input into decision making,” they write.

Recreate some normalcy at work

Go back to the basics.

Susan M. Heathfield, an HR expert, speaker, writer, trainer, professional facilitator and management and organization development consultant, writes in The Balance that you should try to do what you used to.

“Attempt to recreate the daily patterns you experienced prior to the layoffs. While much time in an office is invested by employees in talking about the situation after layoffs, the sooner you can recreate your prior patterns, the better for your mental health,” she writes.

Try not to feel like an impostor

Witnessing a slew of layoffs can be extremely unsettling — you might even start feeling like an impostor, and that your job will definitely be the next one to get the ax. But wallowing in these feelings for too long is sure to make your performance take a hit over time.

So get back into the swing of things by remembering how well you’ve done in certain areas at work, and while you should strive to do the best work you can, don’t try to be perfect.

Remember, you don’t have to be a ghost

Just be sure to choose your words wisely.

The Muse features commentary from Melody Godfred, Muse Coach and founder of Write in Color, about what to say to a former colleague who lost their job.

“Once you’ve had any fears about your own job loss quelled, know that you don’t have to up and forget about what happened and bury yourself in your assignments. You should feel at liberty to reach out to the person who lost his or her job, but Godfred doesn’t recommend commenting specifically on the situation. Rather than saying, ‘It sucks that they did this to you,’ you can say ‘I’ll miss you at the office.’ ”

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