It’s no secret that it’s tough out there on Wall Street at the moment. But you’ve survived the waves of layoffs that have washed through Citigroup, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, or one of the countless other firms that have made cuts. Phew. 

Sure, it’s great to still be employed, but your company just fired your coworkers (maybe even some that you’d consider friends…well, minus the hardo, tough luck buddy)  — not the best feeling. 

If you are feeling bad about surviving the cut while those around you were let go, that’s actually normal. So normal in fact, it has a name — “layoff survivor sickness.”

What is Layoff Survivor Sickness?

Most of us have heard of survivor’s guilt, but surviving a round of layoffs doesn’t seem comparable to surviving, say, a plane crash, right? Well, the human brain works in mysterious ways, and as author, David Noer states, some of those ways are by reacting to work layoffs with a sense of anger, sadness, guilt, and loss of joy and personal relevance. 

One thing about being human, we can’t always control how we feel about things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t control how we react. So, if you happen to be suffering from layoff survivor sickness on some level, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you get through the tough times.

surviving a layoff meme
Via Make a Meme

How to Manage if You’re the Manager

If you happen to be a manager (or even THE manager that had to lay people off), it doesn’t mean you don’t get to feel the same layoff survivor’s guilt that the rest of the office feels. Everything in the sections below is just as applicable, but you do have a few other responsibilities you’ll have to deal with.

One of the biggest things you can do to help your team after a round of layoffs is…drum roll…communicate. While it isn’t groundbreaking stuff, showing your team that you aren’t a heartless monster will go a long way in helping everyone get back up to speed after seeing their coworkers get cut. 

Also, be aware that there might be a downtick in productivity and an increase in errors as people struggle to stay focused on the tasks in front of them. Try and shave off some non-essential work in the days following layoffs, so the remaining staff can reacclimate as the office efficiency ramps back up.

Acknowledge How You Feel

So we’ve established it’s normal to feel anger, sadness, or some mix of emotions after surviving a wave of layoffs, but what do you do with those emotions? 

The one thing you absolutely don’t want to do is suppress how you feel. 

When it comes to dealing with our emotions, we all practice something called “emotion regulation,” which dictates our responses to certain experiences. And not to pile on, but there’s a chance you’ve been doing emotion regulation all wrong (it’s okay though, you can fix that!). When it comes to emotion regulation, there are two ways in which we generally react — Suppression or Reappraisal.

  • Suppression: Basically, suppression is trying to manage emotional responses by ignoring how we feel. People tend to do this to feel a sense of control, but research shows that people who suppress their emotions tend to “experience less positive emotions, worse relationships, and a reduced quality of life.” Simply put, don’t suppress your emotions.
  • ReappraisalReappraisal, on the other hand, is changing how you view a situation so you can better control your emotional response. Implementing this technique when you feel your emotions boiling up is the true key to accepting and working through all those feelings.

Once you acknowledge what you’re feeling, it’s much easier to reappraise the situation and develop a better outlook on what’s going on.

surviving a layoff will smith email meme
Via Fishbowl App

Look for Support

Sharing how you feel is scary. Especially if you feel silly for feeling a certain way — talk about a negative feedback loop. But, it’s been proven time and time again that talking about how you feel really does help.

Whether it’s venting to your friends, sharing your feelings with a partner, or even going to see a therapist (it’s the 21st century, therapy is cool now), find someone you trust to talk to.


Self-care, stress management, whatever you want to call it, make sure you make time to do it. When you’re feeling down, the best way to get yourself back up is by taking care of yourself — ugh, what a drag. But in all seriousness, making a priority out of your mental and physical health will help get you out of your funk and back into the grind quicker than just trying to tough things out with no positive changes. 

Do things such as:

  • Get some daily exercise: You’ll see this in every article about feeling better in your daily life. Sure working out can feel like a chore at first (and finding the time to do it is a struggle), but even just 30 minutes of activity has been shown to have a positive mental impact
  • Focus on healthy meals: Obviously eating is important, but who has time to cook? While preparing gourmet meals might not be a reality, focus on getting some of the essentials into your meals (vitamins, fiber, etc.), and also try to do better than the annoyingly convenient fast-food spots that seem to fill every street when you’re starving.
  • Make time for a hobby: Huge shocker, doing stuff you like makes you feel good. Whether it’s reading a book, playing some pickup hoops, or even bird watching, make time to do the things you like, and give yourself a mental break from the dramas of work.
  • Outline your goals: This is a good thing to semi-frequently do when it comes to your career, but it can be especially helpful when you’re struggling at work. While it’s always tough to see coworkers let go (and don’t get us started on what it means for your workload), reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you plan to go is the perfect way to kickstart your workplace vigor.

Stay In Touch With Ex-Colleagues 

If you’re really feeling torn up about some of your work buds being let go, make sure to stay in touch with them. While it might feel a little odd to reach out while you got to keep your job, it can show both you and your ex-colleague that your job doesn’t make you who you are. 

Beyond that, you also never know how much reaching out could mean to them, which ultimately helps everyone feel a little better. It also never hurts to keep your network full and flowing, opportunity can occur in strange ways!  

Handling Layoffs

Seeing the people you worked with every day lose their jobs always sucks. It’s almost inevitable that the days or even weeks after will come with a dark cloud, but it’s important to remember that with time and the right mental approach, you and the office will be back up and roaring in no time. While you, unfortunately, can’t undo what’s been done, you do have the power to control what comes next.

Interested in more content like this? Check out The Grind by CapLinked for more honest takes on how to deal with the realities of today’s M&A world.


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