Staying Positive Through a Layoff

Note: This is a guest post by Bob Lotich of

Getting Laid Off

Almost two years ago, a larger firm purchased the company that I worked for. It turned out that when you have two fortune 500 companies merge, there is often quite a bit of overlap between departments. So it didn’t come as too much of a surprise that the department I worked in was completely eliminated.

We were given some advance notice and a severance package, but in July 2008 we were still getting laid off. I had never been laid off before and it was eye-opening to see how different people responded to the same news. We had some people who were excited about the news, looking forward to the new opportunities that would present themselves, and on the other extreme we had some people who seemed to lose all hope in life.

Regardless of whether I got laid off or not, just being in that environment and watching people’s response to the news was an invaluable life lesson. I saw fear strike and nearly paralyze some people, I saw people fill themselves up with anger, and I saw some people take the lemons and make lemonade.

I have to admit that it was probably a bit easier for me to stay positive in that environment. First, I didn’t really like my job that much, so I was interested in the idea of finding something else. Second, I was underpaid for what I did, so taking a paycut was less of a possibility. And third, I was a “young whipper-snapper” who would have an easier time adapting – or so the older workers said.

Providing New Opportunities

But the truth of the matter is that while layoffs are often perceived as a negative thing, it really can be an open door of endless possibilities – if we let it! As I watched my entire office process the news and begin job searches, it was amazing the effect that a positive outlook had. Most of the people I would have classified as “optimistic” or “hopeful” quickly found jobs and many of them actually found better jobs paying more!

And I remember a few co-workers who had a terribly negative outlook and didn’t even try. When they were asked how the job search was going, they responded by complaining about the company and talked about how things used to be. They fed themselves with negativity and I watched as it eliminated more and more options until they were backed into a corner with few choices.

I tried not to be “that guy” who was always looking at the bright side when everyone else wanted to complain – but secretly I was. Even if I wasn’t overtly making mention of my optimism, they could tell because I didn’t join in complaining. Having been a complainer before, I knew that I needed to keep my mouth shut if I was going to maintain a positive attitude.

Optimism Affects Actions

I had always thought it was better to stay positive than to feed on negativity, but after this experience I finally understood why. It is because your outlook affects your actions! The people in the office who walked around with the confidence that they would find an even better job, often did. I don’t really think it happened because they hoped more than the others, but because they had their eyes open and were taking steps to make it happen!

It reminds me of a middle-aged single woman who is longing to meet the man of her dreams, but never leaves the house! Yes, he could end up knocking on the door, but why not improve your odds by getting out of the house and meeting him halfway

It really was so sad to watch a few of my co-workers, so bound up with anger and self-pity that it prevented them from taking any action. And sadly some of them got exactly what they were expecting to happen.

Victor Frankl

I remember reading a bit about Victor Frankl, a Jewish man who survived the Holocaust and he said that one of the keys to survival was choosing the right attitude. If anyone could say that attitude is a choice, it would be a concentration-camp survivor. Frankl wrote, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

I don’t mention Frankl’s story to make light of layoffs – I do realize that they can be incredibly trying times in one’s life. But I think we can learn from Frankl’s experience. If a positive attitude is essential to staying alive in some of the worst conditions known to man, then it will also be important to remember in the workplace challenges that we may face.

After this layoff, Bob pursued full-time blogging and recently surpassed his day-job income with his blog earnings. He used this experience to write an extensive article about how to make money with a blog. He typically writes about getting out of debt, saving money and other personal finance topics from a Christian perspective at

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I love the idea of optimism affecting actions. This is so true and it’s a very useful thing to remember when one is laid off. Not to mention, everything happens for a reason and a layoff could mean a new and exciting opportunity is waiting right around the bend. Thanks for this positivity-infused post. :)

  • The best thing to remember is that everything happens for a reason, those reasons may not be clear at the time but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It’s about faith and a belief in a higher power that is operating out of your best interest. Faith will get you through anything.

  • Hi Christian,

    Sometimes one door closes and another open. Someone with the right attitude can find opportunities in the midst of crisis. The rewards may be even greater than staying in the job. Great article.

    Personal Development Blogger

  • Bob

    Cody – I completely agree!

  • I wholeheartedly agree with the power of approaching every single issue in life as an opportunity of one sort or another.

    A couple weeks back Time magazine had a cover story titled: “End of Excess: Why the current crisis is good for America!” I won’t go into detail – you can sense the theme – but I did feel compelled to write the editor. By stepping up to the plate, I got a hit and it was published in the April 20 edition.

    “Yes, the crisis is a good thing. Having hit bottom, Americans have a solid foundation from which to leap upward. After I graduated from college in 1992, a car accident claimed my lower left leg. I chose full-time Paralympic competition in cycling and the Ironman triathlon for the next 15 years. Without the initial physical and emotional pain–followed by years of financial hardship–I wouldn’t now be enjoying a new career as a professional speaker. True contentment comes from applying a solid work ethic toward our passions, not from the wealth this also happens to create.”

    Paul Martin, NATICK, MASS.

  • Henrik – Nice post! I’ve had a similar experience some years ago, rather disappointed I wasn’t part of those who experienced new opportunities outside :) It was really a learning experience, a mix of anger, sorrow, relief, exhaustion. In the end, what really matters is the way you respond.

    Bob – thanks for sharing this inspiring experience. I’d really like to be able to succeed like you did, and to be able to turn around something that seems to be negative into a wonderful opportunity for the taking :)

  • I really like about the idea to stay positive rather depressed. It is true that many people who are positive turns to have better life.

    Positive-driven people are often to see everything as a opportunity and they are not someone who are not sitting and waiting for luck.

    Your post is really inspiring and it also remind me to keep me positive.

  • As a recent graduate of business school who’s struggled with the job search, I’ve realized this has given me a great opportunity to really grow my blog and learn more and possibly avoid ever having to work for somebody else again. Good time to take control of your own destiny.

  • There’s always an opportunity lurking in the shadows. ;-)

    Great article Henrik! ;-)

  • I am currently unemployed, feeling a bit depressed at times, but on the other hand I have started my own project to someday pay for my dream life.

  • I love the article, great post. However My sister has children and has been laid of for a few months now. I can see that she is starting to get depressed, it is unfortunately easier said than done during the hard times.

  • Great post! Although I can see where Raj is coming from, I have to agree that a positive outlook is a choice, and in difficult circumstances we have to make that choice over and over. Because the alternative is to let our mood be negatively affected by circumsntaces and then that makes turning things around so much harder. A positve outlook doesn’t guarantee instant and magical change, but it helps alot AND makes coping with the difficulties more manageable in the meantime.