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Submitted by PaulSchweer on


Something I haven't heard addressed in any of the M-T job-search-related material: what can one do to help manage the emotional side of being laid off?

Not trying to be anybody's mommy, but these two things have helped me: 1) tell somebody; 2) run the playbook.

Let me explain.

I told Cheryl, my wife, about my layoff evening of the same day I learned it was coming. It was emotional for her first three or four days, and then she, as she does (she's amazing, by the way), adjusted and settled in. No problem. (Have I mentioned she's amazing?) Meanwhile, although feeling quite emotional myself, I was careful not to show it to her. She didn't need that, and I could handle it.

That lasted about a week. One evening, near the end of my workout, I had a blinding flash of the obvious (I love that line, but I can't recall from where or from whom I've stolen it): hiding how I felt from Cheryl wasn't a good long-term plan. I stopped my workout, found her in the family room, and told her how bad I was feeling. She wasn't shocked. She said she was feeling much better about things, and that I didn't have to protect her from how I felt. Then she said, "Go take a shower so I can hug you." (This was immediately added to my short list of all-time favorite Cheryl quotes.)

After I'd showered, Cheryl asked how I felt.

"Awful," I said.

"How?" she said.

"Awfully awful."

"No really," she said, "how are you feeling?"

"Really," I said, "really awfully awful"

So I don't mean to suggest that any particular insight or plan will result, but this turned out, for me, to be critical. And it actually made me feel better. I know it is obvious, but I didn't do it naturally, and so I think it is worth saying out loud. I highly recommend to anyone laid off: tell your spouse, or somebody close to you, how you're feeling.

Second recommendation I stole from my dad. In the years after mom died, Dad kept very busy with work. Too busy, I remember thinking at some point. I talked with him about it. He told me, “When I'm busy, I don't miss your mother as much.”

So... I have a playbook. It is part put together from my own job-hunting experience, but mostly from all the M-T job-search-related material I could find. (I keep the interview series on loop in my car. If I'm in the car by myself, I'm listening to it.) While I do make time to uncoil every day... I'm working that playbook hard as I can, fast as I can. Especially when I start feeling bad, I turn back to the playbook, pick something, and hit it hard. It helps. A lot.

That's it. Two emotion management things to recommend: tell somebody, and work the playbook. Obvious, I know, but neither is natural for me in this instance. Maybe somebody will benefit from hearing it.


Paul Schweer

AManagerTool's picture

Thanks Paul 8)

Dani Martin's picture
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Great post, Paul! Thanks for sharing. You have an amazing wife... but it sounds like you don't need me to tell you that. :)

Good luck and please update us on how things are going. This is a supportive and encouraging community.


bug_girl's picture

I have nothing to add, except how much I can empathize with your feeling awfully awful. The day I was laid off ("The Day of the White Boxes") was definitely one of the worst in my life.

I'm so glad you sound like you have a plan--and support!

Bug, being all S and stuff, validating your feelings

mtietel's picture
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Good points and thanks for sharing them, Paul.

The first time I was laid off it was quite a shock. It was early in my career and I naively assumed that the work world was the same one in which my father had lived - work 30+ years for the same company and everything will be OK. In hindsight, getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened to me.

The second time I was much better prepared even though I had more family responsibilities, etc. Both were terrific learning experiences and, since the second one, I've made other changes on my terms/timelines that I'm extremely happy with.

Keep us updated and keep plugging away - there's light at the end of the tunnel and it's not oncoming traffic! :-)

AManagerTool's picture

Today is layoff day at my company. The HR folk are thick as thieves, the meeting rooms are booked and there is fear in the air. I see the terror on the faces of some of the most brilliant scientists in the world walking down the hall with boxes in their hands and tears in their eyes.

I'm sorry but I sincerely doubt that getting laid off is ever the "best thing that ever happened to" anyone. I have been laid off several times. Each time it was a setback and I would never describe it as something positive. I recovered and eventually caught up or exceeded my previous level of existence but I lost years of my life in the career dip and stress that came along with each layoff. The meter is running on your life. It all leads me to some of the following conclusions:

1. Your company, economy, country, government do not care about you at all. They are legal, social and financial entities without brains, emotions or souls. They don't feel any sympathy, love, mercy or anything else resembling human emotion or kindness. Once you remove the safety net of thinking that an organizational construct actually cares about your interests, you begin to act appropriately to the situation.
2. I learned that I can and should discard my employer whenever THEY are no longer a fit for MY needs.
3. I feel absolutely guilt free about moving on to a better job.
4. I follow Mark's advice that the best way to leave a company is on your terms not theirs.
5. I realize that my career is in my hands.
6. I have concluded that all that you can count on is yourself and hopefully your loved ones and friends.

Don't drink the Kool-Aid folks...It's all about survival. Sorry for the bitterness...its that kind of day.

Stay strong, stay smart and good luck!

bflynn's picture

Sad to say, but I've had enough experience at this that I have a playbook to use.

On the emotional side - I remember the first time it happened to me (as a dot-com startup was imploding) and it hurts, even when you know that its not performance based.

So getting over it, my concrete actions - I take a week to decompress. I clean out my papers, folders and notebooks and basically start to physically purge the old company from my life. I sleep later and start scheduling catch up time with friends, basically getting myself physically in better shape. Emotionally, I focus on the future, thinking about what I WANT to do next and what's the dream job.

After a week, its back to work 40+ hours a week getting that next great position. For me, that works and I'm able to get going and talk, if not positively, at least non-negatively about the previous company.


PaulSchweer's picture
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What is it about exercise?  I was in the middle of working out yesterday when it hit me.

How happy I am about my new job.

Thank you everybody for your comments and support, both on this board and off.  It helped.  A lot.

And of course, Mike and Mark...

Thanks guys.  You got no idea.  Your stuff, especially the interview series, was invaluable during my search.  There is no way this particular happy ending would have happened without you.


Paul Schweer

12string's picture
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Regarding the marital relationship, we (us guys) keep a lot of what bothers us away from our wives.  In our mind, we're protecting them. 

I learned from Emerson Eggerichs that -- it really bothers our wives when we don't bother them with what's bothering us.

Glad to hear that you're back on the payroll, Paul.


Jaelk01's picture

Having gone through the process twice myself I have to say, I spent that long dark night after being laid off (the first time) with my best friend, the wife.

She has been and always will be the best cheerleader when it comes to my personal and professional success and I completely agree with Paul is that they are just amazing.

I think that these sort of situations tend to re-affirm the relationship that exists between partners (being non-gender specific).  The whole "for better and for worse" part of the vows if you are that way inclined.

Between that and an increased focus on Martial Arts I was able to get my head back in the game in just a few days and was back in the workforce in 30.  The longest I have ever been without employment since I was 21.

My father still comments that he takes great pride in what he saw of my response to that event.  It's amazing how the response that we make to events like this can effect and inspire others.

All that being said, there's a whole lot of truth to AManagerTool's comments. 

I found that my focus on maintaining my own career focus, on being true to my career progression and professional development as an outcome of that layoff have helped my dodge the bullet on two other occasions had served me well when I was retrenched from a failing company.

On one of those occassions the hatchet man from HQ came out with two objectives.

1. To layoff all the people on his list.

2. To ensure that one or two of us weren't going to quit as a result.

In no small part that's due to the skills I gained here. So my hat is off to Mike and Mark, your program has been a lifesaver.

And Congratulations Paul to being back in the game so soon!!!