Career expert offers 8 strategies to help layoff survivors rebound

Many professionals have felt the shock of layoffs during these difficult times – including those who kept their jobs. Savvy HR professionals should be watching for signs that layoff survivors are struggling to stay focused and productive.

According to administrative staffing firm OfficeTeam, employees who survive corporate downsizings often must manage heavier workloads and stay motivated while worrying that their jobs could be eliminated next.

"It's natural for people to have mixed feelings about keeping their jobs when coworkers have been let go," says OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. "Layoff survivors often experience guilt about being the ones who stay while also working in an environment marked by uncertainty."

According to Hosking, managers and HR professionals should not expect those who are spared from layoffs to pretend it`s business as usual. "This is a time to work closely with ... managers to ensure [the] workload reflects company priorities," he says. "Also, try to stay positive. This can be challenging, as losing good people inevitably affects morale, but the more you can do to lift the collective spirit, the better off you will be."

OfficeTeam offers these tips to help employees and managers rebounding after company layoffs:

  • Become indispensable. Focus efforts on projects that help boost your firm's bottom line. This may be the best time to take courses to learn skills that contribute in new ways.
  • Build visibility. In uncertain times, it's important to be noticed for the right reasons. Volunteer for projects that no one wants to tackle or that fall outside your job description. Also ensure employees are able to provide periodic reports updating supervisors and managers on achievements.
  • Adapt to change. Managers appreciate employees who can roll with the punches and maintain productivity when faced with adversity. Encourage employees to demonstrate the ability to stay positive, motivated and focused on doing good work.
  • Conduct an audit. Now is the time to be nimble. Evaluate current processes and offer suggestions for cutting costs or saving your company time or resources.
  • Avoid the rumour mill. While increased water cooler chatter is inevitable after layoffs, avoid contributing to the gossip. Also, advise employees not to believe everything they hear. Advise them if they have questions about your company's direction, to ask their managers but also to understand if they don`t all the answers.
  • Be generous with praise. After downsizing, employees may begin to doubt their abilities and question their own future with the company. As an HR professional or even their manager, you may not be in a position to make promises of job security, but you can give direct reports positive feedback on their performance in challenging times.
  • Reach out. Offer assistance to those who have experienced a job loss by introducing them to professional networks and helping them with their job search. Look out for yourself, as well. Layoff survivors often experience increased workloads, which can lead to burnout. Talk to your manager about setting priorities, delegating projects or bringing in temporary professionals.

Hosking notes that workers need to be aware of the realities of their organizations. "Those who think their job may be in jeopardy should focus on reactivating their professional networks, taking stock of their skills and accomplishments, and putting together a strong resume," he says.

For more about OfficeTeam, visit