Layoff survivor guilt is real for workers who survive layoffs

Layoff survivor guilt is real for workers who survive layoffs

Mass layoffs like these roiling the tech business have an effect on greater than the individuals who lose their jobs.

Laid-off workers face sensible challenges, reminiscent of staying financially afloat and securing new employment, in addition to the psychological blow of feeling rejected. Yet these who stay after their coworkers are dismissed can even battle from what office psychologists name “survivor layoff guilt.” 

Susan Tyson, a advertising and marketing skilled at a Texas-based software program firm, skilled this firsthand when her employer lower 25 of her roughly 7,000 colleagues final month. Initially, she felt understandably relieved at having saved her job. Then the remorse began to sink in.

“My first thought was, ‘Yippee, it is not me!’ And my second thought was feeling very responsible that others misplaced their jobs and I did not,” Tyson informed CBS MoneyWatch. “Many of the those who I labored with have been let go, and also you simply really feel dangerous every time that occurs.”

Google slashes 12,000 jobs, as tech sector layoffs continue


Generally, survivor guilt units in when some individuals, usually arbitrarily, survive a traumatic occasion like fight, a pure catastrophe or job layoffs, whereas others should not as fortunate. 

It now applies to some workers at tech companies together with Google, IBM, Lyft, Meta, Twitter and extra as they slash head counts in a slowing economic system. In January alone, tech corporations lower almost 60,000 jobs, reversing a pandemic-driven hiring spree.

In the office it may set off anger, concern and anxiousness amongst surviving workers, in keeping with David Noer, a profession guide and creator of “Healing The Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations.”

In his expertise, “People who survive layoffs are usually much less productive, extra suspicious, extra fearful and get much less work carried out than was anticipated.”

“I really feel like I’m on a brief checklist”

Some workers, like Tyson, surprise why they have been spared and concern they might lose their jobs in future layoffs. 

“I can be sincere, I really feel like I’m on a brief checklist and there are extra cuts coming,” she stated. “I do not know what the logic of the layoffs was. I do not perceive it.” 

Indeed, when employers aren’t clear about why some workers have been laid off and others weren’t, it may set off deep emotions of insecurity. 

“Employees who keep at an organization after layoffs usually really feel anxiousness round the way forward for the corporate,” stated Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of The Muse, a profession growth platform. “It might be laborious as a result of most employers cannot or will not touch upon why sure individuals have been chosen for layoffs and others weren’t.”

“It could also be associated to budgets and firm priorities, or efficiency. Or it could possibly be considerably random, and that ambiguity and lack of concrete info might be scary to individuals,” she added. 

And within the period of distant work, workers typically do not even know which of their colleagues have been lower.

“Sometimes you do not even know who was let go till you ship them an electronic mail and get an autoresponder again,” profession transition coach Catherine Morgan informed CBS MoneyWatch. 

Psychological “tsunami results”

Wrestling with these complicated feelings can erode layoff survivors’ belief in an organization and, in flip, have an effect on their productiveness and efficiency on the job. 

“It creates a number of paranoia and due to that, you get a number of mistrust inside a corporation with these large-scale layoffs,” stated office psychological well being skilled Sally Spencer-Thomas. “Workers will query if the group has their well-being at coronary heart or if they’re solely profit-making. So there are a number of psychological tsunami results that occur after a mass layoff.”

Companies that actively put together their workforce for layoffs typically have higher outcomes. Steps that may reassure staffers embrace speaking the rationale for the layoffs and offering details about the corporate’s future. Leaders who “deal in emotions and feelings” and host “grieving and venting periods” can maintain workers’ confidence in an organization intact, in keeping with Noer.

“That’s what will get divested in a transition like that. So taking motion, steps to rebuild that belief, is important,” Spencer-Thomas stated. 

“Career cushioning” a growing trend among workers as layoffs continue across U.S.


For layoff survivors, reaching out to former colleagues can even typically make each events really feel higher. 

“It’s essential to be in contact with individuals who have left. They want help as a lot because the individuals left behind. It feels good to know colleagues cared about you and wish to keep pals, as a result of that feeling of being booted out is so painful,” she added. 

It can assist mitigate emotions of guilt for having been spared one’s job, too, Minshew stated. 

“One of essentially the most highly effective issues somebody can do to deal with layoff survivor guilt is to actively attain out to and join with and assist these individuals at your organization who have been affected,” she stated. “You could be a highly effective asset to their job search by introducing them to different contacts and corporations, providing to function a constructive reference or be useful in reviewing their resume or LinkedIn profile.”