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7 tips for embracing emotional resilience during tech layoffs

The last few years have seen massive numbers of layoffs. While data collection is inconsistent across all job sectors and globally, here are some data points:


  • 40% of Americans have been laid off or terminated from a job1

  • 48% of Americans experience layoff anxiety1

  • In 2022, there were 15.4 million employees laid off in the US (42,192 people per day)1

  • In 2023, in tech alone, there were 1186 companies with 262,582 employees laid off globally (720 people per day)2

  • In 2024 as of mid-January in tech alone, there have been 86 tech companies with 17,092 employees laid off globally (1,068 people per day)3


You spend enormous chunks of your life at work, so it’s unsurprising to identify with your role, your company, and your status. Your job is how you house, clothe, feed, and care for yourself and your loved ones. When that ends in a way that’s outside of your control, and especially when you’re in a tight financial situation, it can feel devastating and create uncomfortable feelings that need to be acknowledged and worked through. 


The first time I was laid off as part of a reduction in force was over twenty years ago. It was devastating, but I was lucky because in that case, the acquiring company hired me back less than a month later and I stayed with them for over ten years. The second time I was laid off as part of a reduction in force was ten years ago, after I’d spent two years helping lead the parent company’s acquisition, merger, and an associated divestment. By that time, I was burnt out and took a year off to recharge. When that year was over, I found an amazing opportunity waiting for me. The third time I was laid off was about five years ago after a large internal restructuring. I was offered a different role internally that I wasn’t interested in, so I declined and took the exit package. I chose a role working for a company I adored that really aligned with my values, which leads us to the fourth time I was laid off as part of a reduction in force last month. This time, I finally embarked on the career pivot into leadership coaching that I've been wanting to for years. 


Through all of these experiences, I worked on my emotional resilience, a critical skill for leadership and an indispensable skill for navigating the unpredictable nature of today’s job market. It wasn’t easy and there were deep and difficult emotions to process along the way. Each time, I went through the same internal rollercoaster of shock, bargaining, anger, grief, depression, and eventually acceptance. As I honed my emotional resiliency, I was able to move a little more gracefully through the full range of emotions, showing up compassionately for myself while engaging thoughtfully and authentically with others. 


An image of clouds and weather in the sky with the quote "You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

Stress is a natural human reaction to adversity. You can work to counteract that stress by fostering a resilient mindset. This allows you to approach challenging situations, embracing change, staying flexible, navigating conflict, keeping focus, and reducing wear and tear on your mental and physical health. In short, emotional resilience allows you to engage in effective problem-solving rather than sliding into reactive responses. 


So, how do you practice emotional resilience? You start by recognizing that setbacks are not roadblocks but stepping stones to a different path. Here are some strategies:


Tip #1 - Practice mindfulness and other therapeutic explorations

This helps to anchor yourself in the present moment and build emotional regulation through a variety of techniques including breathwork, tapping, expressive movement, shadow work, getting out in nature, or whatever you find works for you. These methods can help you learn to pause when faced with a triggering situation, take a moment to breathe and consider your response consciously rather than reacting impulsively.


Tip #2 - Journal your thoughts and emotions

A reflective journey will build self-awareness and help you to enhance your emotional intelligence by becoming more aware of your own emotions and those of others. When you do this, practice constructive self-talk by replacing self-critical or negative thoughts with compassionate ones.


Tip #3 - Maintain perspective, especially during tech layoffs

Take a step back when facing challenges and ask yourself if the current situation will matter in three days, three months, or three years and use that to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the present moment. Mentally put yourself in the shoes of others involved in the situation, considering their perspectives and emotions. This exercise fosters empathy and a more nuanced understanding of the interpersonal dynamics of the situation.


Tip #4 - Cultivate a growth mindset

Instead of viewing challenges as purely negative experiences, seek to extract lessons and insights by reflecting on past challenges and considering how they have contributed to personal growth and development. Try to work towards an expectation that change is continual, so when it happens (not if), you’re more prepared emotionally.


Tip #5 - Build a support network

A strong support network can offer perspective and encouragement during challenging times, sharing burdens and celebrating victories together. This isn’t a space to fill with bluster and toxic positivity, so try to cultivate a safe environment to be authentic, vulnerable, brave, and grow together.


Tip #6 - Establish clear and realistic goals

Start to move forward by building clearly defined, realistic goals broken into smaller, manageable tasks that provide a sense of purpose and direction. This will reduce the overwhelming feelings and help you stay focused and build confidence in the face of challenges.


Tip #7 - Volunteer your time

Giving of yourself by providing support to others fosters a sense of community and contributes to more good in the world. It can also be a valuable resource and productive way to spend some of your time during challenging moments. 


Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan-Buddhist monk who published a number of inspirational books about emotional resiliency, teaches a technique of observing your emotions and being curious about them instead of judgmental, e.g. “what am I feeling?” instead of “why am I [negative judgment]?” Practicing this, along with the other techniques shared above, provides the space to reflect and learn, to be brave and kind with yourself and others. At its heart, this is emotional resilience. As Pema says, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”


When you cultivate emotional resilience, you gain the ability to not just weather storms but to thrive and flourish. Share your thoughts, experiences, and your favorite strategies for emotional well-being below! 💬






2Layoffs. “Companies with layoffs'' Accessed on January 16, 2024.


3Trueup. “The Tech Layoff Tracker” Accessed on January 16, 2024.

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