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The Five Stages of Layoff in Engineering

An engineer's personal experience on layoffs in the oil and gas industry.

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Layoffs suck, everyone knows it. Whether you’ve been through it before, or you’ve been fortunate enough to steer your own career destiny. Right now, the oil and gas industry is going through an unprecedented period of layoffs. Between November 2014 and June 2016, an estimated 350,000 oilfield jobs have been lost worldwide.

Whenever layoffs take place, the workforce on the chopping block goes through a wide range of emotions. Depending on individual circumstances, some of these emotions may resonate more than others. The Kübler-Ross model describes The Five Stages of Grief that one experiences after tragedy. As an engineer having gone through three rounds of layoffs in the last year and a half, I’ve created the Oil & Gas Firing Model, or The Five Stages of Layoff.

1. Vindication

The first emotion. When you’re sitting in a corporate town hall meeting and your bosses, vice presidents, and higher ups first announce that a layoff is coming, you feel vindicated.

You tell yourself: ‘I knew it. The company has been overstaffed. There’s not enough work for everyone. I’ve been saying it for months now. These bosses have had their heads up their asses. I called it before everyone else.’ You were right! And it feels good to be right!

2. Anger


After the high of vindication wears off, the last positive thoughts disappear. Now you’re pissed. The downward spiral of anger takes over your thoughts: If you knew things were this bad, why didn’t the company foresee any of this? How could the higher ups not have prepared for this downside? It is the oil and gas industry for God’s sake! Why are they so short-sided and ignorant? If they fire me, I’ll throw a bigger temper tantrum than my 2-year-old as they escort me kicking and screaming out of here.

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3. Fear


Once your anger subsides, you begin to think more rationally. Your feelings of anger are quickly replaced by pangs of fear. You become afraid. Afraid for your livelihood, your career prospects, your paycheck, your family, your kids and loved ones. You realize all the little things you take for granted in your daily life. You imagine all the things you won’t be able to afford if you’re laid off.

You run different scenarios and options through your mind, and none of them seem as good as your current situation. What will you do if the office grim reaper knocks on your door? Your life as you know it is OVER! You picture yourself begging on the street corner or living in your van, never able to find work again.

4. Sadness


Your fears turn to tears. The fear recedes as your mind comprehends the possible changes in your future. All of the scenarios you’ve created out of fear and anger start to lose their potency. Maybe things won’t be that bad if you lose your job. You’ll be ok. This isn’t the end of the world. Life will go on, right?

Wait, what are you feeling now? Sadness? There is a gray cloud following you around your cubicle. This sucks. You can’t believe that this is actually happening. What about all your work friends? Will they still be your friends if one or all of you are laid off?

What about your awesome 401k and health plan you’ve had for so long? You’re going to miss all the perks that you’ve taken for granted.

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So much is going to change. You’re not ready for change. You’ve spent so much time here, and sadly, it feels like it’s all for naught…

5. Acceptance


All stages of emotion end in acceptance, and layoffs are no different. You will be ok. Life will go on. There’s a chance life might even get better! Whatever thoughts manifest in your mind will become your reality. If you keep your head up, think positive thoughts, and make the most of your contacts and circumstances, new opportunities will present themselves.

Although your company really screwed the pooch, take this moment as a learning experience. Put yourself in a new situation that’s even better than before. Start your own business like you’ve always wanted, travel the world, or make contact with an old friend who needs someone with just your skill set.

Again, life WILL go on and you WILL be ok. You are more powerful than you know. Trust that above all else.


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Engr. Randy Williams
Randy Williams: Student of Life. Professional Engineer. Skeptic. Explorer. Reader. Listener. Regular contributor at GineersNow. From Greater Denver Area, USA.


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