The Emotional Toll of Mass Layoffs

facing the emotions of being laid off

During my morning walk, I read the headline that Meta was laying off 13% of their workers–more than 11,000 people. While I didn’t personally know anyone impacted by this, I felt myself frown down at my phone as I continued reading. For a moment, I noticed my shoulders tense up. This was the same headline I had been reading throughout 2022, just with a different company name – swap Meta for Amazon, Twitter, DocuSign, Peloton, or Zillow. In 2022 there have been notable layoffs, and every time I learned of one, I had an immediate emotional reaction.  

Label Your Emotions

It’s hard not to apply the news to your immediate situation and wonder, “what if my company does a layoff like this?” I took a moment to stop and recognize the emotion that I was feeling.  I tried to feel my emotion physically (Self-Awareness Strategy #4), so that I could label my emotion. I realized I was feeling some fear and anxiety when I was reading these headlines.     

These companies are names we have come to trust, even unconsciously, because of their exposure and impact on our lives. When companies we perceive to have stability waiver in the job market, an alarm can ring in our head.  This might impact the phycological safety that we feel in our own jobs.  A gentle reminder that at the end of the day, “it’s just business” can help with our perspective.  

Lean Into Your Discomforts

Whether you’ve been through a layoff or you sense one is around the corner, working in a headspace of fear and anxiety has been shown to harm performance in the long run.  Telling yourself, “I don’t want to feel this way. I am going to focus on what I can control,” might allow for a moment of relief, but the emotion you are avoiding might continue to resurface. When we want to suppress or avoid an emotion, using Self-Awareness Strategy #3, Lean into Your Discomfort, can help you work through those emotions so that you can eventually work past them.  Talk to a trusted colleague or friend and be open with the emotions that are surfacing.   

Prepare for Possibilities

Finally, I recognized and accepted that I was feeling fear. I realized that layoffs would induce fear because of the sudden change that would be imminent. Self-Management Strategy 17, “Accept that Change is Just Around the Corner,” helps address how to support our emotions during change.  

In the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, it is recommended to set aside some time to create a list of important changes you think could possibly happen. Then it asks you to envision the change and write what you could do to prepare. Writing out lists of what we can and can’t control can help us prepare for change, potentially cushion the blow, and move past emotions like fear.   

You might not be able to control whether you are impacted by layoffs, but by labeling your emotions, leaning into your discomfort and preparing for the various possibilities, you will be setting yourself up for success no matter the outcome. 

These strategies were adapted from the book, “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Dr. Travis Bradberry & Dr. Jean Greaves. For more strategies that can help you navigate stressful situations and deal with change, check out all of the TalentSmart EQ books.  To learn about corporate training programs on emotionally intelligent strategies to help with change management, please contact us.

Amy Miller is the Senior Manager of Assessment Service at TalentSmartEQ. For more information, please check out additional resources at: 

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