October 4, 2022
5
Min read

What’s the emotional toll of being laid off—and how do people cope?

Written By
Nausheen Eusuf
With thanks To
Alessandra Maffei, Cristina Arbini, Joe Mawby, Raquel Priego & Shayna Hodkin

The recent economic downturn has hit the tech sector hard. The news is full of companies responding by reducing their headcount. The numbers are dizzying—tens of thousands of people have already been affected by layoffs this year.

But what’s obscured by the numbers in our news feeds is the actual people they represent—people whose stories we don’t get to hear. In addition to the loss of the job itself and the financial stability that came with it, there’s also the psychological impact of being laid off—especially if it wasn’t handled in an empathetic way.

The emotional toll can range from shock and grief to anger and shame. It might affect someone’s confidence, or cause them to struggle with impostor syndrome. Or, it might serve as the impetus to step back, reassess, and make a fresh start.

We invited people who’ve experienced a layoff to share their stories—how it affected them and how they coped in the aftermath. We also asked them to share advice for people who are struggling emotionally after a layoff, as well as advice for companies who want to reduce the psychological impact of a layoff.

“I felt muted, ashamed, and alone” - Alessandra Maffei

Originally from Italy, Alessandra Maffei is a marketing and communications professional based in Berlin. 

“So. It’s today.” That’s what I texted to a colleague after we got the dreaded calendar invite.

I’d been living and working in Berlin for a few years, and had just started a new marketing role at a startup in the health and wellness space. This was before the pandemic, so it was an office-based job.

About 3 or 4 months in, I started feeling like things weren’t quite right. A mysterious  ‘task force’ was created unexpectedly to address ‘performance issues’, followed by an all-hands meeting where the product and finance people talked about a new strategy that didn’t need most of the marketing department to succeed.

The communication was unclear and confusing. But I read between the lines and understood what was coming. I said to my marketing colleagues, “Let’s go out for drinks tonight.”

That awful all-hands meeting shook me to my core. It affected me mentally and emotionally, to the point I decided to take a period of sick leave. I found it too hard to operate with the threat of losing my job looming on the horizon.

The next two weeks were the worst kind of limbo, because no one was telling us what would happen. The confusion, fear, and anxiety was terrible. As daunting as it is to lose a job, I think people prefer clarity and thoughtful communication over anxiety and uncertainty.

When I finally got the call from my CMO, it was a relief.

Being laid off can be incredibly isolating—you get the news, and then you’re on your own. We often identify with our work, so a layoff feels very personal even when you know rationally that it’s purely a business decision. You spiral into obsessing over what you could have done to prevent it. I felt muted, ashamed, and alone.

"I stayed in close contact with my ex-colleagues in the days and weeks after. It was vital for my emotional survival."

<quote-author>Alessandra Maffei<quote-author><quote-company>Marketing and Communications Professional<quote-company>

In the days and weeks that followed, my ex-colleagues and I stayed in close contact. It was vital for my emotional survival during that time. Since we’d gone through the same experience, we understood each other without having to explain. We chatted, we exercised together, and we felt less alone.

It was also cathartic to write a Medium article about the emotional toll of a layoff. The response I got from readers helped break the isolation I felt. I realised that my feelings were justified, that many people in my network had been through similar experiences, and that my own story could help others. And it helped me feel that I wasn’t muted, that I could still speak.

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Accept that your life has been deeply shaken. You’ve had the rug pulled out from under you. Put your feelings in writing, call your friends, and talk to people who understand. If you can afford to, don’t jump on the next opportunity out of fear and panic. Always prioritise your own wellbeing, which includes looking for an employer who values you as a person.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

The work of laying off a team doesn’t end when you’ve made the financial decision to reduce headcount—it actually starts there. Be clear, thoughtful, and timely in your communications. Don’t leave people guessing, because the uncertainty and fear is unnecessary and excruciating.

“I felt empowered by owning and telling my story” - Cristina Arbini

Cristina Arbini has spent over a decade in marketing, communications, and employer branding.

I was on holiday when my phone lit up with panicked messages from my colleagues. A US news outlet had just reported layoffs at my company—before we’d been told anything.

The company had just closed the books on a successful year. In my team, at the Italy office, we’d exceeded our targets. It was July and I was enjoying a holiday with my husband and child. I was also four months pregnant with my second child. It was a happy and peaceful time for me, both personally and professionally.

But that afternoon, it was chaos and confusion when the news broke in the US, where the company is headquartered. There was a real lack of clarity over who was impacted, and who wasn’t. My manager knew nothing, and was as lost as I was.

I experienced a terrible feeling of isolation because suddenly there’s a wall between you and everyone else. It took two more weeks for employees in Europe to receive a proper follow-up email with more details. Until then we were just left in limbo.

Being laid off while on holiday, while pregnant, and having given many years to a well-respected company—it was a surreal experience. The way the communication was handled was a shock. I felt betrayed.

The next two weeks were an awful struggle. I wasn’t myself. And I felt bad that I couldn’t be present for my husband and child while we were on holiday. Especially when you have a young child, you have to keep going for their sake.

What helped me recover was my network. I started reaching out to friends, family, and colleagues. I sent an email to all the people and clients I’d worked with in the past 9 years explaining the situation, including the fact that I was pregnant.

I wanted to own and tell my version of the story before the official story hit the news in Italy. I didn’t want clients or ex-customers to find out from other sources—I wanted them to hear it from me. I wanted to remind them about my skills and value, and that I’d be looking for a new role after the baby.

The support I received helped a lot. Amazingly, some of those people stayed in touch and I received job offers the following year. 

But everyone eventually finds other jobs. For me, the most important thing is how empowered I felt by taking control of my story. If you put yourself out there with authenticity, you can have very positive outcomes.
 

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Reach out to your network for support. Be specific about how they can help you, whether it’s an introduction or a coffee chat. Own your story and share it candidly.
 

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

Communicate the details to the people affected in the most compassionate way possible. If 1-to-1 calls aren’t possible, at least make it a group call followed by a Q&A. And if possible, offer mental health support to those affected—and also those that aren’t. Lay-offs put your culture and values to the test. How you handle this situation says a lot about your true company values.

“I’m prepared for the valleys that come with the peaks” - Shayna Hodkin

Shayna Hodkin is a writer, editor, and content strategist. She lives in a not-that-big city with two big dogs and a regular-sized spouse. Her work has been published all over the internet.  

I’ve been laid off twice—and neither came as a surprise.

Most recently I was the content lead at a small startup that cut 20% of its staff over the course of a few weeks. I was the first one affected. Creatives in tech make a lot of money—more than we would in other fields—but layoffs are almost inevitable at some point. That doesn’t make it right, but we need to be prepared. 

I got the news on a Wednesday. My manager came onto a pre-scheduled call and said, “I’m so sorry.  Unfortunately, due to changing business needs, your position is being eliminated.”

Then the director of ops came in and started explaining the severance package and health insurance. I kept saying, “Okay. I understand. Thank you.” They kept asking if I needed anything, because I was almost too okay. 

But let’s say I’d gotten upset. If I’d cried or raised my voice or lashed out, I still wouldn’t have gotten my job back. Especially as a woman, I take pains not to be labelled “dramatic” at work. Sometimes that means intentionally shutting down.  

I have good intuition, so I’d already started preparing for this scenario. The previous weekend, I’d asked a friend to help me look for jobs. “You’re not getting laid off,” she’d said. “You’re just anxious.” So the first thing I did was text her: “Ha ha, I got laid off.”

 

"I held no ill will at the time, and I still don’t. It was a small startup. Shit happens."

They gave me a generous severance package and health insurance.

My direct manager texted a few times in the weeks after, asking how I was doing and how he could support me. He and a close friend from sales are the only ones who reached out. Once you’ve been laid off, people tend to distance themselves from you. No one wants to acknowledge that it could’ve been them, or that they might be next.

I’m not justifying layoffs as a budgeting tactic. I think it’s unethical to hire and fire. But being angry won’t serve me, so I’m choosing to process this as a learning experience. I don’t think I’ll ever allow myself to stop interviewing or applying again. In tech, job security doesn’t exist. 

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Yelling and crying when they break the news won’t help. Stay calm. Try to control the narrative as much as possible. Work with leadership to make the announcement of your departure to the team, especially when you’re the only one from the team or company being laid off.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

For companies: If you have a choice between laying people off earlier and giving them more severance or waiting longer and giving less, do it quickly and generously. Especially in the US, where healthcare is a nightmare, that financial cushion will be critical during the job search. 

For managers: Be clear what the meeting is about so it’s not a painful surprise. Come prepared with contacts that you can introduce them to, or roles that might be a good fit where you can refer them. Tell them they did great work and highlight examples of their success. Keep checking in and sending those referrals.

“It was the fresh start I didn’t know I needed” - Joe Mawby | Swoop

Based in Liverpool, Joe Mawby has done a bit of everything, from being a mechanic in motorsports to working in hospitality and mental health. He’s currently a business development manager at Swoop.

I was only one month into a new job in a new industry when I was made redundant.

I’d recently switched from hospitality to mental health, and was excited about selling a service that helps people. I was learning a lot, building relationships, and really enjoying the work.

Meanwhile, my partner and I decided to fully embrace a remote lifestyle by combining work and travel. So I was working from Lithuania when I received the news.

I had no idea it was coming. I'd just finished my one month of probation, and it was business as usual that Monday morning.

"It was business as usual that morning. I didn’t know what the call was about. There was a lot of pleasant chit-chat at first. Then the conversation suddenly changed."

<quote-author>Joe Mawby<quote-author><quote-company>Business Development Manager at Swoop<quote-company>

We went over my probation stuff, and set targets for the week as usual.

I didn’t know at first what the call was about. It was my manager and another person on the call. There was a lot of pleasant chit-chat at the beginning: “How are you getting on?” “Joe is in Lithuania at the moment.” “This is so-and-so.” I’d never met the other guy, so I thought it was an introductory call.

Then the conversation suddenly changed. As in: by the way, here’s the current trajectory of the company, and we must act quickly. I remember thinking, where is this going? And then sure enough: you’ve been laid off.

When you’re 1600 miles away from home and find out you no longer have a job—it’s quite a reality check and a shock to the system. I also don’t know why I did a full morning’s work, since the decision obviously wasn’t made that morning. I would’ve preferred a bit of a heads-up.

Since I was just in the process of building relationships in a new workplace, I felt the emotional toll of being cut off from the team very abruptly. I was just starting to feel settled, and had found my groove, so it was like having the rug pulled out from under me.

One good thing is that as soon as my manager had made all the calls, he immediately started sending emails to his contacts with introductions and referrals. So I think he did the best he could in a bad situation. The follow-up was also very good—they were quick to sort out some payroll errors, which I appreciated.

Being laid off gave me time to evaluate what I wanted next. I was soon welcomed into a new team of like-minded colleagues in a new industry, which I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t been made redundant. Turns out it was the fresh start I didn’t know I needed.

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Stay positive because the market is rich with opportunities. Even though it’s stressful right now, take it as an opportunity to breathe and figure out your next steps.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

Don’t string someone along with pleasantries. Just get to the point instead of dragging it out. Do offer introductions and referrals, which will be appreciated.

“After 3 layoffs, I’ve gained wisdom and self-knowledge” - Raquel Priego | Trip to Help

Raquel Priego is a senior communications professional with many years of startup experience. An avid traveller, she’s currently building Trip to Help with her partner.

I’ve been laid off three times. From two ‘unicorns’ and in a big corporation. 

Working in comms, you have to be genuinely passionate about the company’s mission to communicate it well. But that makes it all the more painful when you’re laid off.

The first time it happened, I was in a leadership role at a company where I’d worked for several years. I’d learned a lot on the job, and experienced a lot of personal and professional growth. It was an exciting time in my career.

Eventually, the business got acquired—which was really exciting, at first. But there was a dramatic shift in the company culture and mission. The level of transparency I was used to was gone.  My direct managers were leaving or taking sick leave due to anxiety, and the atmosphere was very bad. Feeling lost, I decided to take a sabbatical and go to South America for a few months.

So I was thousands of miles away when my team tried to call me before I read about the layoff in TechCrunch. Instead of communicating it directly to those affected, the news was withheld for weeks. No one knew anything, and then it was in TechCrunch.

I felt deeply sad and helpless. I had lost my team, and I felt bad about not being there to support them. I also felt angry about the way the communication was handled. We’d done really good work, then suddenly everything we’d built just disappeared.

But it helped to be far away from it all. In fact, Patagonia was the best place to be at that moment. I knew it was time to stop and take a real break.

The layoff affected me both physically and emotionally, and it took months to recover. With therapy and coaching, I slowly learned to separate myself from my work. I took care of my body and mind by exercising and eating well. I learned that just being is enough.

"I was laid off two more times after that. How long you’ve been at a place makes a difference to how you feel."

The first time, I’d been at that company long enough to prove myself. The value I brought was clear to everyone. So despite the sadness and anger, I also felt at peace knowing I made an impact. 

The other times, I wasn’t there long enough to do meaningful work. I was sold on the company mission and really looking forward to working there—so to then lose the job after a few months made me feel betrayed, as if I’d been lied to.

But the one positive thing I’ve gained is perspective. I’m more aware that life is full of ups and downs, and every crisis is also a learning experience. I’ve gained self-awareness, empathy, and the knowledge that while passion is good, self-care is better.

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

It’s not your fault. If you have a chance to speak with senior people in your company about the process, this can help. You’ll understand the situation more. Despite the anger or sadness, it will help you to separate the situation from you as a professional.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

For companies: Communicate directly with the people affected. Don’t leave it till the very end. Don’t make people work as if it’s business as usual, because there’s no bigger frustration than good work done for nothing. And don’t offer false hope about other positions.

For managers: Even if it’s difficult, it’s your job to show up for the people who report to you. Be human and vulnerable. Don’t cancel 1:1 or team meetings. Show how it’s impacting you, and that it’s not easy for you either.

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September 2, 2022
5
Min read

What’s the emotional toll of being laid off—and how do people cope?

Written By
Nausheen Eusuf
With thanks To
Alessandra Maffei, Cristina Arbini, Joe Mawby, Raquel Priego & Shayna Hodkin

The recent economic downturn has hit the tech sector hard. The news is full of companies responding by reducing their headcount. The numbers are dizzying—tens of thousands of people have already been affected by layoffs this year.

But what’s obscured by the numbers in our news feeds is the actual people they represent—people whose stories we don’t get to hear. In addition to the loss of the job itself and the financial stability that came with it, there’s also the psychological impact of being laid off—especially if it wasn’t handled in an empathetic way.

The emotional toll can range from shock and grief to anger and shame. It might affect someone’s confidence, or cause them to struggle with impostor syndrome. Or, it might serve as the impetus to step back, reassess, and make a fresh start.

We invited people who’ve experienced a layoff to share their stories—how it affected them and how they coped in the aftermath. We also asked them to share advice for people who are struggling emotionally after a layoff, as well as advice for companies who want to reduce the psychological impact of a layoff.

“I felt muted, ashamed, and alone” - Alessandra Maffei

Originally from Italy, Alessandra Maffei is a marketing and communications professional based in Berlin. 

“So. It’s today.” That’s what I texted to a colleague after we got the dreaded calendar invite.

I’d been living and working in Berlin for a few years, and had just started a new marketing role at a startup in the health and wellness space. This was before the pandemic, so it was an office-based job.

About 3 or 4 months in, I started feeling like things weren’t quite right. A mysterious  ‘task force’ was created unexpectedly to address ‘performance issues’, followed by an all-hands meeting where the product and finance people talked about a new strategy that didn’t need most of the marketing department to succeed.

The communication was unclear and confusing. But I read between the lines and understood what was coming. I said to my marketing colleagues, “Let’s go out for drinks tonight.”

That awful all-hands meeting shook me to my core. It affected me mentally and emotionally, to the point I decided to take a period of sick leave. I found it too hard to operate with the threat of losing my job looming on the horizon.

The next two weeks were the worst kind of limbo, because no one was telling us what would happen. The confusion, fear, and anxiety was terrible. As daunting as it is to lose a job, I think people prefer clarity and thoughtful communication over anxiety and uncertainty.

When I finally got the call from my CMO, it was a relief.

Being laid off can be incredibly isolating—you get the news, and then you’re on your own. We often identify with our work, so a layoff feels very personal even when you know rationally that it’s purely a business decision. You spiral into obsessing over what you could have done to prevent it. I felt muted, ashamed, and alone.

Quote author photograph
"I stayed in close contact with my ex-colleagues in the days and weeks after. It was vital for my emotional survival."

<quote-author>Alessandra Maffei<quote-author><quote-company>Marketing and Communications Professional<quote-company>

In the days and weeks that followed, my ex-colleagues and I stayed in close contact. It was vital for my emotional survival during that time. Since we’d gone through the same experience, we understood each other without having to explain. We chatted, we exercised together, and we felt less alone.

It was also cathartic to write a Medium article about the emotional toll of a layoff. The response I got from readers helped break the isolation I felt. I realised that my feelings were justified, that many people in my network had been through similar experiences, and that my own story could help others. And it helped me feel that I wasn’t muted, that I could still speak.

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Accept that your life has been deeply shaken. You’ve had the rug pulled out from under you. Put your feelings in writing, call your friends, and talk to people who understand. If you can afford to, don’t jump on the next opportunity out of fear and panic. Always prioritise your own wellbeing, which includes looking for an employer who values you as a person.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

The work of laying off a team doesn’t end when you’ve made the financial decision to reduce headcount—it actually starts there. Be clear, thoughtful, and timely in your communications. Don’t leave people guessing, because the uncertainty and fear is unnecessary and excruciating.

“I felt empowered by owning and telling my story” - Cristina Arbini

Cristina Arbini has spent over a decade in marketing, communications, and employer branding.

I was on holiday when my phone lit up with panicked messages from my colleagues. A US news outlet had just reported layoffs at my company—before we’d been told anything.

The company had just closed the books on a successful year. In my team, at the Italy office, we’d exceeded our targets. It was July and I was enjoying a holiday with my husband and child. I was also four months pregnant with my second child. It was a happy and peaceful time for me, both personally and professionally.

But that afternoon, it was chaos and confusion when the news broke in the US, where the company is headquartered. There was a real lack of clarity over who was impacted, and who wasn’t. My manager knew nothing, and was as lost as I was.

I experienced a terrible feeling of isolation because suddenly there’s a wall between you and everyone else. It took two more weeks for employees in Europe to receive a proper follow-up email with more details. Until then we were just left in limbo.

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Being laid off while on holiday, while pregnant, and having given many years to a well-respected company—it was a surreal experience. The way the communication was handled was a shock. I felt betrayed.

The next two weeks were an awful struggle. I wasn’t myself. And I felt bad that I couldn’t be present for my husband and child while we were on holiday. Especially when you have a young child, you have to keep going for their sake.

What helped me recover was my network. I started reaching out to friends, family, and colleagues. I sent an email to all the people and clients I’d worked with in the past 9 years explaining the situation, including the fact that I was pregnant.

I wanted to own and tell my version of the story before the official story hit the news in Italy. I didn’t want clients or ex-customers to find out from other sources—I wanted them to hear it from me. I wanted to remind them about my skills and value, and that I’d be looking for a new role after the baby.

The support I received helped a lot. Amazingly, some of those people stayed in touch and I received job offers the following year. 

But everyone eventually finds other jobs. For me, the most important thing is how empowered I felt by taking control of my story. If you put yourself out there with authenticity, you can have very positive outcomes.
 

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Reach out to your network for support. Be specific about how they can help you, whether it’s an introduction or a coffee chat. Own your story and share it candidly.
 

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

Communicate the details to the people affected in the most compassionate way possible. If 1-to-1 calls aren’t possible, at least make it a group call followed by a Q&A. And if possible, offer mental health support to those affected—and also those that aren’t. Lay-offs put your culture and values to the test. How you handle this situation says a lot about your true company values.

“I’m prepared for the valleys that come with the peaks” - Shayna Hodkin

Shayna Hodkin is a writer, editor, and content strategist. She lives in a not-that-big city with two big dogs and a regular-sized spouse. Her work has been published all over the internet.  

I’ve been laid off twice—and neither came as a surprise.

Most recently I was the content lead at a small startup that cut 20% of its staff over the course of a few weeks. I was the first one affected. Creatives in tech make a lot of money—more than we would in other fields—but layoffs are almost inevitable at some point. That doesn’t make it right, but we need to be prepared. 

I got the news on a Wednesday. My manager came onto a pre-scheduled call and said, “I’m so sorry.  Unfortunately, due to changing business needs, your position is being eliminated.”

Then the director of ops came in and started explaining the severance package and health insurance. I kept saying, “Okay. I understand. Thank you.” They kept asking if I needed anything, because I was almost too okay. 

But let’s say I’d gotten upset. If I’d cried or raised my voice or lashed out, I still wouldn’t have gotten my job back. Especially as a woman, I take pains not to be labelled “dramatic” at work. Sometimes that means intentionally shutting down.  

I have good intuition, so I’d already started preparing for this scenario. The previous weekend, I’d asked a friend to help me look for jobs. “You’re not getting laid off,” she’d said. “You’re just anxious.” So the first thing I did was text her: “Ha ha, I got laid off.”

 

"I held no ill will at the time, and I still don’t. It was a small startup. Shit happens."

They gave me a generous severance package and health insurance.

My direct manager texted a few times in the weeks after, asking how I was doing and how he could support me. He and a close friend from sales are the only ones who reached out. Once you’ve been laid off, people tend to distance themselves from you. No one wants to acknowledge that it could’ve been them, or that they might be next.

I’m not justifying layoffs as a budgeting tactic. I think it’s unethical to hire and fire. But being angry won’t serve me, so I’m choosing to process this as a learning experience. I don’t think I’ll ever allow myself to stop interviewing or applying again. In tech, job security doesn’t exist. 

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Yelling and crying when they break the news won’t help. Stay calm. Try to control the narrative as much as possible. Work with leadership to make the announcement of your departure to the team, especially when you’re the only one from the team or company being laid off.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

For companies: If you have a choice between laying people off earlier and giving them more severance or waiting longer and giving less, do it quickly and generously. Especially in the US, where healthcare is a nightmare, that financial cushion will be critical during the job search. 

For managers: Be clear what the meeting is about so it’s not a painful surprise. Come prepared with contacts that you can introduce them to, or roles that might be a good fit where you can refer them. Tell them they did great work and highlight examples of their success. Keep checking in and sending those referrals.

“It was the fresh start I didn’t know I needed” - Joe Mawby | Swoop

Based in Liverpool, Joe Mawby has done a bit of everything, from being a mechanic in motorsports to working in hospitality and mental health. He’s currently a business development manager at Swoop.

I was only one month into a new job in a new industry when I was made redundant.

I’d recently switched from hospitality to mental health, and was excited about selling a service that helps people. I was learning a lot, building relationships, and really enjoying the work.

Meanwhile, my partner and I decided to fully embrace a remote lifestyle by combining work and travel. So I was working from Lithuania when I received the news.

I had no idea it was coming. I'd just finished my one month of probation, and it was business as usual that Monday morning.

quote author photograph
"It was business as usual that morning. I didn’t know what the call was about. There was a lot of pleasant chit-chat at first. Then the conversation suddenly changed."

<quote-author>Joe Mawby<quote-author><quote-company>Business Development Manager at Swoop<quote-company>

We went over my probation stuff, and set targets for the week as usual.

I didn’t know at first what the call was about. It was my manager and another person on the call. There was a lot of pleasant chit-chat at the beginning: “How are you getting on?” “Joe is in Lithuania at the moment.” “This is so-and-so.” I’d never met the other guy, so I thought it was an introductory call.

Then the conversation suddenly changed. As in: by the way, here’s the current trajectory of the company, and we must act quickly. I remember thinking, where is this going? And then sure enough: you’ve been laid off.

When you’re 1600 miles away from home and find out you no longer have a job—it’s quite a reality check and a shock to the system. I also don’t know why I did a full morning’s work, since the decision obviously wasn’t made that morning. I would’ve preferred a bit of a heads-up.

Since I was just in the process of building relationships in a new workplace, I felt the emotional toll of being cut off from the team very abruptly. I was just starting to feel settled, and had found my groove, so it was like having the rug pulled out from under me.

One good thing is that as soon as my manager had made all the calls, he immediately started sending emails to his contacts with introductions and referrals. So I think he did the best he could in a bad situation. The follow-up was also very good—they were quick to sort out some payroll errors, which I appreciated.

Being laid off gave me time to evaluate what I wanted next. I was soon welcomed into a new team of like-minded colleagues in a new industry, which I wouldn’t have found if I hadn’t been made redundant. Turns out it was the fresh start I didn’t know I needed.

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

Stay positive because the market is rich with opportunities. Even though it’s stressful right now, take it as an opportunity to breathe and figure out your next steps.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

Don’t string someone along with pleasantries. Just get to the point instead of dragging it out. Do offer introductions and referrals, which will be appreciated.

“After 3 layoffs, I’ve gained wisdom and self-knowledge” - Raquel Priego | Trip to Help

Raquel Priego is a senior communications professional with many years of startup experience. An avid traveller, she’s currently building Trip to Help with her partner.

I’ve been laid off three times. From two ‘unicorns’ and in a big corporation. 

Working in comms, you have to be genuinely passionate about the company’s mission to communicate it well. But that makes it all the more painful when you’re laid off.

The first time it happened, I was in a leadership role at a company where I’d worked for several years. I’d learned a lot on the job, and experienced a lot of personal and professional growth. It was an exciting time in my career.

Eventually, the business got acquired—which was really exciting, at first. But there was a dramatic shift in the company culture and mission. The level of transparency I was used to was gone.  My direct managers were leaving or taking sick leave due to anxiety, and the atmosphere was very bad. Feeling lost, I decided to take a sabbatical and go to South America for a few months.

So I was thousands of miles away when my team tried to call me before I read about the layoff in TechCrunch. Instead of communicating it directly to those affected, the news was withheld for weeks. No one knew anything, and then it was in TechCrunch.

I felt deeply sad and helpless. I had lost my team, and I felt bad about not being there to support them. I also felt angry about the way the communication was handled. We’d done really good work, then suddenly everything we’d built just disappeared.

But it helped to be far away from it all. In fact, Patagonia was the best place to be at that moment. I knew it was time to stop and take a real break.

The layoff affected me both physically and emotionally, and it took months to recover. With therapy and coaching, I slowly learned to separate myself from my work. I took care of my body and mind by exercising and eating well. I learned that just being is enough.

"I was laid off two more times after that. How long you’ve been at a place makes a difference to how you feel."

The first time, I’d been at that company long enough to prove myself. The value I brought was clear to everyone. So despite the sadness and anger, I also felt at peace knowing I made an impact. 

The other times, I wasn’t there long enough to do meaningful work. I was sold on the company mission and really looking forward to working there—so to then lose the job after a few months made me feel betrayed, as if I’d been lied to.

But the one positive thing I’ve gained is perspective. I’m more aware that life is full of ups and downs, and every crisis is also a learning experience. I’ve gained self-awareness, empathy, and the knowledge that while passion is good, self-care is better.

Advice for people who are struggling after a layoff:

It’s not your fault. If you have a chance to speak with senior people in your company about the process, this can help. You’ll understand the situation more. Despite the anger or sadness, it will help you to separate the situation from you as a professional.

Advice for companies that want to reduce the emotional impact of a layoff:

For companies: Communicate directly with the people affected. Don’t leave it till the very end. Don’t make people work as if it’s business as usual, because there’s no bigger frustration than good work done for nothing. And don’t offer false hope about other positions.

For managers: Even if it’s difficult, it’s your job to show up for the people who report to you. Be human and vulnerable. Don’t cancel 1:1 or team meetings. Show how it’s impacting you, and that it’s not easy for you either.

Oliva therapist photograph

by Oliva therapist

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