We are in the midst of a relentless wave of layoffs.  It's really sad how normal and mechanical it is becoming to business leaders, investors, and all of us. 

Sudden job loss is among the top 5 most traumatic events in one’s life and compared similarly to the death of a loved one, major illness, or divorce. 

That might be hard for most folks to viscerally comprehend. But I know it and believe it as I experienced this firsthand and I have talked to 100+ people who were laid off recently. It’s heartbreaking to see the level of suffering and the emotional cocktail of shock, anxiety, shame, guilt, resentment, sadness, uncertainty, and loss of identity and community, that most people cycle through day after day, over a long time. 

This may be an unfortunate reality of our corporate and market system, but we can do better.

If you were laid off

This is extremely hard, and everything you are feeling and going through is valid and rough. So please take care and give yourself permission and space to feel and heal. 
  • Don’t blame or shame yourself - this didn’t happen because of you; take a cue from CEOs and investors who are deflecting to the macro conditions
  • Remind yourself you are so much more than your job. Talk to your parents, spend time with family and friends, continue your hobbies, spend more time in nature. 
  • Treat yourself to small acts of joy and self-care every day - good sleep, meeting friends, going on walks, journaling, gratitude, etc. Whatever brings you joy. Don't forget the basic shit. You need it and deserve it after what you have gone through. 
  • Reach out to kind friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers on LinkedIn for support - most folks will try to help. 
  • Create an actionable plan to address and calm practical concerns about finances and career. 
  • If you feel wronged and angry, know that’s natural and valid. Seek justice or forgive but try not to let resentment take over your life and mind. 
  • Also remember that life is going to be filled with change and uncertainty, and painful at times. You only learn and build resilience through experience and openness. Trust that you’ll emerge stronger, wiser, and kinder.

Company leaders and Boards

It’s a tough time for you as well and I understand your primary obligation is to shareholders and keeping the lights on. But unless you are a very small company, it probably is not as dire or traumatic as what your laid-off employees are going to face. You probably aren't worried about paying rent and buying food for your family, but it's more about cementing your ego and generating X% better returns for you and your already well-off investors. 

If you really need to do a layoff, please do it right, with generosity and humanity, so that those who are affected get more safety and closure. The true test of you and your company's values and principles is during times like now. It’s a small world and the goodwill (or bad will) you create will eventually impact you and your shareholders (at least I wish that's how it works).
  • Talk to at least a few people who have been laid off previously, especially those who are early in their career and not well off, to understand what they go through and develop some deep empathy.
  • Don’t skimp on stuff like severance, healthcare, paying out unused PTOs, or bonuses just because you legally can. If you find it damaging to share the details of the severance publicly, you probably haven’t done enough. 
  • Don’t say empty words without accompanying actions, and don't make lofty promises that you can’t keep, like being a family. That's naivety at best and manipulation at worst. 
  • Be more considerate to those who are on visas, or on paternity, bereavement, and medical leave. 
  • Don’t hire more people than you can sustainably support. Build a sustainable business. 
  • Treat people with as much dignity and respect as you can. You are showing them the door suddenly, so be extremely considerate about how you do it.

Middle management and colleagues

You carry the burden of secretly knowing/planning the layoff and having to follow through on it, bound by corporate rules and script. You also have the unenviable task of keeping up your team's morale and digging the business out of the hole after the layoffs. 
  • Don’t forget the human impact this business decision has. Be kind through the process and don’t lie or mislead. 
  • Don’t just move on with business as usual - proactively check in 1:1 to see how your laid-off team and colleagues are doing and do what you can to help them land on their feet. People will remember and appreciate how you made them feel for a long time.