Layoff Anxiety…
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Gabriella Steed

Last week, I spoke to a fantastic candidate, who as a result of mass layoffs within her organisation, has aroused feelings of anxiety and more specifically enormous imposter syndrome. Horrible. For now, her role is secure, however with the unsettling state of play in the background, my candidate is constantly asking herself, ‘Will it be me next?’, ‘How secure is my position?’, ‘Am I good enough?’ Of course, all natural responses and unfortunately she is not the only one who fosters such concerns. According to recent research by Perceptyx, a whopping 67% of men and 56% of woman experienced high levels of anxiety due to the news of layoffs within their business, despite their roles not being at risk. 

Worries associated with job security can place an enormous strain on individual well-being. In fact, this situation can throw people towards two ends of a spectrum; the first, feeling they have to work themselves to the bone, frantically, to avoid redundancy or the second – decreased motivation and willingness to succeed due to worries of further cuts. Both scenarios are unpleasant. If you are an employee facing these exact feelings, there are some areas you could focus on in order to reduce your feelings of anxiety. Likewise, there are actions that can be taken by management to protect the feelings of their employees who still remain. With the situation as it stands, having a workforce riddled in angst and reduced well-being is essentially bad for business. Here are my top tips: 


Tell your inner voice to have a day off | When faced with such a scenario, it is super easy to fall into the trap of overthinking. One can convince themselves that they are the next out simply because their manager is taking, what feels like years, to respond to their email or because someone in the leadership team glanced at you in the wrong way, which your brain perceived as ‘I am not good enough, my role is next in line for a cut’. Again, we are all human, but separating facts from fiction is vital to get through this rough patch. Perhaps your manager is super busy, perhaps the individual in the leadership team was dissatisfied with his/her lunch choices. Glances and delayed emails do not signal anything and if you feel they do within your organisation, then that in itself is a signal to leave! 

Of course, you may start to notice that as a result of a hiring freeze your workload has reduced, again creating understandable feelings of anxiety with regards to the security of your role. But until you know the facts, you are allowing your mind to go down a dark and dusty road, which is not good for your well-being. Work with what knowledge you do have and take a step back, it can get ridiculously overwhelming. 

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Take action! | I get it. Advising you to tell your inner voice to have a day off may sound easy in principle, but in practice its tough and not that simple! Another tactic to try is to literally take action. Evaluate your current work situation. How easy would it be for someone else in the team to work on the projects you are currently pursuing? What value are you adding to the business that the leadership team may perceive as essential? If you feel more could be done, especially if your workload has reduced due to a hiring freeze, consider speaking to your manager and exploring what other initiatives you could get involved in. This is in no way advising you to work yourself to the bone. If you already feel you are at max capacity, then great. But if you could demonstrate other areas of strength to support the business, you may start to feel less anxious.

Aside from optimising your working day, maybe some realism wouldn’t go a miss. Pondering on job security anxiety is enough to eat away at you, and affect other areas of your life. I would take a few hours to note all the skills you have built in your current role, and spruce up your CV. Remember, redundancy is not all doom and gloom. Often these situations can be an unanticipated opportunity that you did not see coming. Reach out to your network, see what other roles are on the horizon, and start to put your best foot forward. Planning your next move is a much safer option for your mental health, rather than sitting on ‘what if’ or ‘am I capable’. You future self will thank you. 


Keep people in the loop | Regularly updating your workforce on the health of your business is essential, regardless to whether cuts have been made or not. Share the good and the bad news, allow your employees to gain trust in you whereby they don’t feel they are being left in the dark. If you are not making cuts, great! Tell them! Positive news, sparks positive feelings! People shutting down and fostering feelings of anxiety is terrible for business and individual motivation to succeed, especially when these worries have surfaced due to rumours. If you are making cuts, employees need to understand that management are making restructures in order to protect and strengthen the business for the long run. Providing justification coupled with laying off people with dignity and knowledge will make for a much smoother process. Amidst keeping people in the loop, start to cultivate a culture of communication, generally. Encouraging people to communicate should not be a reactive approach to a potentially unsettling situation, the wheels to communicate feelings and worries should already be in motion. 

Be mindful | Coworkers can become some of our closest friends, making work a trigger for pain,” says Jennifer Moss, author of Unlocking Happiness at Work. Not only do mass layoffs trigger a great deal of anxiety surrounding the ‘survivors’ perceived security within the firm, but it also triggers feelings of grief and sadness. Work makes up a great deal of our time. Often we speak to our colleagues more so than we do our own family! Be mindful of these relationships. Address these feelings. Offer emotional support to your employees and encourage them to maintain these relationships with laid off staff. Employees want to feel valued and supported, especially during rough patches where their layoff anxiety is through the roof. Nurture your remaining workforce – your actions will speak volumes, especially to those whose jobs are safe but are already planning their next move. Retention strategies in these situations are crucial. 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, contact me on [email protected]

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