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Survivor Guilt?

When the ax falls at work--and misses you--the initial reaction is often relief. But, experts say, that feeling of good fortune is only temporary and is soon replaced with a feeling of guilt that you made the cut when your co-workers did not.


The folks at staffing agency Office Team offer this advice on how to bounce back after company layoffs:

  • Make yourself indispensable. Focus your efforts on projects that help boost your firm’s bottom line. Take courses to learn skills that allow you to contribute in new ways.

  • Build visibility. In uncertain times, it’s important to be noticed for the right reasons. Volunteer for projects that no one wants to tackle or that fall outside your job description. Also provide periodic reports updating your supervisor on your achievements.

  • Adapt to change. Managers appreciate employees who can roll with the punches and maintain productivity when faced with adversity. Demonstrate your ability to stay positive, motivated and focused on doing good work. 

  • Conduct an audit. Now is the time to be nimble. Evaluate current processes and offer suggestions for cutting costs or saving your company time or resources.

  • Avoid the rumor mill. While increased water cooler chatter is inevitable after layoffs, avoid contributing to the gossip. Also, don’t believe everything you hear. If you have questions about your company’s direction, ask your manager but understand he or she may not have all the answers.

  • Be generous with praise. After downsizing, employees may begin to doubt their abilities and question their own future with the company. If you are a manager, you may not be in a position to make promises of job security, but you can give direct reports positive feedback on their performance in challenging times.

  • Reach out. Offer assistance to those who have experienced a job loss by introducing them to your professional network and helping them with their job search.

  • Look out for yourself. Layoff survivors often experience increased workloads, which can lead to burnout. Talk to your manager about setting priorities, delegating projects or bringing in temporary professionals. 

  • ---Samantha Maziarz Christmann


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