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A single wishy with the text Last One Standing: How to Survive Remaining After a Mass Layoff

If you’ve ever been the only one left in your department after a round of layoffs, you know how overwhelming it can be to suddenly have all that extra work on your plate. Department of 8? Try party of one. It can be an emotionally draining experience, often traumatizing, and it’s completely normal to feel grief and sadness for your coworkers, guilt that you still have a job, and anger at your supervisors who did this to you.

But when layoffs happen at an organization, it’s because things are not going well. There’s no time for processing, let alone a break. How do you survive all the extra work and manage your grief and guilt at the same time? Here are a few tips to help you get through it:

Take breaks

It’s always important to take breaks, especially when you feel like you don’t have time. Taking breaks can help you to recharge and refocus, which can make you more productive in the long run. This never feels true in the moment, but it always is. Exhaustion makes a 15 minute task take an hour. Take a 30-minute break, do it in 15 minutes, and save 15 minutes!

Reach out for support

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and sad after a round of layoffs. Reach out to a friend or family member for support, or consider talking to a therapist to help you process your emotions. Processing is key to being able to work through how you feel while continuing to do the work you need to do to keep your job.

Set boundaries

It can be tempting to try to do everything on your own after a layoff, but it’s important to set boundaries and ask for help when you need it. This can help you to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This might include not taking calls on weekends or not responding to emails after 6 PM. These boundaries should align with your needs and your life.

Focus on what you can control

It’s natural to feel anxious and worried after a layoff, but try to focus on what you can control. And what’s out of your control? You have to release your obligation to those tasks, situations, people, etc. You can control your own actions, not other people’s. You can control what you say “yes” or “no” to, not how people respond to that.

Take care of yourself

Make sure to prioritize your health and well-being during this stressful time. This might mean getting enough sleep, eating well, and finding time for activities that help you relax and de-stress. I love going for a 30-minute walk every day. Some folks need to journal or meditate. Find your non-negotiables and work them into your day.

Remember that it’s not personal

You being kept, someone else being laid off, these are business decisions that have nothing to do with your worth. You are worthy. Your work is not your identity.

Look for opportunities

While it may be difficult to think about at first, it’s important to remember that layoffs within an organization can bring opportunities. Can you get a new title for taking on more work? Can you take on a task that will look great on your resume? Can you get some budget or management experience? Look for ways to take on new responsibilities or explore new career paths without having to take big risks.

 

One last tip: A lot of folks remaining at an organization after a mass layoff feel guilt. Because they feel so guilty, they avoid talking, texting, emailing, or even checking in at all on their former colleagues. This avoidance makes the folks who have been laid off feel terrible, and it does nothing to help the folks remaining feel better. Isolation makes everything worse. Instead, focus on connection. It’s not their fault or your fault; you’re both experiencing the effects of a toxic system. Connect genuinely, in a method that feels good to you, instead of shunning people.

It’s not easy to survive all the extra work and manage your grief and sadness after a layoff. Whether we like it or not (I don’t like it), work has become a primary community for us all. But by taking care of yourself, setting strong boundaries with your work, and centering the human connection, you can navigate this very difficult circumstance, survive it, and come out whole on the other side.

Cristin with one hand on her hip and the other pointing up to the side

Heyo, I'm Cristin!