Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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Layoffs! Supporting Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.

Mass layoffs are rampant! Every few days, we hear about a company laying off several employees. Given this unfortunate trend, it is befitting to take a moment to consider what many organizations and impacted individuals are experiencing. And what we can do or not do to help!
But first, let us level set on the term: layoff! – What is a layoff? Layoff includes a cessation of employment, or elimination of a job resulting from a reduction of the amount of work required to be done by the Employer, a reorganization, program termination, closure, or other material change in an organization. Layoff Definition: 2k Samples | Law Insider

Mass layoffs are rampant! How did we get here?

Recently, there have been a series of mass layoffs spanning industries from digital payment processing to mortgage lending. – Importantly, many companies that have undergone mass layoffs have stated that the main reasons are rising labor costs and slower business growth. Layoffs Sweeping the US: Meta, Twitter, Peloton Making Cuts (businessinsider.com) But of course, regardless of how justifiable the rationale for a layoff might sound, it cannot assuage the pain of those impacted directly and indirectly.

And this reality leaves us with a lingering question: How did we get here?

When the pandemic was: declared over in September 2022, some remained skeptical and refused to believe the dark days were over. Yet still, others hung onto the wish that instantly, with the flip of a switch, the pathway to their future would be set aglow. And all would return to normal. – Employees would return to their offices, paychecks would roll into bank accounts, and consumers would resume their shopping habits as they reside in the new homes they purchased during the home sale boom in 2021! 

Yes, for many, those days held a lot of promise for a blissful future! – So much so that they might have forgotten that the world had just experienced a heartbreaking moment: the 2020 pandemic! However, the moment of respite did not last for too long. – Because while it is possible to recover from the devastation, the process is often not swift!

Like when a country is at war, the experience is devastating! But the desolation and sense of despondence continue long after the fighting ceases… As survivors pick up the rubble, piece together broken fragments, and attempt to reconstruct their lives.

And just like citizens of a country set out to rebuild after a war, an organization has to rebuild after a layoff!

Layoffs are more than an event!

Indeed, for an organization, experiencing a layoff is akin to an individual undergoing major surgery! I’ve had a couple of these experiences. – Perhaps you have too.
As a patient, you spend a lot of time and effort preparing for the day of surgery. – The highly anticipated day when brilliant minds and acclaimed medical inventions converge to combat your health crisis. And post-surgery, everything will return to normal. – At least, this is what you hope!

Then you go through the surgery. And if the anesthesia works as intended, you don’t remember much. But when you arise from your deep surgery slumber, the work begins. – The brave task of healing and recovering! 

Fortunately, in the hospital, you get a lot of attention from nurses and doctors, swerving around you 24/7, attending to your every need.
But once you return home to recover, you face a different reality as you realize you don’t have much control over your healing timeline. Also, you don’t have access to the bounty of medical professionals catering to your needs before you even know what they are. But hopefully, sooner than later, you’ll discover the many things within your control that can enable you to heal. – Things like maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and the support of loved ones.

The real work

Layoffs are similar in that a lot of work goes into preparing for the day when the dreaded message will be shared with workers. – Both those who lose their jobs and those who stay in the organization. And when the message is communicated, and some employees leave the building while others return to their workspaces, the real work begins. Because, at this time, the organization needs to recover, heal and rebuild.

However, there is only so much one can do to expedite the process of recovery and healing. – And it is not an immediate event! It is a process that takes time and requires patience and the support of others.

Supporting others

During a layoff, the workers who lose their jobs and those who stay in the organization are all impacted. Specifically, those who lose their jobs need to process their loss and start anew. And those who remain in the organization may remain uncertain about whether their jobs are secure. Or whether they could have done something to prevent the unfortunate event their colleagues experienced. – Survivor’s guilt!

Remarkably, leaders can play a pivotal role in helping workers through organizational layoffs by being authentic about their pain. And giving workers space and safety to process their grief, regret, and feelings of loss. 

What can we do and not do to help?

Determining the right way to act when others experience a layoff can be mystifying! – Every option seems to have an equal number of gold mines and minefields!
Sending them a handwritten note is thoughtful, but what do you say?
Giving them a call seems caring, but when is the right time to do so?
Emailing them a list of job openings could be kind but is that assumptive?
Ordering a bouquet for them could be a beautiful gesture, but is that too much, and does it make it look like a funeral?
Overreacting could make them sadder. But if we underreact, we could seem uncaring. – Ugh!! What does one do?

Fear of doing or saying the wrong thing could lead us to do nothing and avoid them like the plague!
But as we all know, suffering is an unavoidable human experience. And when we suffer, it helps to know that we are not alone – that others are thinking of us, wishing us well, and want to support us. And when friends or coworkers experience layoffs, attempting to dictate their next steps, avoiding or ignoring them is not helpful. Instead, it helps to be present and listen to them. 

Also, it is worth remembering that while an organization may not consider a job valuable, it does not mean the individual in the position does not have value. As human beings, we all deserve to be respected. And it is wise to treat each other respectfully. 

Adversity befalls us all. And when a coworker or friend is in the binds of a layoff, it is worth seizing the opportunity to help them! For more on how one can help others deal with adversity, you may check out A Leader’s Role In Helping Others Overcome Adversity (akesatia.com)

And I leave you with this: Wounds often leave scars – physically and emotionally. But like a night always yields to a new dawn, we can recover from a wound, and it is worth helping others through their recovery journey.

For you and to you,



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