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The Human Side of Layoffs: A Call for Empathy in Corporate Transitions

In recent months, a noticeable trend has emerged across various online platforms—from X to LinkedIn to the familiar Slack channels we frequent. It’s clear that each passing week brings with it news of layoffs. Let’s acknowledge it—whether you call it being made redundant, laid off, or a restructuring impact, the experience is undeniably tough.

The Initial Impact: Coping with the Uncertainty

The aftermath of such announcements is marked by an unsettling mix of personal and professional uncertainty. Questions about what comes next and where the next role lies can be overwhelming. Compounding the challenge is the astonishing number of applicants vying for every advertised position. It’s akin to searching for a Unicorn in the idyllic landscapes of middle Surrey, England— an impossible, exhausting task.

  • Start with Self-Reflection: Before diving into job hunting, assess your skills, interests, and career goals. Use resources like MyNextMove to explore potential careers based on your preferences.
  • Optimize Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile: Craft a compelling resume and ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. Websites like ResumeGenius can guide you in creating a standout resume, while LinkedIn’s Job Search Guide helps you optimise your profile.
  • Explore Diverse Job Platforms: Utilize various job boards especially those set up for Devrel  and platforms to cast a wide net. Websites like Indeed offer a broad range of opportunities, while industry-specific platforms such as Idealist focus on non-profit and social impact jobs

The Stress of Returning to the Office

Adding to the stress is the return to the office, with many roles no longer truly remote. This shift intensifies the pressure of securing a new role, creating unprecedented levels of stress for those in transition. All of those opportunities that were open to us only a short while ago—positions in different regions, different countries, different parts of the world— now all appear to be closed, leaving us with a much narrower pool of jobs than we would have expected. Instead of searching globally for our ideal jobs, many are now stuck looking within their own postal/zip codes.

I strongly believe that companies should embrace remote work, especially considering its proven productivity during the pandemic. This approach expands the talent pool, allowing the possibility of hiring individuals who might not have been considered due to geographical constraints. By adopting a remote-friendly approach, organizations can focus on selecting the best candidates based on skills and suitability rather than proximity to a physical office 

Handling Layoffs: The Need for Transparency

So, how do we navigate this challenging landscape and make the journey less painful? In my view, it begins on the day the announcement is made. The way it’s handled is crucial—clear and transparent communication is paramount for those directly affected.

In an ideal layoff scenario, companies should follow these clear steps:

Transparent Communication:
Clearly communicate the reasons for the layoffs, ensuring employees understand the business rationale behind the decision.

Open Discussion:
Foster an open dialogue with affected employees, providing them with an opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification on the decision.

Support Mechanisms:
Implement support measures, such as outplacement services and retraining programs, to assist affected employees in their transition.

Empathy and Understanding:
Demonstrate empathy and understanding throughout the process, acknowledging the impact on individuals and emphasizing the company’s commitment to employee well-being.

Ongoing Communication:
Maintain ongoing communication with both affected and remaining employees, keeping them informed about the company’s future plans and addressing concerns as they arise.

By following these steps, companies can navigate layoffs in a more transparent, supportive, and empathetic manner, minimising the negative impact on their workforce.

Isolation in the Remote Workspace

The moment you receive the news during a routine 1:1 with your manager, and HR unexpectedly joins, is a profound one. Some of you may know the feeling—shock, anger, sadness, and disbelief, all rolled into one short conversation. Suddenly cut off from your work tools, you find yourself at home, questioning the reality of the situation. Working from home can magnify feelings of isolation, leaving you uncertain about whom to turn to and wondering who else is grappling with the same situation.

It’s easy to say just jump into it and start job searching.Take a moment instead of feeling guilty or compelled to write a handover document, focus on taking care of yourself first. Remember, it’s essential to prioritise your needs and not let unnecessary guilt weigh you down. Connect with friends, family, or a support network to share your feelings and experiences. Socializing can provide emotional support and different perspectives during this challenging time.

Left Behind: Navigating the Unknown

For those who remain, the uncertainty continues. You learn of a departure only when a colleague’s Slack is disabled or your manager calls an unexpected team meeting. The organisation chart becomes the only confirmation of a loss, leaving you waiting for communication and dreading the possibility of you being the next to get cut from the team.

In times like these, it’s tough to figure out the best approach. Should you keep your head down, have a supportive call with friends, or perhaps get an unexpected LinkedIn reference? There’s no right or wrong answer. It was heartening to hear from some, but equally revealing when others didn’t reach out. It’s a reminder that in the world of work, what you might perceive as close relationships may not always be there when you need them.

A Call for Empathy: Companies Must Do Better

It’s time for companies to step up. They demand a lot from their employees in times of need—to meet deadlines, achieve OKRs, drive sales, and deliver products. When the inevitable layoffs happen, treating employees with kindness and empathy isn’t just an expectation; it should be the gold standard of care. Failing to do so is not just unkind; it’s downright cruel.

Avoid Firings on Fridays:
I feel like this shouldn’t need to be said but yet it still happens! Choose alternative days for terminations to provide employees with immediate access to support resources and avoid the negative psychological impact often associated with weekend layoffs.

Provide Supportive Resources:
Offer comprehensive support resources, such as counselling services, job placement assistance, or access to training programs. Demonstrating a commitment to employees’ well-being can ease the transition.

Clear and Compassionate Communication:
Communicate the decision clearly, providing the rationale behind it. Show empathy and offer a kind word to help soften the emotional impact. Transparent communication fosters trust and understanding.

Opportunity for Farewell:
Don’t be a Di%k – Allow employees the opportunity to say goodbye to colleagues and transition out of the company gracefully. This can help individuals emotionally and maintain positive relationships within the professional network.

Reevaluate Severance Packages:
Reassess and improve severance packages to provide financial stability during the transitional period. This reflects a commitment to supporting employees even after their departure.

Flexible Transition Plans:
Develop flexible transition plans that consider individual circumstances. Providing options for phased exits or temporary remote work can offer employees more control over their departure.

Post-Layoff Support:
Continue providing support after the layoff. Regular check-ins, career guidance, and networking opportunities can contribute to employees’ ongoing well-being and professional development.

By incorporating these practices, companies can navigate layoffs with greater compassion and consideration, minimizing the negative impact on employees’ mental health and overall experience during a challenging period.

LinkedIn Realities: A Double-Edged Sword

While LinkedIn has proven to be a valuable platform for networking and engagement, it also reveals a downside when faced with redundancy. Seeing former colleagues post about social gatherings, office events, and golf outings like nothing has happened can be emotionally challenging. The realisation that you may never see these individuals again, perhaps never even having met due to travel restrictions, can lead to reflections on organisational priorities.

This I think was the hardest to see, and I know many others now go through this, you’re told cuts are being paid due to cost savings so how is it ok to see parties and expensive trips happening without feeling like better decisions could be made. How I and others coped, was sending memes on WhatsApp, everyone has their own way of dealing with things. Everyone will do it differently, don’t judge people!

A Call for Balance: Supporting Those Left Behind

As we navigate these challenges, there is a plea for balance. Organisations investing in social gatherings should also consider the well-being of their employees. The ability to fund such events raises questions about whether resources could have been allocated differently to retain staff and provide better support during layoffs. 

I believe there should be more balance between keeping those who are left feeling comfortable and engaged and having empathy for those who were left behind, many of whom are still watching from the wings to see if they’ve already been forgotten. 

A Call for Reflection and Empathy

As we contemplate the broader impact of these global layoffs, it’s essential to reflect on the human toll across all walks of life. The job market upheavals affect individuals deeply, emphasising the need for compassion and understanding. Let’s move forward with the awareness that, beyond the numbers and statistics, real people are navigating the uncertainty of these times.

Now, more than ever, we have to treat each other with kindness and lend a helping hand or a listening ear to those who need us, and to those who are too afraid to ask for help.

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