The first time I experienced the terror and uncertainty of a “reduction in force,” I was on a short break away from my desk when I got a frantic text from a coworker. “Joe is gone,” it read. “Sandy is gone, Joe is gone, and I think they just called James from his office.” My stomach dropped. My palms were sweaty. Facing cutbacks is never easy, and until this point our department had remained relatively untouched. The afternoon wore on, and the cuts kept coming. In those fearful moments, I stayed relatively calm. I prayed that I might keep my job, but that if God had different plans for me, I was on board. Like, literally on board. I visualized myself in the boat with Our Lord, who has authority over the wind and the waves and the storms of our lives. I saw myself riding out the storm with Him at the helm, no matter what. Practically speaking, I also packed up my office, just in case.
I kept my job, thanks be to God. But what about my coworkers – my friends – who were escorted out of the building? What about those of us left behind with “survivor’s guilt?” During the days and weeks after the layoffs, we all felt hollow. It was like someone had sheared off the top of a busy ant’s nest, and the worker ants went nuts when we saw sunlight instead of layers of a ceiling and roof over our heads. Everything was hazy as the company realigned leadership to create a new normal and blaze a trail forward, and those that left sought and found other meaningful work in sometimes new and unexpected ways.
How do we handle and process all of this? I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way.
- Pray about it. You need grace to get you through this time, sister! Start with the Litany of Humility each day. I find it to be a great way to mentally and spiritually prepare for whatever God has in mind for my life in general. I also like the St. Josemaria novena for work. Offer Mass; frequent the Eucharist. You need grace!
- Talk about it. Ask your HR department if your company offers an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) that often covers a certain amount of counseling sessions that may help you work come up with a positive plan forward. Equally important is to seek advice from a priest or spiritual director, who can help you to combat the spiritual attack that tends to arise when you’re already feeling down. If you don’t have a spiritual director, I encourage you to try and find one. You can get started on your search here. Also helpful can be a trusted mentor or friend, perhaps another working mom, whose past guidance has been sound. Journal your thoughts, feelings, worries, hopes, and disappointments. Talking (and/or writing) helps you process your fears and clarify what your particular struggles are during this time.
- Recognize the opportunity for development and growth. Take a class in something related to your role, or better yet, a role you’d like to have. Be proactive and have conversations with your supervisor that clearly define how you’d like to navigate yourself within the company or industry. If you don’t already have one, find a mentor that you trust and solicit their feedback on things you can be working on as you wait for the dust to settle (or – worst case scenario – as you prepare for a job search.)
Have you ever been in a position where you were laid off or had close coworkers who were? What were your strategies for survival during that time?