Q: My company is going through a large layoff. Not much information has been shared, but I think it's likely that my team (including me) could be affected. In the meantime, we have a lot of work to do. What advice do you have to help us keep moving forward?
A: Try to remain grounded in the present while making plans for a variety of futures.
The inner game
"Put on your own oxygen mask first" is a cliché, but it's true in this case. If you're falling apart, you can't help your team. So start by facing your fears. What's the worst thing that could happen? You lose your job? If that happens, you'll survive; in fact, I've talked with many who ended up in a better role than they had before. Or you keep your position, but your friends and co-workers are gone, and you're overworked? Understand your fears so you can demystify them.
Now consider what you actually know, and your options for gaining more clarity. Check to see what your boss knows (or can share) and take advantage of information that your company may be sharing. Ask questions whenever you can; you have little to lose by being inquisitive, and it could help you put a realistic plan in place.
Notice how well you're doing with managing the stress of the situation, and be sure to practice great self-care. Have some fun, get some exercise, eat good food, get enough sleep.
Check in with your team, and determine how they're doing. Keep in mind that people will have different reactions and different needs. They will also have unique ways of showing their stress, so be attuned to that.
The outer game
Realistically, each person on the team — including you — needs two plans: one for if you keep your job and one if you're let go.
If you stay at your company, recognize that it won't be the same place. If the layoffs are driven by a fundamental shift in corporate direction, you may need to adapt to new expectations. Further, you're going to need to be able to accept the new normal and have a positive attitude. That is going to be harder for some people than others, and it's because of this that some people choose to leave even if they were not laid off. To be blunt, if you won't be able to be happy or feel secure, you should explore new opportunities.
Anticipating that you may be laid off, now is the time for exploring new opportunities, connecting with folks in your field, and having an updated résumé. Don't wait until the company announces your fate — be laying the groundwork.
And, even though it's difficult, you need to keep doing your job as well as you can, living up to your own standards of professionalism. Focus on having positive energy and helping your co-workers stay positive, too. Consider using your regular staff meetings to address both the positives and the negatives together so that your team is a support to all of you.
The last word
There is a great deal outside your control, but acting on what you can control will help you get through this challenge.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.