One night in 2010, business writer Teresa Murray’s editor finished working on one of her stories. The following morning, he didn’t show up for work.“He never took off sick,” says Murray. “People had a bad vibe. Where was he?”
She soon learned that her editor was gone, laid off, never to return.
“He was so well-liked and respected,” says Murray, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which reduced its newsroom by over 75 percent since 2006. “It is devastating. You are numb on so many levels. I was hurting for me, for him, for the newsroom.”
Losing beloved colleagues and bosses to layoffs has become a fact of life in many industries across the nation.
Experts share these tips on how to cope:
Acknowledge your feelings
You may experience a range of emotions, including stress, sadness, loss and fear.
“It can be heartbreaking,” says Sigal Barsade, Ph.D., the Joseph Frank Bernstein professor of management at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. “You were used to this person, you liked being around them, you needed them, they were helpful from a work perspective.”
Work is often viewed as a place “to shutter our emotions” Barsade says, but “suppression never works; it makes it worse. Acknowledge that it is legitimate to feel sad about the fact they are losing their job. Allow yourself to feel it.”
Focus on the person who lost the job
After a layoff or buyout, it’s common for any person who’s been let go to feel embarrassed and ashamed, even if the job cut had nothing to do with performance.
“It can be a serious emotional crisis,” says David Noer, Ph.D., author of “Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations” (Jossey-Bass, out now). “This person is being invalidated, doesn’t have a job and is going through the trauma of a layoff.”
Be thoughtful about their emotions and what they are going through. “We know it’s helpful to focus on other people’s emotions in terms of helping our own,” Barsade says.
Be a pillar of support
When close friends, colleagues or mentors suddenly lose their job, reach out to them.
“There are norms against reaching out, but once you do, it is very powerful,” says Noer. “Be a good listener, help them deal with their emotions. Ask them how they feel, use reflective questions, like ‘That must be crummy,. How can I be helpful?’ Or shut the hell up and let them talk. They are going through…