The First Few Stages of The Unemployment Cycle

Stage 1. Before a layoff, your office may start to rumble with rumors. People often start to talk or gossip about what they have heard and what’s going to happen next.

The fact is that the staff doesn’t know anything and is trying to make sense out of what is a scary situation. No one knows anything and everyone believes something. As a result, everyone talks and a lot of people attempt to interpret different contingencies and speculate about things they hear from one another that may have no basis in reality.

Absenteeism often increases as people become ill or try to get a head start on job hunting. Managers start to approach select employees.

You are not on the list.

It may be true today, but it may not be true in three weeks. Someone I met several years ago was told she was not on “the list” by her boss who missed the meeting where she was added to it.

And he missed the meeting where he was added to it, too.

You are on the list.

Getting pre-notice can be helpful. It’s like getting told that you can have a head start in a race. You are going to be fired with the next layoff. Start looking now.

A woman I know with a bank has been told by her boss that she is going to be in the next staff cuts. According to bank policy, she knows her severance package already so she is using the time to get her resume ready and go out on interviews.


If you stay until such and such date we have a sweet deal for you,

During the period before an acquisition, a young computer support person I knew at a financial firm was approached to stay on board until the acquisition closed. He did a lot of work for a group that was extremely successful and also did work for a previous Chairman. If he stayed, he was told he would receive double pay until the deal closed and 9 months severance.

There was only one problem.

The acquiring firm wasn’t in on the discussions and shrugged their shoulders. The young man was invited to join the new firm and, thus, wasn’t entitled to anything in the way of severance.

See what I mean about rumors and private deals?


Stage 2: The Layoff

After the initial shock, there is a feeling that feels almost like relief that occurs.

The ax has fallen.

The waiting is over with and everyone knows where they stand.

After a little while, reality sets in, and relief changes to anger and depression.

As Dr. Margaretha Voss wrote in The American Journal of Public Health in 2004, “Unemployment may cause a deterioration of the economic situation, downgrading of social status, broken social relations, changed risk behaviors, impaired psychological well-being, and depression, consequences that may develop into a severe illness.”

You see, now you’re home or working from the outplacement office trying to find work. Everyone is asking you, “So, how’s it going?” All you want to do is find a job and return to normal.

That’s because being laid off, fired, “excessed,” “RIFd” is socially horrible.

No one is throwing a going away party for you and nothing is lined up for you to do. You are stranded on the island of limbo and need to push against all the thoughts that you have and others have about being laid off.

“One person told me, “As much as I loved taking my kids to school and seeing them more often, I was a fish out of water, not knowing what to do with myself. Then my daughter asked, ‘Daddy, why don’t you have a job,’ and I thought I would die.”


Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2008, 2010, 2016,  2020 



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
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