I work at a research facility which provides a comparatively stable and high tech employment for talented individuals (not just software and not in Silicon Valley).

However, due to the shift in corporate strategy quite a few departments/labs got closed as the company is refocusing on more digital products and less on the physical aspects (materials, chemistry).

There was a layoff last month, first major one in 10+ years. Although we were given not the number, the estimate is 20%. Many of my friends got laid off and since this area is fairly small, almost everyone will move away (Boston, NYC, Silicon Valley, Seattle, ...). This is taking a toll on me.

How would I best deal with such a situation? I chose this job partially because of its stability. How do you deal with the post-layoff atmosphere when many capable people who were not affected have already started looking for a new opportunity?

I just do not have the motivation to go the extra mile for the company as I used to do before the layoff.

This is a question of how to deal with layoffs after they have happened, not before as in How to remain focused and professional in the face of layoffs? .

  • 5
    Possible duplicate of How to remain focused and professional in the face of layoffs?
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 13:50
  • 31
    Doesn't look like a dupe to me. In the dupe, layoffs are coming and the OP may be targeted, and is therefore worried and not working as normal. Here, the layoffs have happened, aimed at specific departments, and the OP misses the laid off people and is noticing coworkers leaving. This specifically mentions post-layoff atmosphere while the "dupe" is all about pre-layoff atmosphere. Different. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 13:56

7 Answers 7


This is a very real phenomenon. The people who are laid off receive a shock, of course, and may be upset at first, but they go on to something new and hopefully exciting. You on the other hand still have the worry hanging over you, you miss your friends, you did not get new replacement friends, and in some cases you are also being asked to do more work (hours per day) or more kinds of work than before in order to make up for the missing people. This is no fun at all.

Your choices are limited but they do exist. First, since you've been given an explanation for the layoffs, you can evaluate how you feel about that. Does focusing on digital products make sense? In a firm that focuses on digital products, are you a more valued team member than you were in the previous more diverse firm? Are your options for the future better? Is the company likely to be stronger? Or is this the start of a death spiral? If you feel the layoffs will improve the company and/or your prospects within it, then chin up! You got through a tough time and can look forward to a better one. If you need more friends, look for some in places other than at work. If you feel the layoffs made things worse then you may want to join the folks who have started looking.

Second, take some time to think about what a job is to you and what you want from it. Stability in a time of disruption can slide into stagnation, and that can lead to closure and collapse. Or, when someone notices they've been stagnating, to closing divisions and laying people off. A safe harbor, a place you can sign up and work there for 40 years then retire, just doesn't exist any more in many industries. How important is it to you? Some people don't care where they work any more than they care which exact bus or streetcar they catch on the way to work. If you're able to adjust your attitude to care more about your work than who your employer happens to be, the stress may lift away from you.

Third, be ready for whatever may happen, this is a time of change. A friend who gets a job elsewhere may contact you and say "come join me, it's great here!". There may be more layoffs. The atmosphere in your department may worsen. Have your resume up to date now so you can react quickly if you need to. Gain some insight into what you want and don't want in an employer, again so you can react quickly. Thinking about things before you get blindsided by change is the best way to prepare for change.

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    +1 "Thinking about things before you get blindsided by change is the best way to prepare for change." This advice is useful for many cases, not just work related issues.
    – chtenb
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 8:01

There are 2 problems you describe:

  1. Losing friendships among former colleagues
  2. Losing enthusiasm in the business

My advice for the first one is to keep in touch with your friends and congratulate them on their new jobs. Because they are highly skilled, they are likely to be able to find satisfying jobs in a short period of time.

For the second point, you've derived satisfaction from the work place being stable. Because this is the first major layoff in 10 years, then it has actually been quite stable. However, if you wish to stay motivated at the same employer, then you will need to look to other parts of your job that provide satisfaction, such as the impact of your work, work-life balance, benefits etc.

  • Being a colleague is not necessarily the same as being friends. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:41
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen: From the OP "Many of my friends got laid off..."
    – user27483
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:45

The short answer is that its tough.

You may have ( probably have ) formed strong bonds with some of the folks that were let go. Consider how much time you spend with your co-workders -- in some cases its more than the folks in your personal life.

To answer your question, the easiest way I have gotten through a similar situation in the past is to dive deep into my work and to focus on your remaining relationships with the people still with the company and look to forge new ones. Most of the remaining employees probably feel very similiar to how you feel.


In my opinion, your best option is leave and get a job elsewhere.

Why suffer through this when you go somewhere else and enjoy new challenges?

  • 1
    Because it's most likely a one-way, and the effect of the greener grass at the other side might wear off when you arrive at the destination? Some people seek drive, some seek stability. The distress might be temporary.
    – luk32
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 10:03

It sucks. So any negative feelings that you have are entirely normal. If you feel bad because you have a job and others don't, that's normal. Take some time and after things calmed down in your mind and in your company you start thinking.

One point is finding out how safe your job is. It's not uncommon that a round of layoffs is followed by another round of layoffs. Could you be affected? What happens financially if it happens? (Huge difference depending on your company). If it is bad financially, do whatever you can to have savings.

Another point is that maybe this should be a wakeup call for you. If you valued the stability, maybe it's time to get adventurous. What you definitely should do is check out the market, find out what positions are available elsewhere, what qualifications would be useful. And then part of your job should be to look after number one, and whatever you do, keep in mind that you want to improve your qualifications. If you liked doing things the same way, look around if there are different ways which mean you learn and become more employable (and if it could benefit your employer then you can do it with a perfectly fine conscience).

  • Upvoted primarily for "look after number one" – that's what the company was doing when they decided on these layoffs, and it's unreasonable and unjust to expect different from you. They made a call that inconvenienced others to achieve their own objectives – if your objectives would be better served by a new role somewhere else, don't hesitate.
    – Toadfish
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 23:38

While it is tough to see people being laid-off or even being laid-off yourself, I have been on both sides of the equation, this can be a golden opportunity for you. What I have seen is the remaining people put their heads down, focus, take on new challenges, and ultimately move into highly valued roles. What you have to decide is if you are a target, or a valued asset. If valued, grow into the company. All companies must retool periodically. It is more of a reality in today's global market. This is something you have to accept to be truly happy. Lay-offs will happen several times in the course of your lifetime. It is a gift to be able to relax in these hard times and know that life goes on just fine anyway. Do what you can to be valuable always and know that any fear and loss will pass.

As a side note, there are a few things I have found about people during these times. Your very best friends will last a lifetime and some friends are just for a season. Knowing which one is which is gold. However, not knowing, you will discover that it will all become self-evident in time anyway. Accept it. My very best friends today, 15 years after retiring, are people I knew at work and valued me and I valued them for the long-haul. We all grow apart. It is natural. Friendships change over time. That is okay. Just let go and let time sort it out. It really will be fine. I promise.


I was working for over a year in a company that had a huge churn in employees. It was nice to be there because we were all brand new expats in a cool city, with time to go around and money to do things.

It was a great people to meet new friends and I was very happy to be there for a while. However, the company managed employees in a bad way, with lots of pressure and not very competitive salaries, so most of them were burnt out and left the company as soon as they could. They invariably joined more "serious" companies. I did the same.

Funnily enough, today I saw a picture of their offices in LinkedIn. From the over 25 people that were working with me, I recognized just a couple of them (plus direction). That made me feel a bit sad, but also confirmed that such an environment was not the most appropriate on the long term.

How would I best deal with such a situation? I chose this job partially because of its stability.

Consider if such stability is still valid. I would check with your direct boss, since he probably has extra information that he should be able to share with you for your tranquility.

How do you deal with the post-layoff atmosphere when many capable people who were not affected have already started looking for a new opportunity?

Again, consider if the extra mile you are asked for is worth your effort. If you are going to be working in a less friendly environment and with some extra pressure, maybe it is time to check where your laid off colleagues are going!

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