How to Deal with Office Survivor’s Guilt

Photo from Service Employees International Union
If you’ve worked in an office lately, you know what I mean. There are many kinds of Office Guilt. The most prevalent is Survivor’s Guilt if the pink slips or ax managed to slip by your desk or survivors enthusiasm.

While layoffs might not be as common, they are still happening and Survivor’s Guilt is still relevant today. As the February 2009 Times article states, “watching colleagues pack their things and go — and dealing with guilt that it wasn’t you, anxiety that you might be next, exhaustion from the extra work you must take on and even envy of those who get to leave such a sullen environment — that’s not much cause for celebration.”

It’s hard to go from a department of eight to a department of four. To take on additional tasks and keep telling yourself you’re lucky to be employed and have a paycheck still. But that mentality doesn’t make it less stressful. If there’s not a renewed sense of camaraderie or team building to make those left feel important, feel wanted, then it can easily become a place of people biding their time until something better comes along.

The newest lines of advice indicate you should never stop looking for your next position. Even if you’re happy. In the uncertain world of careers, this could be a lifeline.

My best advice? Don’t let people around you bring you down. If they’re being really negative, let them know. If you want to love your job and your workplace, do it. No one but you can help you deal with being a layoff survivor. However, that being said, if you are feeling very stressed out or overwhelmed find someone you trust to talk about it.

What I Learned While the Boss Was Away

I learned that things will continue on as usual. People will still need your help. They’ll still ask for more than you can give.

An obvious lesson I learned is that one person cannot do the work of two, no matter how hard you try. I was lucky that my co-workers were kind enough to understand that as well. I learned that a little extra patience and a friendly conversation goes a long way.
The ability to manage your own time and keep on top of the things in your queue is a skill that I’m getting better at every time it is my responsibility. I’m proud of what I accomplished last week.

I got a little more insight into the other side of the office and how things work “over there.” I learned that proper criticism goes so much farther than tearing some one down. Everyone has a bad day, but I learned it is how you handle the next day that matters. No one wants to have a terrible day.

I know I learned more last week than this post implies about myself, my company and my co-workers. However, putting all those things into words isn’t the point. It’s the changes, no matter how subtle, that make a difference.

Google Yourself

I can’t even tell you how often I’ve said this lately and not just at Career Days with college students. Adults who insist they don’t have an online identity are shocked when I Google their name and all kinds of things come up.

Even if you aren’t currently looking for a job, you need to be checking yourself out online at least monthly.

Don’t just stop at Google. Try Bing, Yahoo and anything else you can think of. Go beyond page two. See what’s out there. You can’t be proactive unless you know.

I tried comparing it to a credit report only to find that even fewer people get their credit reports as Google themselves. Which is just as bad! If you might get to use a company credit card or drive a company car, your employer is going to check your credit. If you don’t know what’s on the report how can you tell them your identity was stolen or the credit card was in your ex-wife’s name?

Aside from the main search engines, should I recommend checking your name in other places?