Layoffs: Coping and minimising the human cost

I’ve been a therapist for over 10 years and have seen people go through all kinds of crises in life. One of the most difficult things to face is financial uncertainty. It’s practically a threat to your sustenance and a situation like this triggers the fight or flight response in most people.

The other day, a girl who had just been laid off reached out to me for help. All her excitement about a new job in a new city had been laid to waste by the termination letter. She was obviously distraught. She told me she didn’t have it in her to face the next day.

One of my existing clients reached out to me with a similar concern but they were on the other side of the story. They had to hand out the death note to two of their juniors, whom they had hired and nurtured. It crushed them to have to play the gream reaper. My client confessed to me that they didn’t want to wake up and go to work the next day.

Whether you are at the receiving end of the bad news or the bearer of it, the human cost of a layoff is far greater than the economic cost. It’s bound to take a toll on your mental health. I must say, both are unenviable positions. A recurring complaint of both ends of the spectrum is that they feel burdened and lost.

Everyday we see people around us or on social media doing better than us and that sows the seeds of envy and dissatisfaction in us. We fail to understand that, we’ve all been taught put on a front. We’ve learnt how to hide our pains and struggles. What we see on the outside is not all there is. There’s almost always more to the story.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, comparison is the thief of joy.

I think we need to rise above comparisons and cherish where we are on our own individual journeys. The ability to do that can only come from nurturing your mental health and asking the right questions about it.

In a crash and burn scenario like layoffs, everybody’s a loser. Nobody is winning at this game. So, instead of asking which side suffers more, let’s ask the right questions. What can we do to make it better? How can we provide support and minimise the human cost of a layoff?

Here are a few steps that might help you navigate the twisted maze of getting sacked, coming to terms with it and finally finding your way:

Solitude: I’m sure, you have kept a lot of your hopes and dreams aside in pursuit of your career goals. Now you have this opportunity to retrace your steps and understand why you chose this particular path. You have an opportunity to contemplate in solitude and take a stab at recreating yourself. Instead of drowning yourself in worries, you can choose to think about them constructively. I know, it’s tough. But I also know that you can do it.

Knowing yourself is a process that unfolds as you build yourself. We’re not in a hurry here. Once you’ve dealt with the initial shock and vented out your emotions, you can take some time off every day to just think. Just take a look inside and ask yourself why you’re here and where you want to go from here. Doesn’t have to be hours and days. Just a few minutes every day.

Occupational therapy: Once you have a hold on your current situation, you can think about what to do next. A cloudy mind full of distractions often picks the nearest and easiest path. But you have chosen to take this time to think constructively and act thoughtfully. You should be proud of yourself.

From here on, you can get into Occupational Therapy. If that’s not an option, you can do your own research and DIY occupational therapy. A rough outline looks something like this:

  1. Narrow down your specific skill sets.
  2. Figure out whether they are apt for the position to aspire to.
  3. Find the transferable skills you have if you’d like to change your current job profile.

Spend this time upskilling yourself, researching your options and writing all these things down.

Socialise: You might have been hiding from your friends and family because you don’t know how you’ll deal with them. I completely understand why. But you can’t survive in solitude forever. You need your people on your side when you’re facing a crisis. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your loved ones, and share your fears and hopes with them.

I hope these steps give you an idea of what you can do next. We are living in tough times. But planning and proper implementation can help you overcome any obstacle life throws your way. You’ve got this!

Share your thoughts