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My company recently announced they will be performing some layoffs over the next 12 weeks. My area of the company will be affected, so I have no choice but to assume I will be let go and am starting to look for a new job now.

I've never been through this kind of thing before. Not once in my life have I been in the position of maybe not having a job tomorrow. So, needless to say, I am a bit unfocused right now. That's a problem for me, because I take my work very seriously and even though it is likely I will be let go, or find another job before I have a chance to find out, it is extremely important to me that I remain focused and professional while I'm at work.

Does any one have any tips/advice for how to accomplish this in the face of such uncertainty? I read this Q & A, but all the answers all just said to start looking for work. I already know to do that. I need to know what I can do to help keep myself focused and my quality of work high. It's both a matter of self-preservation and my own morals and values for me to do so.


I think people have mis-understood my question to some degree. I am not actually very concerned with "saving my skin" so to speak. What I am concerned with are techniques I can use to maintain a high level of focus and professionalism. It's a matter of principal, not saving my job.

  • consider checking answers in another question: What can I do to minimize my risk of being laid off? (because what you want, "keep myself focused and my quality of work high" is pretty much close to minimizing risk of being laid off) – gnat Mar 6 '15 at 20:51
  • Thanks @gnat. I'll look at that. That question didn't occur to me, because I'm not really trying to minimize the risk. It's a matter of professionalism to me. – ThatGuy Mar 6 '15 at 20:54
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    well yeah, connection is not really straightforward at a first glance. Though, if you think of it, efficient company will likely focus on keeping most professional employees – gnat Mar 6 '15 at 20:56
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    Seems to me the fact that you are writing a thoughtful, responsible post like this, means you are already capable of maintaining integrity and focus on the job. – Michael Martinez Mar 6 '15 at 23:50
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You need some sort of motivation to finish strong. Here's one possibility that may or may not resonate with you.

Whenever you leave a company (voluntarily or no), you leave behind an impression on those with whom you worked. People remember former coworkers who were good. Working hard in the couple months preceding your termination allows you to leave on a good note. If you work hard and are laid off, it may leave a good impression on people. This will be helpful if you run into some of your former coworkers in future jobs/companies and when asking people for references.

So you may be able to motivate yourself by working for your reputation, and the effect it may have on future business opportunities. Think of it as a long term investment.

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    Insightful and perhaps what I needed to hear. Thank you. – ThatGuy Mar 6 '15 at 21:13
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    I just wanted to say that 2 years and two jobs later, this is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. Both of those companies have left an open invitation for me to return. – ThatGuy Mar 3 '17 at 14:41
  • Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to hear this was helpful to you. – djohnson10 Mar 7 '17 at 18:21
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Focus on what you can control and worry about that

It is hard to be positive with your job on the line. But it is important not to let yourself get down. If you focus on what you can't control you will get depressed. Despite your best efforts you may be laid off. Don't worry about that. There is nothing you can do. You can focus on keeping your performance up, that's it.

Focus on what you can control: Looking for new jobs, keeping your work at your current job up to snuff, being positive with/around your co-workers and bosses.

It takes true strength to be positive in times of trouble. Being positive and confident may be the difference you need(in your current job or the one your are looking for).

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Well, you're doing the right thing by starting to look for a new job. Obviously, keeping this quiet will be important if you wish to keep your current job.

Fact is, you have one huge motivator for keeping busy with your job; your job depends on it.

If there are any responsibilities up for grabs, I suggest you grab them, or volunteer.

Usually, you can keep your job pretty certain by making yourself part of a low bus factor. That is to say, gaining expertise and knowledge that very few people have. It increases your value to the company, and letting you go would come at a higher price.

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Far from being a definitive answer, but here's what's working for me so far.

1. Establish Cognitive Dissonance

From "9 to 5" convince yourself that you are safe and will not be let go. This allows you to focus on your work and get the job done. After you punch out, convince yourself that you will be let go, and spend your time accordingly.

2. Talk About It

but not with your co-workers. Your co-workers are as frightened and uncertain about the future as you are. DO NOT discuss this with them. Negative energy builds in abundance this way. No, you need to talk about this, but with someone who is minimally affected by the situation. Obviously, discuss this with your significant other, but someone even more objective is preferred. If you have a mentor, call them. It's likely they've been through this before and have a few words of wisdom.

3. Stay Positive

By any means necessary. Get an extra workout in. Go for a long walk in the woods. Whatever you do for you, do it. Now is the time to make a little extra time for you.

Remind yourself that this is not the end of the world. Your not the first person to ever face a layoff and civilization is still here. Yup. I just checked. The whole wide world is still outside my window.

4. View the Situation as an Opportunity

Perhaps this is a good time to make a big bold career move. You've nothing to lose, so there is no sense of potentially lost security holding you back. Seize the opportunity to do something new or simply bigger than your current role.

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Another motivator is being laid of today, doesn't mean no job tomorrow.

I don't know your company's situation other than if they are facing layoffs, it's probably bad. But often bad it a temporary thing.

Case and point. Our company had to lay off ALOT of people about two years ago because a company we were working with / competing with managed to trap our money in escrow. (AKA we earned the money, they just kept it from getting to us) when we finally got through that we hired most of the people we laid off back.

So even if you are laid off, that doesn't mean they won't hire you back later. Keep up the good work and if things don't pan out else where you might be able to come back when things stabilize.

(Also you want to have a good rep as a professional when layoffs happen. Often another company will try to hire up a chunk of people who get laid off. Such as if I'm looking to spin up a new team for a new project at my company, and the decent office next door is letting 8 developers go I'm going to hire the whole lot as they already know how to work together.)

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If your priority is to stay professional and focused, you need to balance your effort between your immediate duties versus looking for new work.

There is no "prize" for being laid off after working extra hard. The reputation you built as a diligent worker isn't going to evaporate in a few short weeks. If you know you're going to be cut, there is no point in going above and beyond.

To make it even worse, being laid off will be a strike against you when looking for new work. If at all possible you're better off landing the new job before the ax comes. The best thing you can do is to put a modest amount of effort into your current work while conducting a job search with some intensity.

  • This doesn't even remotely try to answer my question. – ThatGuy Mar 6 '15 at 22:33
  • Sure it does, I am saying that being "professional" also means prioritizing your job search when the time comes. The time is now: your job search is more important than your job. – teego1967 Mar 6 '15 at 22:45
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    I somewhat disagree that being laid off is a strike against you, especially if it is the only instance in your entire work history. It's better to have a job while you're looking for a new one, but my experience is that a lot of competitors snap up talent after a big layoff because they understand that most of those folks were let go for reasons other than the quality of their work. It does mean that the compensation they offer probably won't be as competitive because it's a "buyer's" market, but unless you've been repeatedly laid off I don't think it's a red flag. – ColleenV Mar 7 '15 at 15:28
  • @ColleenV, as you said its better to have a job while you're looking. There is absolutely a stigma to be overcome if someone is jobless. It is not insurmountable but given two otherwise comparable candidates the jobless one has a disadvantage. Knowing there is going to be a layoff is a kind of gift and if one doubles down to work rather than their job search, they're throwing away that gift. – teego1967 Mar 7 '15 at 21:06

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