Dealing With Layoff Anxiety: 6 Practical Tips

Article title: 6 practical tips for reducing layoff anxiety

If you’re feeling anxiety about layoffs, you are far from alone. According to Zippia.com, between June 2021-June 2022 there have been 7.736 million private industry layoffs. Tech has been particularly hard hit, with bad news coming from companies like Netflix, Peloton, Robinhood, and of course Twitter.  According to CrunchBase, more than 42,000 workers in tech lost their jobs as of early October 2022. But the news isn’t sector-specific – Walmart has announced that it is laying off almost 1,500 workers.   And fears are that this might be the tip of the iceberg – according to Business Insider, a recent Brookings Institute report predicts more layoffs over the next two years to help fight inflation.

It’s all enough to cause a tsunami of anxiety. But instead of stewing in a state of panic, is there anything you can actually do if you’re worried about potential layoffs?  The first thing to do is gather information.

Read The Room: Recognize The Signs of Impending Layoffs

Try to distinguish between anxiety you may have due to layoffs in the news and whether you have cause for concern within your own company.  According to a recent article in Fast Company, these are some tell-tale signs that indicate that layoffs may be on the horizon.

  • Cost-cutting. If you’re working in an office, have you noticed that perks at work are getting cut or reduced? This could mean everything from a cheaper brand of coffee in the coffee machine to limits on meal expenses when you’re working late. For those of you working at home, maybe your company is no longer funding things like gym memberships or learning development opportunities.  
  • Hiring or salary freezes. This is the most obvious red flag that your employer is in major cost-cutting mode. If your company implements hiring or raises freezes, your nervousness about potential job layoffs is probably justified.

Even if you don’t notice any of these signs, this doesn’t mean you can rest easy. Don’t give in to anxiety, but also don’t be complacent.  You should still keep your ear to the ground.  However, if your company is (relatively) secure, stressing about potential layoffs means you risk depleting your energy – and possibly negatively impacting your job performance at a time when it is more important than ever.

So what if you’ve done some sleuthing and determined that your employer is considering layoffs?  Here are the experts’ six top tips on how to cope.

Tip 1: Don’t Panic

According to career strategist and leadership coach Andrea Warr, panicking is the worst thing you can do. “Being the calm influence in the storm can enhance your value to the organization as well as enhance relationships with leaders, peers, and your network,” says Warr. An added advantage of keeping a cool head is that you can think more strategically about concrete steps you can take to enhance your value.

“Think like a business. Could you shift your work to more directly impact profits? In a downturn, those are the things that count.”
Headshot of Andrea WarrAndrea Warr, Leadership Coach
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Tip 2: Analyze Your Role – And Increase Your Visibility

“Think like a business,” says Warr. “Ask yourself whether what you do is essential to the core business objectives. If not, consider if there is a way to shift your work to more directly impact profits or customer delivery. In a downturn, those are the things that count.”

Tip 3: Communicate Your Value

Communicating about your work to higher-ups is key, says career coach Emily Lamia.  “Think about what matters most to your boss and… and then be sure that you draw connections for them between those things and the work you’re doing. If you know your boss is concerned about keeping clients happy or retaining a specific account, be sure to keep them updated on specific positive feedback you’ve gotten from clients, or what you’re doing to retain that account.”  Too often, Lamia adds, people think it’s enough to just do good work.  “Unfortunately,” she adds, “you also have to make sure others know the good work you’re doing.”

Tip 4: Network

If you haven’t been keeping up with your professional network (and hopefully you have!) now is the time to re-engage. As Lamia says, “There is never a bad time to keep your network warm.”  She advises making time for regular meet-ups with people working in similar areas or industries that you can ‘talk shop’ with.  “Trade best practices or updates in a way that lets people know the good work you’re doing and keeps you open to hearing about what other opportunities might be out there.”

Tip 5: Polish Your Resume

Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, it’s a good idea to be resume-ready.   Having a resume that demonstrates your results and value is important at any time, but even more so when you sense that there’s a possibility you’ll be on the job market soon.

Tip 6: Start Researching Target Companies

Surprisingly, for some people layoff anxiety can be allayed by imagining the worst-case scenario says executive coach Melody Wilder.  In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, she describes something she terms “defensive pessimism.” By imagining what you’d do if you were laid off, she says, you can begin taking proactive steps such as setting the stage for a job search.  

A lot of job seekers overlook doing target company research. It takes time and strategy, but the effort will pay off. You may discover an up-and-coming company that is exactly what you’re looking for! 
Sarah Johnston HeadshotSarah Johnston, Career Expert and Coach
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Career Expert, Sarah Johnston thinks a lot of jobseekers overlook target company research and in turrn miss out on great opportunities. “They identify 3-5 places of interest and put all of their “eggs in those baskets.” This is unwise–especially in a downturn economy where many employers are on hiring freezes or are reducing headcount. I recommend building a list of 25-35 target companies. It takes time and strategy, but the effort will pay off. You may discover an up-and-coming company that is exactly what you’re looking for!”

One way to start is by researching target companies – essentially creating a job search roadmap. While this task can be time-consuming, it’s a great way to remind yourself that there are companies out there that match your job parameters and are seeking employees with your skill set. Johnston discusses the importance of building a target list in this video.

If you don’t have time to do the research, consider outsourcing. Johnston’s company, Briefcase Coach offers this service as one of their paid service offerings. Briefcase Coach has access to the paid tools that result in a deeper dive than most individuals can do on their own.

Tips for Anxiety from Layoff Survivors

So, what if are one of those lucky ones who survived a layoff? Contrary to popular belief, those who have survived a layoff often have a new set of challenges to grapple with. For example, you could be dealing with everything from grief over losing colleagues you cared about to fear over you will handle the increased workload that you may be inheriting. In a recent LinkedIn post, career expert Jessica Sweet detailed key steps to take to ensure you don’t burn out.

“An escape hatch is psychological safety.”
Jessica Sweet HeadshotJessica Sweet, Career Coach
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Take care of yourself. Make self-care a priority, even if you are short on time.
Prepare for a job search.  Being ready to search for a job will give you some breathing room if you decide you need to start looking soon. An escape hatch is psychological safety.
Enforce boundaries.  “An organization in crisis is going to overreach its boundaries,” says Sweet, “but that doesn’t mean you have to let it. Decide what your boundaries are and hold them.”

Finally, think of others who have gone through a layoff and respond with empathy and support. Senior talent acquisition expert Ana Maria Escobar Fonseca summed this up best in a recent LI post about tech layoffs. Briefly, she advises that employees:

  • Reach out to those recently laid off.
  • Check in with those that weren’t impacted. They lost colleagues and may be experiencing a wide range of different emotions ranging from fear to gratefulness, anxiety, and relief.
  • Contact those who were involved in making the decision.  All too often people forget how stressful it is to be involved in firing decisions that impact people they have worked alongside for months or even years.  They may be struggling with feelings of guilt and worry.

Layoff Anxiety Q&A

How do I know if I should be worried about my job?
Do some discreet sleuthing.  If your company is cutting back on perks, these are signs that they may be looking to cut more costs by decreasing headcount. 
What can I do to protect my job? 
Don’t panic, but try to find ways to make your work more visible to higher-ups. If appropriate, ask your boss for additional responsibilities which will increase your perceived value.  Try to stay positive and project confidence.
Should I start looking for a new job?
At the very least, re-engage in networking if you haven’t been doing it in a while. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure your resume is in top shape.You might also consider researching target companies for a future job search.
I’ve survived a layoff – now what?
Focus on your work  and think about things you can do (professional courses, networking, etc.) – that would polish up your skill set and set the stage for a job search. Reach out to colleagues who were let go, and provide a sympathetic ear (and offer to utilize your network to help them).

Additional Resources

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Author

  • Sarah Midori Zimmerman

    Sarah is a writer and editor covering hospitality, travel, technology, and work topics. A former editor at Town & Country magazine, she is also a ghostwriter and college essay specialist. She was shortlisted for the V.S. Pritchett Prize and the Mogford Short Story Prize two years ago. She lives in London with her family.

Sarah Pociask

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