Susan Peppercorn | Harvard Business Review | January 17, 2023
As an executive coach, I’ve helped thousands of people find a new job after a layoff. In over a decade of this work, I’ve seen that over 95% of those clients were terminated not for their own poor performance, but for business reasons such as a merger or acquisition, increased industry competition, a weakened economy, or company restructuring leading to downsizing.
Research from Zippia shows just how common the layoff experience is in corporate America. In 2021 alone, there were 17 million layoffs. The studies also found that:
- 40% of Americans have been laid off or terminated from a job at least once.
- Nearly half (48%) of Americans have layoff anxiety.
- 28% of Americans have been laid off in the past two years.
In a 2022 survey of more than 1,300 CEOs at large companies worldwide, including 400 in the U.S., KPMG found that 91% of respondents believe there will be a recession in the next year — which will likely mean further widespread headcount reductions.
Despite the reality that factors beyond any employee’s control cause the majority of layoffs, most people I coach erroneously assume they should shoulder the blame. As their pressing work suddenly screeches to a halt, they assume colleagues who kept their positions were valued while they weren’t. It’s easy to start ruminating over possible explanations like, “I must have done something to cause this,” “If I’d been more dedicated, I wouldn’t have been the one affected,” or “I should have paid more attention to managing up.”
Getting laid off can feel devastatingly personal and hard on your mental health. Along with multiple hits from loss of income, status, daily structure, social support, self-esteem, and identity, there’s also the inherent uncertainty that often comes with mapping out your next career move. To compound the problem, many organizations do not communicate their downsizing plans with the care and respect that employees deserve.
To cope with the tremendous stress and pressure of a layoff without taking it personally, try these five strategies: