Laid off in 2024, part 15: Q-TIP, or Quit Taking It Personally

Being laid off feels like this.

If you’ve been laid off, there will come a moment — or many moments — where the feelings of failure, rejection, and despair will press on you with seemingly unbearable weight.

Image generated with Canva Pro.

Those feelings are an instinctive response that served us well from an earlier time when being exiled from the tribe meant certain death. Being laid off is just similar enough to trigger our “exile” instincts, which remain encoded deep in the ancient kernel of our brains’ “operating systems.” Just as the tribe was a source of support and survival, our former jobs were:

  • definitely a source of income,
  • possibly one of purpose and meaning, and
  • if you’re based in the United States, they made it easier to get medical care and put away money for retirement.

Just as you shouldn’t feel stigma or shame for being laid off, you’re not wrong for having those feelings of doom and gloom after a layoff. We’re wired that way.

But just as we’ve overcome the instinct to club the terrible people in our lives to death with a rock, we also have to manage the instinctive despair that results from being laid off.

Luckily for all of us, there’s some good advice that Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage shared in a recent video in his Tested series on YouTube, where he answered this question:

Do you have any tips for dealing with the aftermath that you didn’t have that much influence over?

I worked on a project (at a company as someone in a junior position) that I predicted that would go bad if approach A was chosen, but nobody listened to me. Approach A was chosen and my predictions came true, however later at a performance review, I caught flack that the project flopped.

The situation described in the question isn’t exactly the same as being laid off, but Adam’s reply still applies.

He cited an example from what he called “the lowest point in his professional life,” where his advice was to follow his Dad’s advice:

You can take a look into yourself and see the things that led to this, and resolve to pay attention to that so that the next time the situation arises, it doesn’t go the same way.

Later in the video, Adam talks about a mnemonic used at a school where his son did some teaching over Zoom during the pandemic shutdown: Q-TIP, which was short for Quit Taking It Personally.

“5 million” might seem arbitrary, but that’s what you save every month
when you lay off 400 people with an average salary of 150K.

“Quit taking it personally” should become your mantra if you’ve been laid off. Chances are that the decision-maker who put your name on the layoff list was looking at a spreadsheet or similar document and had the task of selecting who would be “RIFfed,” with the goal of removing enough people to reduce monthly expenditures by a set amount. It wasn’t personal, and you shouldn’t take it as such.

Near the end of the video, Adam describes a situation where he was working for his then-boss and future co-star Jamie Hyneman. They were working on props for a commercial shoot and a key prop failed. Rather than chew out the crew with blistering recriminations, Hyneman approached the director and presented options for what they could do with the prop given their limited time, and what the outcome of each option would be. There was no blame; just an acceptance of the situation, and proposals for what could be done to resolve it.

This is the approach you should take to a layoff (or, if you’re working for yourself, this is the approach you should take to being “fired” by a client):

  • Quit taking it personally,
  • accept the situation,
  • propose solutions,
  • and take measures to either prevent this kind of thing from happening again, or if that’s not possible, take measures so that when this kind of thing happens again, you’re ready for it.

Once again, if you’re feeling layoff despair, watch Adam Savage’s video, listen to his stories, and benefit from the experience he’s sharing. Watch it twice if you have to.

Also in this series…

One reply on “Laid off in 2024, part 15: Q-TIP, or Quit Taking It Personally”

“Deal with it” is the approach I try to take whenever problems or obstacles rise up in my personal life. (Latest: a water leak inside a kitchen wall that will probably mean re-doing the entire kitchen.)

But, boy, do I ever get tired of “dealing with it” sometimes, especially times when multiple problems overlap.

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