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My Friend Was Just Laid Off! Dealing with Layoff Survivor Syndrome

written by: Robert Faustus•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 10/27/2012

With the recent recession in the economy, businesses are having to layoff more employees than ever. Have you recently survived through a layoff season? Read on to learn more about layoff survivor syndrome and how to deal with it.

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    What Is Layoff Survivor Syndrome?

    Feeling depressed because your coworkers were laid off? Layoff survivor syndrome is a feeling of guilt, and could lead to depressive and negative thoughts, brought forth by the layoff of coworkers. In today's rough times, layoffs are extremely common, regardless of a company's size. I have been on both sides of the fence, an employee that was laid off as well as being a layoff survivor. Being a former layoff survivor, I too, have felt the symptoms associated with layoff survivor syndrome.

    So what are some symptoms of layoff survivor syndrome?

    • A feeling similar to depression, as numbness kicks in once the news of the layoffs hit.
    • A heavy sense of guilt, as you survived and other coworkers didn't.
    • A retrospection of your career at the company as you try to understand how and why you survived, and wonder if you'll be next.
    • Anger at the company for laying off your friends.
    • A feeling of worhlessness as you feel that the company doesn't care about you or your coworkers. You feel you're just numbers.

    Layoff Survivor Syndrome - A Serious Problem Interestingly, many of the feelings above are felt by disaster survivors. Simply put, it's the same idea, you survived an ordeal while people close to you didn't.

    Is this a true condition that comes with layoffs? Absolutely. I felt all the feelings above when I heard that my friends and coworkers had been laid off. Human resource departments are also starting to undergo training to handle layoff survivors, as layoff survivor syndrome can cause the business to suffer.

    Layoff survivor syndrome is real and does affect work performance. Productivity goes down, the number of errors goes up, and customer service goes down as well.

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    How to Deal with Layoff Survivor Syndrome

    Layoff survivor syndrome is hard to shake off. Whenever you go into the office, the air is thick with gossip and fear. Rumors of who's next on the list or who's leaving in the next few weeks make it much harder to deal with the problem. But how can you deal with the symptoms of layoff survivor syndrome while still heading to the office?

    The key is to keep an open mind but also understand the cold hard truth – every employee is a number to the business. It's natural to be angry when the business lays off employees, but you need to understand that it's not personal. Don't take the layoffs as personal attacks on coworkers and friends. Separate the emotional feelings away from your job to try to keep your high stress levels down.

    Communicate your feelings. Whether it be to a manager or a close personal friend, communicate how you feel and let the emotions out. Holding onto the emotions will keep your negative feelings lingering and keep you from focusing on other important matters. Some would consider this venting, but at times, venting is a good way of clearing the air.

    Another way to communicate your feelings is to go out with friends for your regular hobbies, and bring the layoffs up as a topic. This isn't to try to forget the situation, but to rather communicate it to others, how you feel and the fears you're faced with. You'll be surprised to see how supportive your friends will be when you open up and let out your fears about your current situation.

    Updating your resume is also a good, proactive approach to take. It allows you to take a small break and look back on how you helped the company. In addition to helping you look back on your career highlights, it also puts you that much closer to applying to other jobs. Some layoff survivors do not update their resumes and hope that they are not next in line, which is a big mistake. Having an updated resume actually helps you support the reasons for your job, and lessens the stress of thinking you'll be next in line. In addition, it adds a bit of padding, knowing that your resume is ready to go out, if you are unfortunately laid off.

    And last but not least, when layoff survivor syndrome hits, it's best to remember that you are working to live, not living to work. A layoff is not the end of the world. It's just another hurdle in life.

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    Image Credits

    1. Layoff Survivor Syndrome: PhotoSpin
    2. Man on Telephone: morgueFile, dave_stressed_002 by click
    3. Sad Couple: morgueFile, MF_2523 by taliesin