Statistically speaking, you, dear reader, probably have layoff anxiety.
Did I strike a nerve? March 9 survey results from Justworks and the Harris Poll suggested that 42% of U.S. workers are worried about being laid off. More than half are worried about company culture — which I think tracks. Because if you’re not plagued with fears of receiving pink slips, you might dread being the bearer of bad news. And these days, HR professionals are on both sides of the bayonet.
But what’s more interesting than reports of layoff anxiety is the concrete evidence of how this anxiety manifests. About half of respondents admitted to researchers that they’ve changed their behavior at work. Specifically, 46% of employees said their co-workers are more competitive now.
In a mini, informal LinkedIn poll, no one wanted to own up to side-eyeing their co-workers or elbowing their way to the top. Fifty percent of respondents said no, they weren’t getting more competitive at work due to recession news and layoffs. About 20% said they’re taking on more responsibilities at work and 30% said they’re going the extra mile.
Layoffs are a trend that’s hard to shake, even off the clock. As a storyteller, my social circle is largely other artists and journalists. Gannett, the Washington Post and more media powerhouses often strike fear into the heart of my peers.
If internet fear-mongering is the main culprit for layoff anxiety, I admit, I am uniquely poised as a key player in this problem; “headcount reduction” remains a beat I’ve elected to own in my work this year. (For those with petty vendettas against the media, fear not! Layoff nightmares are a new thing I’m dealing with.)
anyone else have layoff related dreams, or is that just me? ????— caroline (they/them) ⭒ (@bigbosscaro) March 2, 2023
So how can people tap into the fears of the collective consciousness and find solutions to move through that fear? How does this look in the HR space? LinkedIn makes a fine case study: Not only does this labor institution keep its finger on the pulse of layoffs, but leadership also doled out pink slips of their own as the pandemic hiring boom fizzled out. And in the same breath, LinkedIn resurfaces its layoff resource tools often. #OpenToWork has also taken hold in users’ posts and profile photos.
Current and prospective employees are watching to see whether layoff news is delivered compassionately. They’re looking to see if leadership helps talent transition out of the company or lets them fall by the wayside. See, for example, a March 16 report that Bed, Bath and Beyond is no longer paying severance, and a March 17 report that Google cut off access to on-site doctors for laid-off employees. This is the same company that allegedly allowed workers to commute into the office and touch their badge to the building to see if they had been laid off or not.
As we continue to operate within capitalism and hustle culture, mutual aid should be a mainstay. Employers and those in HR must find ways to move forward with empathy in these challenging times. The best way to deliver value is to show up as your authentic self.
And, therefore, the only competition I’m focused on is the one I have with myself.