Understanding the impact of layoffs and how you can help mitigate some of them
I wrote an article yesterday about the Google layoffs which garnered way more attention than I expected. After it I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve shared their experience. A sense of devastation like being in the aftermath of an earthquake with people frantically calling around to see who has survived as one person put it. I realised that voicing how things come about has value but is not enough.
What happens next is important. Studies show that layoffs negatively affect the health of those involved in them. For those caught up in the layoffs, mortality rates can be expected to go up by 15–20% over the next 20 years. Suicide rates go up by a factor of 2.5 times. And it’s not just those laid off who are affected, those who remain can also expect a health penalty as can the managers of those laid off.
For those that have departed any imposter syndrome will have been magnified a thousandfold. Your first thought is likely to be that it’s about some deficiency with you. This will have been made worse by the abrupt and impersonal nature of things. Being cut off from the people and systems that made up your daily life with no warning: it’s hard not to take it personally or as a judgement of your worth. Google invested a lot in creating an environment where people identify with it from the cult-like labelling of being “Googler” to the brightly coloured hats you get on joining and the multitude of branded items that now remind you of it wherever you turn. It also invested in making it easy to build relationships with your co-workers by enabling you to share meals with them — one of the most important bonding activities humans participate in. All of that stopped in an instant with the equivalent of an “it’s not you it’s me text” in the middle of the night or waiting for you when you woke up.
What happens next can be worse as Google will go on almost as if you never existed. Reinforcing your sense of unworthiness. This happens at terrifying speed whenever you leave a job. It will feel worse now with all the other feelings in play. The speed at which the people who stayed seem to move on will hurt. Not just that, but as someone who was invested in their job you don’t stop caring about it overnight. That sense of purpose persists with no outlet…