5 ways to prepare for a corporate layoff

When rumors of impending layoffs ripple through an organization, panic often ensues in the ranks. Whispered conversations at water fountains, break rooms and cafeterias are sprinkled with euphemisms like downsizing, redundancy, streamlining and restructuring.
Whether the scuttlebutt is genuine or results from misread signs and incorrectly interpreted intelligence, the prospect of losing one's job strikes fear in the hearts of all.

As with most of life's challenges, preparation is the best tonic for processing, surviving and even thriving through a layoff. Employees who act decisively in each of the following areas will be better able to successfully transition to their next career phase.

To prepare for company downsizing, develop strategies that address:

  • Psychological needs.
  • Financial necessities.
  • Administrative practicalities.
  • Career aspirations.
  • Professional relationships.

'Laid Off' Meaning

Although some companies neglect to use precise language, there's a significant difference in getting laid off vs. fired. The latter is usually due to a problem with a worker's performance. The former is usually the result of a failing company strategy or economic forces beyond the control of any one employee. Companies conduct layoffs for any number of reasons and individual performance or tenure are often only minor considerations. Keeping this in mind may help you cope with the difficulties ahead.

Psychological Needs

Sudden job loss is a shock to one's self-esteem. Like mourning in response to the death of a loved one, individuals may respond with some combination of denial, anger or grief.
The quicker you can reach acceptance, the better. Remind yourself that the action is not personal. Purge your negative perceptions of being a victim and instead see your "liberation" from the organization as a chance for a fresh start. Attitude is everything in any job search and that is especially true when experiencing a downsizing.

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Financial Necessities

When preparing for a possible layoff, individuals must take stock of their financial situations. Delay major purchases like cars, vacations or houses if possible and bolster your rainy day savings.
Find out more about your company's severance policies and research your state's unemployment benefits. How much money can you receive? How do you apply? What benefits (like physicals or eye exams) might you take advantage of before leaving your job?
When a layoff is announced, offer to work as a consultant to finish your projects and make sure the organization remembers you as professional and competent. When the day comes, don't sign any documents or agree to any terms without careful and slow consideration.

Administrative Practicalities

When there is talk of a coming downsizing, employees should take action to preserve their access to important information. Otherwise, you may forget to download that big project in the chaos that breaks out on the actual day of a mass exit.
Review your email and computer accounts to make sure that, subject to company rules, you save your personal contacts, files and other information to personal devices you can access later. Get copies of your address book, performance evaluations, company policies, organizational charts and nonproprietary work. Avoid taking confidential information like customer lists or intellectual property that does not belong to you personally.
If time permits, prepare a file that lists your major responsibilities and the status of your key projects. You former boss will both respect and appreciate a departing employee whose professionalism encourages the smooth transition of work.

Career Aspirations

While jumping right into an active job search before and after an announced redundancy can be therapeutic and admirable, it is critical that the job seeker take the time to really determine what he or she seeks in the next career phase. A layoff is a great time to consider what field, track or function is really the best fit for the individual.
Too many people jump from the proverbial frying pan to the fire without considering their highest and best purposes. As the saying goes, any path will do when one does not know his destination.
Consider asking for a performance evaluation to be scheduled to figure out what you can improve as you find your next role. This conversation can help with psychological closure as well.

Professional Relationships

A job search is at its core a marketing exercise. Your professional reputation is most important, and you can build your brand by acting courteously and maturely through the whole layoff experience.
Peers who are forced by circumstance to lay off colleagues and friends will often seek to avoid additional contact with those affected, but the savvy job seeker will set aside negative emotions in the spirit of maintaining productive relationships. In addition to updating his or her resume, the recently terminated employee must take the time to solicit (and offer) personal recommendations on LinkedIn and invite supervisors and peers to serve as employment references.
When rumors of impending layoffs start to fly, take actions to best position yourself for success in whatever comes next.
Copyright 2019 U.S. News & World Report