Perspective: What to Do When You're Lost at Work

Layoffs and job changes can leave us adrift




CHANGE CAN bring exciting new opportunities. It can also feel an awful lot like loss. 

Part of the challenge of absorbing big changes is sorting out your particular stew of emotions. It can be especially complicated when the change involves the loss of a job. 

Layoffs didn’t begin with the recession 10 years ago, but they accelerated for a while, and businesses still use them to reshape the workforce as business evolves. Last fall, Wells Fargo laid off people in the mortgage division, and Bank of America laid off tech workers. Lowe’s restructured at its stores and at the corporate headquarters in Mooresville. 

If you were to be laid off, would you go eagerly off to do something you haven’t had time or energy or money to do? Would you tighten your budget until it squeaks while you assess your new reality? Would you immediately start looking for work in your field? Or use this time to pivot toward something different?

These aren’t the only options, of course, and no single one of them is right for everyone. As with emotions, sometimes the reality is “both-and.” Both relief and anger. Both hope and grief. Both exploration and conservation.

When I work with clients who have been laid off, we start by trying to understand what happened and how they feel about it. Some are very clear. Others haven’t recognized their feelings, and beginning to name them opens the path toward moving on.

Clarity is a good start. 

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