Dear Matt: Our company just went through a massive downsizing. I'm worried about my future and wondering, am I next? How can I refocus and move on?

Matt says: This is survivor angst — the complexity of emotions experienced by those left behind after a layoff, says St. Paul-based career coach Karen Kodzik ( While everyone hears about the people let go, this also affects the employees who remain.

Survivor angst includes guilt, grief, loss, uncertainty and disconnectedness, says Kodzik. Those who do remain lost the person they shared projects, coffee breaks and gossip with. They often wonder if they are next.

"They become overwhelmed by trying to make sense of a situation that doesn't make sense to those outside of the decisionmakers circle," says Kodzik.

Know you are not alone, says Jim Greenway, EVP for marketing and sales effectiveness at global outplacement and career transition leader Lee Hecht Harrison ( "Companies recognize that layoffs are difficult and the pain is felt by many, not only the employees impacted directly, but also remaining employees, those who have to deliver the news, customers, vendors and business partners, as well as the community," says Greenway.

A poorly managed downsizing can create a significant amount of collateral damage, negatively impacting the morale, loyalty and engagement of remaining employees, as well as the company's reputation and financial performance, says Greenway. That's why companies need a strong plan and capable leaders.

If you have survived a layoff, try to understand the reason for the current change. Changes are driven by strategic necessity. Organizations are always undergoing change, from consolidating departments, to merging with or acquiring other companies, or adopting new processes or technologies, says Greenway. Once you understand the business rationale, it's much easier to be objective and open to the changes being implemented.

"Dealing with change in the workplace is often challenging, with uncertainty often leading people to adopt inflexible attitudes that are detrimental to individual performance," says Greenway. When faced with changes in the workplace, look to see if new opportunities are available, equip yourself with information and identify skills that will help you move forward. If the changes will be impacting your role, talk with your manager so that clear expectations are set. Determine what new competencies might be needed to meet performance goals and put a development plan in place to align your skills. Stay positive. Avoid gripe sessions with naysayers who are locked into a mantra of resistance.

"Change presents opportunity," says Greenway. "Seek reliable information and stay focused by surrounding yourself with positivity and seek out chances to contribute."

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