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Layoffs always have been a harsh reality of the business world, but right now, they’re happening more than ever. Episode 67 of Faithful on the Clock outlines why layoffs are so difficult for both employers and workers and provides some tactics for getting through them well.
[00:30] - Summary of factors leading to uptick in layoffs
[02:11] - Guilt and self-doubt can come along with a layoff. Leaders can feel like they’ve failed their teams or aren’t skilled. Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t control.
[03:40] - Employees can feel like they wouldn’t have lost their jobs if they just performed better. But companies often let people go just because they don’t fit the companies’ new strategies. [04:47] - People still can have value and talent even when a business pivots. Try to see how your skills and knowledge could apply to new environments and trust that you have options.
[06:07] - The stories of Elijah and Ruth demonstrate that people in power have done away with workers and created worry for centuries. But God supplied and did not leave things unfair.
[08:33] - Employers should take care that they are as open as possible about what is happening. They also should not be afraid to cut deep, as repeated rounds of layoffs only worsen anxiety for employees. Employers can allow workers to provide insights and be advocates who unify the remaining personnel to the new strategy.
[10:18] - Employees are not without some control during a layoff. Start by getting information and talking to others to make sure your perspectives and assumptions are founded.
[11:21] - It’s good for employees to come up with an A-B plan, where A represents what they will do if they are not laid off and B represents the precise steps they’ll take if they’re let go.
[13:06] - Employers should take care to ensure workers leave on good terms so that, in the future, it’s possible for those workers to return and apply new skills and knowledge. The focus should be on supporting the larger industry, not just supporting the business.
[15:03] - Employees should make an effort to get the contact information of those who leave. They can minister to those people, and by keeping them in their network, also celebrate with them when wins happen. This can help the remaining employees feel less loss.
Companies are enduring many layoffs right now for a range of reasons, including fallout from the pandemic. The situation is dire enough that you can assume you know someone who it touches, even if you are not experiencing a layoff scenario yourself.
Leaders often can feel guilty during a layoff and wonder what they could have done to save their teams. But they often are put into layoff scenarios by factors outside of their control.
Employees often feel as though they could have saved their jobs if they just worked harder or were better. But companies often lay people off based on how they aim to pivot, not necessarily based solely on performance. Workers can have enormous value if they continue to see different ways to apply their offer. It’s not always their fault they have to pack up.
The stories of Elijah and Ruth show that people of value easily can be displaced by people in power. But God dealt favorably with his servants. He puts people who mistreat the faithful in their place.
Employers can get through layoffs better by being more open and cutting deeply quickly. Getting feedback and giving people a voice through the layoff also is beneficial.
Employees going through layoffs can combat some stress by taking action where they can. This can include asking questions of the employer, doing personal research, and making a plan for what to do if you leave or stay in the company.
Leaders and employees both need to pay attention to how they deal with people leaving during the layoff. Employers can take positive steps such as introducing people or providing resources, keeping in mind that they are obligated to support the larger industry. Employees can try to keep coworkers in their network, celebrate with them, and offer support as they transition.
Have an open and honest conversation about the state of your company. What are the odds layoffs would happen? Share insights about how everyone can work together to prevent that scenario or reduce the negative consequences.
If layoffs already are happening, share relevant information you have and ask the questions that are causing you anxiety.
What’s coming up next:
No two leaders are alike, and there are multiple leadership styles out there. Is one “better” than the others? How can you discover your own style? That’s coming up in Episode 68 of Faithful on the Clock.
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Welcome to the Faithful on the Clock, everybody. I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, I’ll be here with you for the entire show to get your faith and work aligned. Today’s episode is about layoffs — how do you deal with that both psychologically and logistically, and what does it mean when companies let people go? Stick with me, because here we go.
All right. So, if you’ve heard the show before, you already know I like to give a little bit of context for the topic we’re talking about. So to put layoffs into perspective, right now, after the pandemic, we’ve got a situation where inflation has been sitting at over 8 percent for months. And economists are predicting a recession. The supply chain is still really unpredictable. And at the same time, as people are reexamining how they want to live and work, companies are having to fight really hard to maintain their workforces and attract talent. So the result of all that is that companies are in a situation where they are having to rethink how they’re operating, and that includes how many people are on payroll and what their roles are. And I’ll link to some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics so you can see this, but there are layoffs happening in just about every industry right now, everything from education to mining. But a lot of the headlines do center around technology. You’ve got big companies like Facebook and Twitter, Lyft, Salesforce, Netflix — they’re all letting workers go, to the point where some experts are saying, OK, Silicon Valley’s heyday is done because the tech markets have reached saturation and all this other stuff is going on. So the big picture around this is that this is a really tough time for a lot of people, and I want you all to realize that this is something that, you know, I think it’s wise to be prepared on it, because even if a layoff doesn’t happen to you, I can guarantee you’ll know somebody that it affects or touches.
So there are a couple of points I want to stress from the Christian perspective on this. The first is that I think when a layoff happens, there’s just a ton of guilt and self-doubt that come along with it. Like, on the employer side, you might wonder, OK, well, if I’m such a great leader, how come I couldn’t protect my people? How come I’m having to slash my business when I’m supposed to be able to grow it? And yes, there are times when companies have to lay people off because leaders made poor choices in the past that got the businesses into trouble. But sometimes, you know, like we’re seeing now, there are just a ton of unforeseen things that can create a perfect storm, and those things don’t necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong. And I think a lot of leaders, when they have to do this to their teams, gosh, I mean, I think it just cuts them apart. Because they know. They know what Jane or John is going to go through, they know how tough it’s gonna be. And they don’t want people to go through that, especially when these are people who might have been on the team from day one, who, you know, have just given everything to the business. So I want to just say on that side, leaders, I do see that. And I want you all to know how important it is for your own mental health, for your ability to keep leading, that you don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t control. You know, take responsibility for your decisions and the things you can control, but don’t think it’s all on you if it’s not.
Now, on the employee side, I think the part that messes everybody up is this idea that it’s the people who aren’t doing so hot, you know, the people who aren’t, quote, essential, that get laid off. And sometimes companies do take performance into account. And so I think people can get hung up on, OK, well, if I’d just pushed harder, if I’d just been smarter, had more skills, maybe I wouldn’t have lost my job. And they get down on themselves for not being better. But what I want you to see is that, when a layoff is happening, leaders don’t make cuts just to survive. They make cuts based on the way they’re adjusting their strategy. So like, if a company is struggling, they come up with a way to pivot that’s more relevant to the market, but then that can mean that a lot of people don’t fit into that new strategy. It doesn’t mean they haven’t worked hard or that they don’t have talent. They still can learn and apply themselves and have value. It just means that that particular company has decided to do business differently.
So if a layoff happens in your workplace, just like with employers, it’s not always your fault that you have to pack up. And a lot of the time, when we see industries shifting, it’s just so scary, because we start to worry that we’re just outdated. But please consider, you know, you might have applied yourself in a specific way, but a lot of the time, you still can have an incredible demand if you realize you can adjust what you’ve got on the table. So maybe you spent your career…I, I don’t know, say you’re a makeup artist, you’re used to working with photographers, that kind of thing. Well, what about going into hospitals or nursing homes, using those skills to help people feel a little better? Or maybe you do analytics. You’ve been working with retail companies on product demand and development. Well, maybe now you go to the agricultural sector and help them analyze what to do with the land or how to distribute food where it’s needed most. So it’s the same skills, you’re just going into a new environment and changing what you get out of those skills. And I know it’s hard to see those opportunities when things get chaotic. But I just ask that you hit pause when that happens and stay focused on the fact that you do have options.
All this being said, I’d like for you to turn with me to the story of Elijah starting in 1 Kings 16. Now, to summarize that story for you, Israel’s kings had just been horrible. They really had turned away from God and fallen into sin. But the scriptures say that King Ahab, he was the worst of the worst. And he married a woman named Jezabel who didn’t follow God, either. So Elijah, he’s a prophet, and he goes to Ahab and basically calls him out for all the wickedness going on. And with God’s help, he makes a drought come on the land. But Ahab and Jezebel, they don’t like that, and Elijah has to flee into the desert. But Jezebel, she wasn’t satisfied. She was so insulted and upset with Elijah that she set about to have all the prophets of God rounded up and killed. Not just some. All, OK? So these prophets, they were doing their job. They hadn’t done anything wrong. But here come Ahab and Jezebel, and they basically say, your whole organization, everything you stand and work for, it’s just, you know, it’s worthless. There’s no need for you, you’re dead. And so just in a general way, you know, there were multiple times when Israel turned against the prophets. But especially in this story, which is an extreme example of that, I want you to see that there were times in the Bible when people in power cut out other people who were not at fault. And this was not just, oh, go find other work. It was, we will kill you. And I also want you to see that, in that story, God ends up doing away with Jezebel. You know, she got what was coming to her. So I want you to center on this idea that God is very aware of how people behave. He’s aware of intent and He’s not about to leave things unfair, OK? And I think there are other stories that speak to that, as well. The book of Ruth, for instance, Naomi and Ruth lose everything. And they have to really struggle with, you know, they have no real security, Ruth has to go do backbreaking work gleaning in the fields. Because in that culture at that time, unmarried women, they just didn’t have any rights. And so a lot of what people face when they lose their jobs, all the worry about how they’re going to survive, they went through that. And we see in that story, too, that God set them up with what they’d need.
So to get to some of the more practical elements of this, on the employer side, I think there are two big things that are helpful, which are to be as open as you can about what’s happening and to not be afraid to cut deep. Because I think what happens a lot is that leaders either rush and miscalculate how many people need to go, or they drag their feet because they don’t want to hurt anybody. And so you get multiple rounds of layoffs, and every time, people get a little more scared that they’re going to be next. You know, that uncertainty and anxiety just keep growing. So, I fully acknowledge that you have to be sensitive in how you relay information so that people don’t panic. But I’m just pointing out that it’s scary to be left in the dark or to have questions that no one will answer. So as much as you can, be upfront about what you do know and what you’re up against. Get some feedback. See if people have ideas maybe you haven’t thought about about how to save some jobs. Because you know, every employee has a stake in that company. Every worker should be invested in protecting it. And so I think it’s to your benefit to treat them that way and to give them a voice and to let them try to help you. And as you’re doing this, really find some key people who can be advocates for whatever new strategy you’re building. Because I think buy-in is easier when it’s not just people at the top who are preaching the new thing, you know what I mean? Let those people help you unify the people who are left so that, when all is said and done, you really are ready to move forward with a common purpose.
So on the employee side, what I want you to see is, even if you have a lot of unknowns with your employer, maybe they can’t tell you for sure how many people they’re going to keep because they’ve got variables to sort out yet, that does not have to stop you from taking action. And I point that out because a lot of the time I think that’s what gives people anxiety, is that they feel like they’re just stuck and they have no control. But you do have some actions you can take, the first of which is to be direct in asking for information. Go and get what the employer can give you, do your own research into what’s happening in the market. Go talk to your coworkers for their perspectives and insights, because sometimes our biases or lack of experience can get the way for how we interpret the situation, right? So make sure you’re going to your supervisor or manager and telling them what you need or what your apprehensions are. Because assumptions are just gonna create a rift, regardless of which side holds them.
And then I think the absolute best strategy is to come up with an A-B plan. So, think through, OK, what might it look like if I’m able to stay with the business? Would I still be happy here? Can I still progress? And kind of look at that scenario and plot out who you’d need to work with or what you’d need to do to thrive. That’s your A plan. Then assume the worst. Assume you’re gonna have to pack up. Well, OK, what’s your next move, not just in terms of a new job, but in terms of your entire career. And within that, remember, it’s ridiculously common to switch jobs over a career. You might have even done it before. The only difference now is that somebody else has given you the timeframe for the exit. So I don’t want you to doubt yourself here. Just consider where you wanna be and then get extremely specific about how you’ll get there. Maybe that means going to get some training. Maybe it means cold-calling some people in your network. Whatever it is, you want to get yourself in a position where, if you get that pink slip, you don’t have to skip a beat. You can just say, all right, I’m gonna initiate Plan B, and the first step in that is X, I know exactly what to do. And if you’re really smart about this, you’ll even handle some of this kind of preemptively. Like, you can talk to people in your network and let them know that you’re considering new options. You can let them know what you’re looking for early on so you’re not waiting around waiting for them to get back to you.
Now, the last thing I want to touch on here is what I’ll call the breakup. The breakup is when people actually leave the company. And I think sometimes, even if they feel bad, leaders don’t really know how to have people leave on good terms. I would highly recommend first of all for leaders to look at their staff and see if there are people who can be retrained or upskilled. Because maybe then a breakup isn’t even necessary, right? But if you can’t do that, ask yourself, how can I help this person keep their footing? Don’t let it just be tossing people out the door. Because remember, you don’t want to just support the business. You want to support the industry. So maybe you can’t keep someone on your payroll, but you have them work with your HR department to find other jobs to apply for that might be a good fit. Maybe you can introduce them to somebody. Maybe you can pay for them to take a class or get a certification so they can apply. Now, you might say, why in the world would I do that if my company is in such a position that I can’t keep staff? Well, because like I said, it’s about the whole industry, but also because later on, you wanna leave the door open so that maybe, just maybe, that employee can come back with a whole new set of skills and experience and put them to work for you. They’re gonna remember that you tried to support them to the bitter end, and that’s dramatically gonna improve how they talk about you to others after they leave. So, I’m not saying drain your budget or send people directly to competitors. I’m just saying think bigger than your own four walls and more long-term than the layoff circumstances you’re in. Then do what you can with what you’ve got.
And employees, what I think is so important here for you as you’re watching people around you leave is to make a conscious effort to get the contact information for those people. There is no reason why you cannot keep those people in your network, OK? And I think if you just think of having the relationship look a little different, rather than looking at it to say it’s just done, then you’re not going to feel nearly as much grief or loss as people go. In fact, you might have an opportunity to go and celebrate with them as they find different work or opportunities. And you might have the chance, too, to keep ministering to them, to keep offering support and loving on them as your neighbor. And again, I think it’s when we can’t do anything that we feel the most stress. So if you know you can go to those people and lend a hand in some way, I think that’s a real benefit to you as the layoffs happen.
So let’s just bow our heads for a second and close out with a quick prayer.
God, part of what makes a layoff so difficult in my mind is not just all the uncertainty around it, but also the fact that we tie our sense of self to whether we’re successful on the clock. We can lose work or have to let people go and it just shatters this whole idea of who we even are. And so, Lord, I pray that, for those going through this today, I just pray that you will break that. Help them see not only that you know where you’re leading them, but also that they have value just as they are, no deliverables or paychecks on the table. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
So that’s the episode for you. I know there’s a ton more I could cover on this, but you know, I’ve only got 10 to 15 minutes for the show. If you are going through a layoff, if you want to offer what you’ve done successfully on the employer or employee side, drop me a note on Twitter @FaithfulOTC, or you can email me about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. While I wait for that feedback, I’ll be putting together the next episode. We’ll be talking about styles of leadership, including which might be best and how to apply your own style effectively. Until then, everybody, be blessed.
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast meant to get your Christian faith and work aligned. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.
Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.