The Pain of a Layoff

Being laid-off is like having food poisoning, you only really know how it feels when it happens to you! It doesn’t matter if you were personally singled out in a restructure (aka a polite word for we don’t want you any more) or part of a larger workforce reduction – it hurts!  It is personal.

A few months ago, I threw out this topic idea on LinkedIn and was surprised at the number of responses I received.  Here are the most common phrases used during my interviews with other victims: traumatic, complete surprise, devastated, blind-sided, disrespected, betrayed, and life-changing. Regardless of their loyalty to their boss or the company, seniority, ethics, character and work history – it happened and it hurt.

The most important factor in how a person felt about the decision maker and the company itself was in how the message was delivered and how the exit process played out.  Delivering the message with humanity softened the blow.  Treating people, the person being laid-off and their co-workers, with respect and compassion encouraged acceptance.

People who were treated with respect, allowed to gracefully leave the premises, and to say goodbye, generally regarded the company as being good despite having a disappointing ending. People who were treated more like a criminal or like they were fired, generally had very negative feelings about the company.

For many people, they were forced to leave their field or industry, accept a lower title and/or salary, or take a temporary contract.  It was more difficult to find a similar position when the person was over 50.

For me, the unthinkable happened on August 29, 2013.  After almost 10 years with Altitude, I was told that I was being restructured out of a job.  It was the politically correct way for Kim to say that she wanted to bring in her own guy.  Sadly so, my final moments spent at the network that I helped to build were humiliating.  I felt disrespectful and betrayed.  I was crushed. It was not the ending I had wanted, for me or my team.

In addition the anger and sadness, I had an identity crisis.  Since I was 19, I was thankful to be in the sports television business. I was proud of my career and all that I had earned.  In an instant, my title and my great job had been stripped away.  For the first time in my life, I was unemployed. After thousands of tears, I realized that my title and the company I work for does not define me. My talents and my actions define me. They can’t take that away.

I was taught that if you worked hard with good ethics that you could be anything you wanted to be. I was taught that how you work is more important than the work you do. I was taught that loyalty to a company will be rewarded and returned. The reality is that these things are important and should be honored. The harsher reality is that the scales of your fate can be tipped by economics or simply by the choice made by someone else.

If you know someone who has been the victim of a layoff, be kind and compassionate. You don’t know how it feels unless it has happened to you. Being laid-off is the dramatic ending of a relationship. People need time to go through each stage of grief. Each person deals with it in their own time and in their own way. Remember that it could happen to you too. No title is sacred and no person is immune.

Everything happens for a reason. God has a plan for each of us and we are in the place He wants us to be.  I pray that God will continue to heal each of us and our families from the the pain caused by the layoff.  I pray that we will have better and more-fulfilling jobs.  I pray that we will have a better work-life balance.  I pray that we will be able to remember the good times at that company and to forget the bad.  I pray that it never happens to us again.

And life goes on……