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What to Do When You’re Laid off on the Holidays

Losing your job at Christmas is hard. Here's how to make it easier.
Losing your job at Christmas is hard. Here's how to make it easier. Photo by Billy Bob Bain/Flickr
Christmas is a horrible time to lose your job. However, there are some things that can be done to mitigate the damage. We spoke to Houston-born Kim Crowder, Founder & CEO of Kim Crowder Consulting, who had some tips on staying ahead when you get the axe instead of a Christmas bonus.

Texans are right to worry about layoffs. A recent survey by West Monroe of executives found that more than a quarter of Texas companies are planning layoffs in the next six months or have already begun the process. Since 20 percent of those executives worked in health care, Houstonians have a reason to be doubly worried. One reason these cuts happen around the holidays is a fundamental difference between the way workers and executives think of the period.

“Fiscal year ends and often time companies are looking at budgeting at the next year and taking stock,” says Crowder. “Unfortunately, those are the conversations that are happening at that time. The ways we look at life and our fiscal goals are very different for organizations.”

The best thing a worker can do when it comes to layoffs is either not be there when they happen or be prepared for the eventuality. Crowder recommends checking on a company’s financial health through public documents regularly. Many companies, particularly larger ones, publish annual reports. Knowing what is happening with the books can be a good indicator whether the company is looking to shed costs in the form of workers. Also, keep an eye on you managers, especially if they seem to be leaving when things are going good.

“Companies’ climate and culture can tell us a lot,” says Crowder. “If you’re watching decision makers change their communication style or their demeanor is more stressed out, that’s a sign. Are those folks leaving, even in a recession, in ways that don’t feel explainable? If they are, maybe you should be too. Those folks are often highly prioritized by companies, so if they aren’t being convinced to stay it’s not good.”

Another tactic Crowder recommends is documenting your work accomplishments regularly and not waiting for a performance report to do it for you. Any time you do anything that positively impacts a business, make a note of it somewhere in detail. Not only can it help your case when layoffs come, it can build a worker’s confidence in themselves.

Likewise, even if you aren’t actively looking for a new job, you should be aware of what the job hunt in your industry is like. Are postings on LinkedIn looking for new skills or degree levels than they were when you were hired? While lacking a few qualifications should never keep someone from applying for a job, if you see more listings require things you don’t have than ones that do, it’s time to work on your qualifications.

Lastly, Crowder encourages people who have experienced abusive workplaces to prioritize mental health healing if at all possible. Use company resources while you have them, and take time off for some therapy if your situation allows when the layoffs come.

“That is a valid part we don’t talk about enough,” she says. “I always say abusive because toxic does not adequately describe what people experience. Emotional, mental, physical, and professional weight because of a workplace put me in therapy. I had to take time off to heal. Creating an exit strategy can give you a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. If you say I’ll spend every night spending the evening fixing my resume or applying for jobs, it can help. It’s so taxing when you feel you have no exit or control. If your job can’t provide that for you, I encourage employees to be loyal to their own professional growth and development.”

If you do feel that your company has been abusive or discriminatory, be proactive in documenting the experience. Crowder reminds clients that they do not have to sign anything to receive severance. Most employment lawyers will offer free consultations to tell you if you have a case. In every instance, documentation should be stored on external hard drives or outside email.

“Most of us love the work we do, but we’re working to make a living,” says Crowder. “No one deserves abuse or being put out because the organization made decisions that impacted you.”
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner