Sally and Debbie worked in the same department for the last three years. Sally use to eat lunch with Debbie every day, they were inseparable, and celebrate many departmental wins over the years over drinks at happy hour. Their friendship was not limited to just work as their families were close and they even shared holidays and weekend activities together.
Then the pandemic swept across the country and Debbie was one of the employees caught up in a national downsizing; Sally remained at a company that lost over 40 percent of the company and was responsible for the success of her team. Not sure if this term is well known, but Survivor’s Guilt pertains to how an employee may feel after a massive layoff has occurred. With all of the transitioning that has been caused by the pandemic, I wanted to provide a few scenarios and tips of how to help those move forward after colleagues have been left behind.
1. Be Thankful. In many situations people who miss the chopping block feel as if they are betraying their colleagues if they are happy it wasn’t them. That is a very negative way to think about it. Your staying does not mean that, Debbie, in this instance, did anything wrong. So be thankful that your family did not have to endure the heighten anxiety of a layoff.
2. Be a Big Picture Thinker. After the initial shock wears off, many people become angry at their employer for the layoff. However, I encourage you to not let anger guide your emotions. It does not do anything for you or the friend you lost. Instead, try to put yourself in, your direct report’s, business owner’s or the CEO’s, who runs the company, muddy shoes. Think of how difficult it must have been for them to make such a horrific decision that would affect the lives of those let go and their families. Try to understand how such a decision may have been made to actually save a business that was impacted by loss of customers, ability to operate fully and loss of revenue. It’s enough to keep a person up at night for days and many had to make the most difficult decision of their careers.
3. Stay Positive For Your Friend’s Sake. Though your friend is going through a tough time, stay positive. Be a good listener if they need to vent but do not allow them to focus solely on the negative aspects of your employer. Help them focus on things that can help them move by getting fully prepared for a new position. If they are not immediately hired, refer them to the vCandidates.com’s 90-Day subscription. We have waived the cost for this three-month subscription that will help them with career development support, such as resume review, mock interviews, journaling and more and then connects them directly to vetted recruiters. This will help them stay busy and help them be more competitive in the job marketplace.
4. Help Your Colleague Network. See if your other friends, connections, or colleagues have leads to other job opportunities that you can refer to your friend. Even better, be one of their references who speaks about their work ethic and can tout their strengths.
5. Check In With Them. If you are not as close as the paragraph above described, then check in with them in the first week they were let go. Not to gossip, but to see how they are coping with their being laid off. Let them talk and let them know they are missed. I would also then recommend to send a text or tag them within a social media post. This will keep them connected and helps them to not feel abandoned.
6. Make New Friends On The Job. When employees bond, they can sometimes alienate themselves from other coworkers, creating an insulated world that disappears when a someone leaves the company. To avoid feeling lonely or left out of conversations, befriend other coworkers. You do not have to create the same type of relationship you had with your previous colleague, but it is healthy to maintain a sense of belonging on the job.
7. Check with HR to see if there are any resources for those suffering from survivor’s guilt. More and more companies are adding programs, discussion sessions and adding resources for their employees to be able to cope with Survivor’s Guilt. If they do not, you may want to speak with your HR department about finding resources to help.
Survivor’s Guilt may be a natural feeling or outcome when someone you know is let go. We hope these tips above can help you work through this feeling.
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We’re here to help. Reach out to us if you’d like to talk.