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Left Behind After the Lay Off

Tags:  Job stress, Financial security, Laid off

When 15 percent of the staff was cut, Jack felt sad to see some of his friends go, but thankful and relieved that he had survived. And then a short time later his emotions did a complete 180 degree turn.

He began to feel depressed and uncertain about what was going to happen next. He questioned why he had been retained when surely some of those that had been laid off were more qualified. He grew quiet, even sullen at times.

Jack's feelings may be what some describe as "survivor guilt", a mental condition usually seen in people who have survived traumatic events such as combat or a natural disaster. However, it is something that is often seen in employees who have survived a work lay off. Numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that over one million workers are looking for new jobs this year and as many as that were left behind after a reduction often to do their job plus the work of the departed employees. In addition to the extra work and hours they also have to adjust to a fluctuating work environment and the feelings that confront them.

The important thing is to find healthy ways to deal with the survivor's guilt and the uncertainty or fears about the changing work environment. Here are four steps to help you get through this time of change:Talk about it. Whether you talk to family and friends, other surviving co-workers or a trained professional, it's important to get your feelings out. Check to see if your organization has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) where you can receive counseling for free. Cope with it. This is easier said then done sometimes. However, the idea is to not let yourself slip into bad habits such as overeating. Practice healthy living habits. Do the things that make you happy. Make sure you get plenty of rest and exercise, and maintain your usual routines.

Commit to it. One thing you can be sure about is there is always going to be change. Instead of resisting it align yourself with the new organization and its needs. Show your boss your commitment by contributing more than you cost. Flexibility is key; adaptation is paramount. Change it. Yes, you need to give it time, go with the flow, and see how things work out. However, know that you can change the situation, both by your attitude toward the change as well as through your decision to move on. If ultimately the new situation no longer works, find something that does. Keep your resume up to date and your network on ready. The truth of the matter is that as the world changes so will the organizations in it. That means that it will become necessary for all employees to learn to adjust. It may not always be easy or without hurt, but just as organizations have the ability to change, so do you.

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