No matter how pissed you are, don’t go nuclear. I’m not an expert on many things. I know how to make soup in all kinds. I once overreacted when I was once laid off and I know how to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I know a lot about shujaa comic books, but that’s not a unique area of expertise, really. But I am an expert in getting laid off. Now, I’m not suggesting I’m an expert in macroeconomics or workforce reduction management. No. I just know what it feels like to be led into a room and informed that I’m obsolete, then told to get out sometimes nicely, sometimes not.
My bona fides in this regard: I was first laid off in 2017. I worked for a company that sells things like eBay or Amazon or Alibaba, and that you are comfortable taking as a choice. My experience then qualifies me to write up some suggestions for courses of action for those who have been unceremoniously separated from their job. Now, I’m not offering up tips on the days, weeks and months that are going to follow. I’m just sharing how a gentleperson should deal with the immediate news that they’re no longer employed.
I’m not inclined to new-age platitudes, but you’re going to have to breathe deeply the moment it happens. Layoffs come in like the fog, on little cat’s feet. Everything is fine until it isn’t. You’ll notice a sudden, strange, calendar invite one night. Or leadership will have been locked away in a meeting room for days, and you’ll wonder, Well, that’s odd.
That said, it doesn’t really matter whether you had a clue what was coming or not, because it blows either way. I mean, we all know death is coming for us one day but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a surprise when the inevitable happens. And that’s not to say getting laid off is an inevitability. But if you suddenly get a phone call from HR, or you see a colleague openly sobbing after returning from a meeting, just know that you’re going to feel shocked. Adrenaline is going to surge. Your pulse will quicken. Anxieties will start lighting torches. Knees will go wobbly.
So I swear I’m not being some millennial right now: Once you realize what’s happening, you need to start regulating your breathing. Welcome to my life’s primary challenge! A layoff can feel as devastating and random as any loss. It’s the perfect opportunity to want to fight. But a layoff, at least while it’s happening, isn’t the best time to fight back. Instead, feel what you’re feeling. Be aware of the fear, anger, and sadness that will bubble up. This is the only way to control the only thing you can control, which is yourself. You don’t have to share your feelings at the moment. It’s probably for the best that you don’t. Just be connected to them, or they’ll drag you under.