Navigating Layoffs and Staying Strong: A Guide to Resilience in Tech

Karen Hsieh
4 min readNov 15, 2023

In 2022–2023, the tech industry experienced a significant number of layoffs, affecting many individuals, either directly or through their close associates. Below is a chart illustrating tech layoffs. Despite a recent decline in numbers as of October 2023, there are no signs of stopping 🤯, with new layoff news emerging in November 2023.

Tech layoffs in 2022–2023 from layoffs.fyi

There are many articles, for example, the layoff letter from Airbnb, for people who are laid off that say, “You are good, and this is not your fault.” I couldn’t find good recommendations for people who stay, except this one, This Startup Laid off 85% of Its Team and Pivoted. Please share with me if you know more! 🙏

Layoffs or Staying? 😵

At first, staying seems better. However, I’m not so sure after witnessing it. The people who were laid off were shocked, sad, and experienced other negative emotions in the first week, similar to those who stayed.

Layoff or Stay, made by Midjourney

Once we all accepted this situation and came back to deal with the fact, those who were laid off focused on their next steps, such as finding a new job or taking a rest. Yes, finding a new job is very hard at this time. The difficulty of moving forward with fewer resources in a messy situation is not less for people who stay.

Here are some vivid worries of the people staying: 🗣️

“Will I be laid off after a few months?” “Should I start to find a new job?”

“Oh, I need to take over so many tasks. It was three people’s job.”

“Why was such an outstanding person like XX laid off? Why not me? Can I handle all this?” “What’s the plan for the future?”

Resilience 💪

I thought about the five stages of grief but found Psychological Resilience even more fitting.

Psychological resilience is the ability to cope mentally and emotionally with a crisis, or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.

…suggests the following tactics people can use to build resilience: Prioritize relationships. Join a social group. Take care of your body. Practice mindfulness. Avoid negative coping outlets, like alcohol use. Help others. Be proactive; search for solutions. Make progress toward your goals. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Keep things in perspective. Accept change. Maintain a hopeful outlook. Learn from your past.

I’ve spoken with people who have been laid off and those who have stayed. Layoffs are a crisis 😱 for both sides. People demonstrate resilience through various emotions and behaviors. Sadness, fear, anger, and shock are common. Overwhelming handovers, diving into problems, or trying to break previous ways of working are also common. Although we talked as colleagues, people still need other forms of support, like being alone, with friends, or with family. In the end, everyone needs to process this crisis in their own way. 🧘‍♂️🧘‍♀️

It’s good to know resilience can be built 🏋️. Considering these suggestions, some are what I’m doing and they bring me joy, such as joining a social group, building a support system, and self-discovery. I recommend taking action now, not just to overcome a crisis but to develop your well-being.

Thanks to all the people 💜, more than 10, I talked with about layoffs. You give me great support. Being heard. To me, companionship is better than advice. Logically, I understand and support the layoffs. Mentally, I feel shocked and worried. These two parts were split at the beginning. Finding peace came from reconciling these two split parts.

Handle Crisis

Tony wrote his wisdom about the crisis in “Build,”

  1. Keep your focus on how to fix the problem, not who to blame.
  2. As a leader, you’ll have to get into the weeds. If you’re in a crisis, then it’s time to be a micromanager again.
  3. Get advice.
  4. Your job, once people get over the initial shock, will be constant communication.
  5. It’s not your mistake, but it is your responsibility. 👊

This advice applies perfectly to layoffs. 👼 For those staying, the time and actions needed to return to normal vary. As a leader of yourself, a team, or a company, this guidance strengthens your resilience. Follow it intuitively, letting your behavior lead your mindset, until they align. For the layoffs, this wisdom applies as well. Focus on the problem you face, perhaps how to find the next job or how to rearrange your life. Get your hands dirty to deal with your life crisis. A layoff is not personal to you, not your fault, but you need to figure out your next step.

I love the last point: “Not your mistake but your responsibility.” This saying reframes my mind from a reactive, innocently affected stance to proactive thinking. I can spend less time on regret or blaming myself, and move on to face the crisis.

If you want to know more about “Build, “ here is my recommendation.

“Not your mistake but your responsibility.” 👊

This article is written for people who stay. I wish I had found articles like this during my initial panic-stricken searches. A lesson learned from the first layoff I’ve been through is to raise problems earlier and more forcefully, even if they are not in my job description, and to propose solutions instead of merely pointing things out. All these reflect this wise sentence: “Not your mistake but your responsibility.”

🤩 I’m happy to hear how you do data or products. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn Karen Hsieh or Twitter @ijac_wei.

🙋🙋‍♀️ Welcome to Ask Me Anything.

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Karen Hsieh

A product manager fosters a culture of data literacy and learning to empower product teams in creating exceptional products.