If you continue to read the press, which I only do to get a sense of what my clients may be exposed to; you can’t miss all of the articles written about layoffs and survivors guilt. Lately, the focus and direction has been toward advising organizations and companies how to “help” employees manage their survivor guilt.
By focusing on acknowledging and healing survivor guilt, leaders can help remaining employees know that they are serious about moving into the future in the best way possible. Through communication and understanding, an organization can begin to experience revitalization and can return to working at full capacity.
Margaret Benefiel, Ph.D, Survivor guilt: revitalizing after layoffs, June 12, 2009
Some of the advice companies are being given includes:
- balance or spread the remaining workload
- be aware of decreased motivation, increase sick days and a pallor of fear filling the halls and corridors of your business
We can translate this kind of advice into useful guidance for career professionals, whether you are a layoff survivor and coping with workplace survivor’s guilt.
Have you ever noticed that when things become really stressful, we tend to go inside of ourselves? Makes you think of the turtle, huh? Sure, there are those who may need to talk, continuously, to relieve the stress --- unfortunately unless it’s with a therapist, this doesn’t last long and then they too join the ranks of the “silently stressed.” In this way, however, we are actually communicating to ourselves that something is uncomfortable and needs to change. If we can make the shift to communicating with the intended purpose of creating more comfort and powerful change for our careers and life, we can relieve the stress and convert it to energy.
How can you do that? Take this stressful event and use it to clarify better what you want. If you no longer want to be in your current occupation, career, industry, etc. identify what you do want. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, identify what you don’t want or like about your current situation. Don’t censor yourself, write it all down, with misspellings, in no particular order, just write until you’ve done both an emotional and brain dump. Then walk away from your list to allow for a better perspective when you start on side two. This could be a couple of hours or even a couple of days
- Next, as you would expect, on side two of the page, write what it is you do want. You can use some of the items from your “don’t want” list to help clarify your “do want” list. However, the purpose of walking away was to also give you access to new and fresh ideas of what you could want. So don’t limit yourself to simply matching the other side. Take the opportunity to give yourself more -- more options, more choices, and more freedom. You’ll find this to be both a freeing and energizing means of communicating!
Balance the spread of the workload
As employers focus on saving their companies from termination, they may not be as focused on balancing the remaining work amongst the talented, yet tired and fearful team who remain. So it becomes part of your own job description to create balance for yourself.
“If you think of yourself as working for Me, Inc. instead of your company, then you may work just as hard, but you’ll remember that you’re in charge of your career.”
Peter Bourke, Volunteer Chairman of Crossroads Career Network, “How is your work/life balance”, 6/14/09
Your focus on creating more balance in how you manage the increased workload is another part of your new job description. Several years ago, a number of corporations shifted from “hours worked to results delivered” model in assessing performance. And if they haven’t it could be why there are so many who are greatly experiencing “change!” If you shift your performance towards delivering greater results vs. more hours worked, then your employer’s satisfaction and your productivity rise.
What this does for you is it helps you to balance your own workload so that you can deliver the best results, within your own control. For example, if you can generate a proposal for a new client in 2 days vs. the usual 3 days, why not use the remaining time to upgrade your skills to an area or career of high interest for you? It will likely result in higher productivity provided to your employer (which makes them happy) and position you to weather any future career change or workplace shift (which gives you better life satisfaction).
Your productivity and results are within your control. Sure you may have to collaborate with others to achieve your end result, but that’s also within your control. Use the opportunity to create more balance in the spread of workload – for yourself.
Decreased motivation, increased sick days and the pallor of fear
No one could argue that there are incredible emotional tides that you have to wade through with all the ins and outs of today’s workplace. It may be necessary to experience, process and recover from the shock. There are tools for dealing with loss, both free and fee; and there are therapists, counselors and groups to support you and ensure that you’re not alone.
Take advantage of them and know that it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong, and it’s just a time of incredible flux and change. To feel nothing, might be a more challenging proposition. When you’re ready, take back control!
The current state of workplace dynamics will likely require a new set of operating principles going forward, but one thing is important to recognize. You are in more control than ever. Access to more tools, guidance, and resources – both free and fee has never been greater. Refuse to be “silently stressed.” Take these and other examples from the headlines and make them work for you – today!
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