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124. How to Handle Layoffs When You're the One Left

Has your organization been affected by layoffs?

If not, I bet you know someone who is part of an organization that has been affected.

Not many talk about what to do when you are one of the ones left.

On this episode, I share four tips for what to when you're the one in that extremely challenging situation (especially when the layoffs weren't handled is a very compassionate way).

Please share with anyone who might benefit and don't hesitate to reach out if I can be of support to you or someone you know through this difficult time.

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While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by CastMagic for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

Teri Schmidt [00:00:00]:

Hello, welcome back to the Strong Leader Serve podcast.

One of my LinkedIn contacts recently posted a question about a leader who was facing a challenge that given the news over the past several months, I'm guessing many of you are facing.

And that challenge was, what do you do when there are layoffs at your company, they're not handled well, and you are 1 of the ones left? So I had thought about how I would respond to that question and came up with some ideas that I wanted to share with you in case you are now or ever will be in that situation. As a leader who cares about bringing more compassion and justice into your workplace, this can be particularly challenging. So I wanted to come on and talk about some of the thoughts I had for how you can get through this time. I'm Terri Schmitt, founder of Stronger to Serve coaching and team building where we launch women leaders past overwhelm to careers of courageous impact. And this is the Strong Leaders Serve podcast. Okay, so I really came up with 4 different tips through the conversation that we had on LinkedIn that I wanted to share with you.

Teri Schmidt [00:01:33]:

Again, maybe you are fortunate and you are not in the situation where you're having layoffs at your company, but I'm guessing just based on how widespread the layoffs are right now, you are probably connected with someone in some way who is going through this situation. So hopefully they're either helpful to you or you can share them with someone you know who they will be helpful for. So The first tip is to recognize and acknowledge the grief. Yes, I said grief. Now, if you don't remember from Episode 90 when we had Laura Jack on, grief does not just describe the feelings that you feel when someone that you love passes away. Instead, as Laura said, grief simply is a word to describe the conflicting feelings that come when something changes. And definitely in this situation where others around you have been laid off and you were not laid off, and particularly if the layoffs weren't done in a way that you think was very compassionate, you probably are dealing with some conflicting emotions. In fact, there's a lot to grieve here.

Teri Schmidt [00:02:48]:

You may be grieving your view of your organization. Maybe you had a higher view of the organization than you do now based on how the layoffs were handled. You may also be grieving the loss of colleagues and friends. If the layoffs were significant in number, it's likely that maybe someone on your team or someone that you were close to at work was laid off. You're probably also grieving the loss of the ability to make as big of an impact now that there are fewer people to do the work that's left. And finally, you probably are dealing with survivor's guilt. In other words, why was my colleague laid off, but yet I'm still here and I am not out looking for a job. I don't have to worry about how to take care of my family.

Teri Schmidt [00:03:36]:

I still have a steady income coming in when they're out there suffering. So lots to grieve there. So what do you do with that? Well, first of all, recognize it. Acknowledge the fact that you are going to have these emotions. You want to, in a sense, welcome them, let them come into your body, let yourself feel them, but then process them in a way that again, works for you. Do whatever self-care practices work best for you, whether that be getting physically active, whether that be getting out in nature, whether that be writing down how you're feeling. Those are all some ways that you cannot just skip past those conflicting emotions, but really work through them. So that's the first step.

Teri Schmidt [00:04:25]:

Recognize and acknowledge the grief. Second, take action that's aligned with your values and reach out to those who were laid off to offer support. Especially if you're a leader listening to this who cares about having more compassion and justice in the workplace, I'm guessing that your values are going to compel you to do whatever you can to help those who were laid off. Just taking that action can help you to again, feel like you have a little bit more control in the situation. And it can also help you to process those emotions we were talking about. Third tip, take inventory of what about the role that you currently have and the organization that you're working for is still aligned with your values, your strengths, and your goals as a changemaking leader. Do you still feel that your role is aligned with your strengths and your values and your goals? Do you still feel that the organization is the best place to exercise those strengths, to live according to those values, and to make the change that you want to make. See if there are little tweaks that you can make in your role, or little ways that you can influence change in your organization so that you can utilize more of your strengths, or you can see things happen that are more aligned with your values.

Teri Schmidt [00:05:51]:

And if in doing that inventory you see that maybe things have changed past the point to where there is any alignment, then it might be time to either have a conversation with your leader or someone else you trust in the organization, or even someone outside of the organization, like a coach, to see if maybe this is the time to make a change. And then finally, and this is really important for your effectiveness and your well-being as a leader, draft clear priorities and expectations for what can and should, from your viewpoint, reasonably be accomplished now that you have a reduced workforce. Think through your projects, think through your team's projects, think through the organizational goals, write down your ideas about what should be prioritized and what is achievable. And then have a conversation with your leader to see if your ideas about what should be prioritized and what is achievable, align with that of your leader. If there is a misalignment, that provides a great opportunity to maybe reprioritize, as well to express your viewpoint of what can realistically get done, given the people that you have remaining on your team and on the teams that you work with. I hope those 4 tips are helpful. Again, just to review, first, recognize and acknowledge the grief that you may be dealing with. Second, take some action that is aligned with your values to help those who were laid off.

Teri Schmidt [00:07:35]:

Third, take inventory of what about the role and the organization is still aligned with your strengths, values, and your goals as a changemaking leader. And then fourth, draft clear priorities and expectations for what can realistically get done now that you do have a reduced workforce. So again, feel free to share these. And if any of these episodes have been helpful for you, it would be great if you could leave us a review. That really helps us to know that we are hitting the mark with our content, and that it is helpful for you. And it also helps other leaders who want to make their workplaces more compassionate and just through their leadership to find us in the middle of all the podcasts that are out there. So thank you again.

I hope you have a great week and until next time lead with this Swedish proverb in mind, "Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water every ship has a good captain."


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