Being Left Behind
Sometimes it’s just as hard to stay as it is to leave
I recently posted an article called Breaking Up is Hard to Do, where I talked about how I’m adapting to my new normal of being an independent consultant and working remotely full time. I received a message from a former colleague on LinkedIN after I published this article. His message poignantly reminded me that it’s not just hard to leave, but sometimes it’s equally as hard to stay.
I really enjoyed one of your other recent articles “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”. I’ve found myself spending quite a bit of time reflecting on that article and my personal experiences here over the last 23 years. While you were writing the corporate version of “The Breakup”, some of us are living through the corporate version of “Left Behind”.
Reading his last sentence made me sad because I immediately recognized the absolute truth behind his words.
If you’re not familiar with the reference, the Christian book series, Left Behind, tells the story of the end times (set in the contemporary era), in which true believers in Christ have been raptured (taken instantly to heaven), leaving the world shattered and chaotic1.
The books tell the story of how those who have been left behind deal with their new reality, which is fraught with radical change, a reduced population and limited resources. Those who have been left behind try to understand why they were not chosen for the Rapture and also struggle with the loss of their friends, family and co-workers.
I’ve written several articles over the last few months about how difficult it was for me to leave the company I’d worked at for over 25 years. What I haven’t given much thought to was how hard it has undoubtedly been for some of my former colleagues to stay at the company and carry on.
Some of the challenges that I believe those who have been left behind during the pandemic may be facing include:
- Isolation or loneliness due to working remotely
- Challenges of getting work done at home
- Increased workload due to layoffs within their team
- Guilt or resentment for being the ones left to do the work
- Frustration due to lack or experience or expertise needed
- Anger at the company for the actions it has taken (rational or not)
- Fear for the future (am I next?)
- Stress from all the above
Add to this fear caused by Covid-19, increased childcare responsibilities, schooling support needs required of working parents and the general disruption of a “normal” schedule. It’s just a lot.
Much has been written about the widespread layoffs across many different industries due to the pandemic. Across the globe, many people are dealing with unemployment and desperately trying to find another role.
We don’t talk as much about those who are left behind. The ones who are expected to pick up the pieces and carry on — who are also struggling with overwhelming workloads, loss of coworkers (friends) and in many cases, less-than-optimal working conditions.
I heard recently that my former company is offering a voluntary retirement package for a large number of employees. Several people have reached out to me over the last couple of weeks to let me know they qualified for the package and are thinking about what to do. Many are considering taking the package and trying something new. Some are planning to retire. Others are resigned to staying, either because they are afraid they won’t be able to start over with a new job elsewhere or because they are uncomfortable with their financial situation or are concerned about finding insurance.
I think it’s fair to say that those who plan to stay are bracing themselves for being left behind.
There is a possible hidden silver lining, however. Being left behind may mean that you have increased chances to shine. To step up, learn something new, take a leadership role or take on additional responsibility. Being left behind could represent an opportunity for you.
Even so, I think it’s safe to say that leaving is difficult, but it could be just as hard to be left behind.