Laid Off: 5 practices for those that stay

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jan 02

The big news about a layoff is all about the people being laid off. The rumor mill focuses on all of those laid off, not with those that stay.

Typically, little attention is spent on the people who stay at the company and who were not laid off. Yet their position, I believe, is the more tenuous.

You see, a person laid off now has a much simplified goal: find another position. Sure, there is lots to do with finances and emotions and timing and applying; but, all of that relates to the work on finding a new position.

But for people who stay at their positions, a lot of things are now up in the air: who will do the work, how will the work get done, who do we go to now for support, and many other questions just like that are asked all of the time.

All that was working — good or bad — is no longer working. What’s a Cubicle Warrior to do?

Here are five practices to focus on when you are impacted by a layoff but stay in your position:

  1. Focus on performance. It is natural to step back, reassess, and even be concerned about the next shoe dropping — on you. But, keep working and focus on completion of tasks. Work needs to be done and managers are looking at people who are doing the work.
  2. Ask what should no longer be done. Assuming the people laid off were doing real work, there should now not be enough people to do the same amount of work. Your choice in this situation is to either work 80-hours a week to make up for those who are gone or question what should no longer be done. If a management team simply says we’ll do the same work with fewer people, they have a serious inability to judge what is important to the business and what is no longer important, transferring that inability to judge onto the number of hours that you work.
  3. Deal with ambiguity. For a while, the management team will not know how to put the pieces together again. It will take time to reassign work and to understand the implications of no longer doing things that were done before. This means having patience while the work sorts itself out. How well you deal with this ambiguity during this time is important for your sanity and your performance.
  4. Understand Corporate Speak. Management will come out with statements about the meaning of the layoff and what comes next. But the purpose of a layoff should not only be cutting costs, but also a redefinition of the direction of a department. If all you are communicated is to continue to focus on the work and you don’t hear any change in direction, be concerned that the worst isn’t over yet.
  5. Decide to stay or go. Layoffs can be a good thing for those that remain. If your management team re-defines the work, focuses on that which is important, and effectively moves on, there can be many opportunities for those that remain. If, on the other hand, all you are seeing and hearing is more of the same things you heard before the layoff, you need to seriously consider the long-term viability of your position in the company. A month after the layoff is complete, sit down and analyze what has changed and make a decision to stay or to go.

The stress levels of those that remain at company after a layoff go up significantly simply because of all of the unknowns that now exist from the management decision to lay people off. Working these five practices will help you maintain control of your work, reducing your stress, while protecting your interests.


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.