Codependency Is A Two-Sided Coin in Layoffs and Reduction-In-Force

March 3, 2020


Never allow someone to be your priority, while allowing yourself to be their option.

— Mark Twain

For many of us, work doesn’t feel right.

Working is supposed to feel good and be rewarding. It should feed our ego, not tear it down. 

Working ought to help us to develop pathways to mindshare that open new ecosystems of innovation, intellectual and emotional capital, and thought equity. 

Working aids us in developing generative legacies instead of feeling disconnected, uninvolved, and helpless.

However, for many of us, we live in cultures where work demands and deserves our undivided allegiance. Where leadership talk at us versus with us. Privilege and power are vested in senior management. Leaders and line managers use a top-down approach that draws on standards, procedures, and output metrics such as scorecards and dashboards to regulate the organization and its obligations, keep a careful eye on costs, and double net profits.

Our self-worth revolves around our status, paycheck, and prestige because of who employs us and why. We don’t have the time to rethink how we are defining success. Live a truly full life. And one that has a purpose. One where we are drawing boundary lines that show respect for our family; our physical health, emotional and psychological health, and spiritual health.

Sixty percent of chief financial officers say a headcount reduction will be the most likely staffing trend for their companies over the next 12 months, according to the CNBC Global CFO Council survey for the fourth quarter of 2019.

HSBC Holdings said it would shed $100 billion in assets, in a drastic overhaul that will mean 35,000 jobs cut over three years. 

Nichola Saminather and C Nivedita, Reuters, report the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is planning layoffs as it contends with a harsh environment for revenue growth. According to Victor Dodig, chief executive, CIBC needs to challenge itself to be “a more efficient bank focusing on continuous improvement and keeping a careful eye on costs.

Andrea Mandala, Reuters, reports UBI Banca, Italy’s fifth-biggest bank, is aiming to double its net profit in the next three years despite near-flat revenues by cutting costs and reducing losses from problem loans. How so?

They are laying off 2,030 employees or 10% of staff, including 175 branches as part of a push to boost profitability.

Is this what caring for and contributing to the life of the next generations is all about? Normalizing the abnormal (it’s still abnormal!) a pervading mood of self-absorption over a favorable balance of generativity, nurturing the growth of human-friendly organizations, and shepherding the development of a broader community?

How are you going to break free of living in cultures where work demands and deserves your undivided allegiance? Where codependency continues to be a two-sided coin of “give” and “take.”

Rest in Peace (RIP) or Layoff: What Difference Does It Make?

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Has this happened to you? Or is it about to happen to you? Or to someone, you know?

Does it make any difference what it is called?

You hear about it in the media. In backchannel emails, Skype IM’s or around the water cooler at work. It is the code language, is it not, for RIP? You become immediately worried about your job.

When you are left out of these conversations at work, you tend to make up your reality.

The result of a layoff and reduction-in-force is the same. You lose your job, usually, for reasons out of your control.

Layoffs come with the expectation of being rehired if more work becomes available or if your employer’s financial condition improves.

A reduction-in-force does not come with such an expectation. It usually means that a specific job, your job, or even your department or an entire department is being eliminated.

How are you going to generate a legacy that gives meaning to your life?

Layoffs and reduction-in-force are generative tension. Including like John, Snarey says, the onset of “generativity chill.” Anxiety with threatened losses to “making your mark” on the world through creating or nurturing things that will outlast you.

Learned Helplessness

Once a layoff or a reduction-in-force happens, we quickly discover we have no control over what happens. We learn to accept our fate. Rest in Peace translates to merely giving in to submission. Once we do so, we can begin the process of redemption.

  • The action of being saved from the sin, error, or evil of layoffs or reduction-in-force.
  • The act of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment or clearing a debt.
  • The action of buying back our freedom.

Most of us will agree, once is undoubtedly enough. Why would you, why would anyone ever want to go through this drama again?

Because you need a job, you have to work to take into account the cost of living. What amount of money that you need to sustain a “certain standard of living” by affording necessary expenses such as housing, food, taxes, college tuition and incidentals, healthcare, ad nauseam. This cost of living ties to your wages.

Why Anything Can Be Addictive

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For most of us, addiction involves taking drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, or heroin.

Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, substance, or activity, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.

When we learn to live with addiction, we behave as if it is utterly helpless to change this situation or our relationship with our addiction. We become dependent on our addiction to cope with our daily life. It helps us to do so, by normalizing the abnormal (it’s still abnormal!).

How are layoffs or a reduction-in-force any different?

They cause psychological and physical harm. They are an addiction in their own right as a remedy to shed costly assets, focus on continuous improvement, and keeping a close eye on costs, doubling net profits.

Senior management is learning to live with this addiction. These leaders are behaving as if it is utterly helpless to change this situation or relationship with their addiction.

Influential members of corporate boards and stockholders fall well within the definition of enablers, don’t they? These actors continue to become dependent on this addiction to cope with their daily life. It is helping them to do so, by normalizing the abnormal (it’s still abnormal!) in layoffs and reduction-in-force.

Addictive behavior develops from a combination of elements. Such as the social environment we were brought up in. Our emotional, psychological, and spiritual constitution – personality factors, attitudes, expectations, and beliefs. Undoubtedly, working and living in cultures where work demands and deserves our undivided allegiance, is a prime example.

What Is the True Cost of Layoffs and Reduction-In-Force as An Addiction?

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The social and health costs of a layoff or reduction-in-force are enormous. How are they less caustic or different from other addictions? Where codependency continues to be a two-sided coin of “give” and “take.”

There is moodiness, relationship problems, absenteeism from work, domestic violence, and bankruptcy.

Health effects include anxiety and depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraine, stress-related disorders, stomach problems, and suicidal thoughts.

Addiction to layoffs and reduction-in-force, just like other addictions, is a disease with a range of harmful conditions and behaviors. The main symptom of any addiction is a problematic pattern of use, which leads to clinically significant impairment or distress.

The specific symptoms, undoubtedly, vary according to the addictive disorder. Powerful cravings characterize addiction. How are leaders and their architects for layoffs or reduction-in-force, unlike any other individuals with a substance use disorder?

They continue using this substance or engaging in addictive behavior associated with layoffs or reduction-in-force, even though they might be aware of the harm it can cause or when clear evidence of damage is apparent. Why can they not be able to stop partaking of these addictive substances or behavior despite expressing a desire to quit?

Diagnostic Features of Layoffs and Reduction-In-Force

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Addiction to layoffs and reduction-in-force, like any other addiction, have a very similar symptom pattern.

  • Is there not a problem with leaders uncontrollably engaging in harmful levels of habit-forming behavior that contributes to or leads to layoffs and reduction-in-force?
  • How often are leaders being forced to neglect or lose interest in activities that do not involve the toxic substance or behavior of layoffs or reduction-in-force?
  • Are there not relationship difficulties that often include lashing out at people who identify the dependency?
  • Is there not an inability to stop using this drug of layoffs and reduction-in-force. However, it is causing health problems or personal problems, such as issues with employment or relationships?
  • Do leaders not hide behaviors and otherwise exercise secrecy? Such as refusing to explain injuries that occur while under the influence of this addiction with layoffs and reduction-of-force.
  • Is there increased risk-taking, both to access the substance and activity and while using it or engaging in it?

How Does Codependency Become a Two-Sided Coin of Giving and Take in Reduction-In-Force and Layoffs?


It is incredibly difficult not to become codependent working and living in cultures where work demands and deserves our undivided allegiance.

You plan your entire life around pleasing the other person, or the enabler. Your self-esteem and self-worth come from sacrificing yourself for your partner, who is only too happy to receive your sacrifices.

How often have you stayed in these relationships, even if you are aware that your partner does hurtful things?

You use all your time and energy to give your partner everything they ask for. You feel guilty about thinking about yourself in these relationships and will not express any personal needs or desires. You ignore your morals or conscience to do what your partner or your enabler wants.

How often is your family trying to talk to you about their concerns? However, even when they and others like your trusted colleagues suggest that you are too dependent, you find it difficult to leave this relationship of working and living in cultures where work demands and deserves your undivided allegiance.

Your enabler’s role is also equally dysfunctional, is it not?

Your leadership, and likely your line managers, who rely on you do not learn how to have an equal, two-sided relationship, and often come to rely on your sacrifices and neediness.

How often have you felt, or are you feeling, extreme difficulty about separating yourself from these enablers because of your own identity in working and living in these cultures centers upon sacrificing yourself for your partner or enabler?

credit: shutterstock

Do the following examples of a “cycle” of codependency in work sound familiar to you?

Codependency does not give a rat’s ass about or take into account the quality of our relationships, our engagement in our community, or our physical and emotional well-being.

Codependency does not allow or enable us the time to rethink how we are defining success; discover how to live a truly full life. And one that has a purpose. Or one where we are drawing boundary lines that show respect for our family; or our physical health, emotional and psychological health, and spiritual health.

How Do You Cope with a Layoff or Reduction-In-Force?

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Job loss ranks as one of the most stressful life events. A layoff or reduction-in-force is undoubtedly out of your control. How you react to these events is not.

One of the first things you should do is give yourself time with the impact of being laid off.

Do you need to vent?

Do so to close friends such as your family, coach or mentor, or a therapist. You are going to feel bad about feeling confused and uncertain about your future. Give yourself the permission and space to take the time you need and do not rush into feeling “okay” with the layoff or reduction-in-force.

Know that it is normal during these events to let your disappointment and distress turn into a new negative outlook on your life and career. However, if you feed into this conviction, you run the risk of developing a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in your daily life.

You need to regroup and reframe.

Take these adverse events or situations, your thoughts, and feelings, and look at them from a different perspective for some positive aspects.

You are not alone in your journey. Being laid off for you, like it is for your colleagues, becomes a time to regroup in your life. Give yourself the consent to reassess your career path. Make sure you are still doing something you are interested in and passionate about doing. You need to consider your longer-term happiness.

Instead of perseverating on there may not be much you can do about this turmoil right now, channel this thinking and your feelings to help you decide between two job opportunities in the future. For instance, one that keeps you on your current path. Or another that may open the door to a different set of opportunities for you. This layoff or reduction-in-force is likely your ticket to get you out of your dead-end job you would have stayed in forever had it not occurred.

Do not give up hope.

Your unemployment may stretch out much longer than you want or anticipate. You will benefit from remaining as optimistic as possible. This optimism ties with understanding and channeling the Law of Attraction—the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on.

Your pessimistic attitude can quickly suck the air out of you and lead you on the path towards a full-blown depression when you are job hunting. Moreover, especially when a handful of companies are laying off hundreds of thousands of workers. This climate becomes a tight market to be looking for a job. However, people like yourself who remain optimistic and channel the Law of Attraction will stand out in these market conditions because they usually find a way to bounce back.

If you are, or when you do feel intensely down on your luck, you can join free support or skills-building groups in your local community or online, where you learn from others who are going through similar circumstances.

Remember that a layoff or reduction-in-force is no judgment about your abilities, experience, or skills that you brought to your position.

Identifying and Understanding Your Addiction and Codependency

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Rick Bisio, guest writer,, says salaried jobs are like crack cocaine. He reports you will be amazed at the similarities between a salaried position and drug addiction.

Each time you do drugs, you get high.

This relationship is also true, Rick says, of getting paid. Research studies are discovering that the same part of your brain, the reward center, is stimulated by both drugs and money. Every time you are paid, you mostly are feeling a similar satisfaction to that of a drug fix.

Feeding your reward center.

When you feed your reward center, you need the drug on a regular, predictable basis. For addicts, not knowing where their next drug high is coming from is nerve-racking. A salary can have a similar effect on you. If you are laid off, fired, or become unemployed for some other reason, Rick says, you suffer from that intense feeling of worry and uncertainty over when you might receive your next paycheck.

This experience is why people feel scared to leave their jobs when the opportunity to do so becomes available. Your fear of losing your regular paycheck overshadows your desire to break free to explore other options.

Who’s controlling whom?

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Addicts allow their addiction and their relationship with it to control their life. They set up their life around the drug. It affects how they spend their day, Rick says, every single day. How many times in your life can you recall where and when you let something control you that much? For many people, Rick says, this sounds exactly like their job. Your salaried work often takes priority over everything else in your life, such as family time. The relationship you maintain with your addiction always circles back to your feeling that you need that regular, predictable salary.


When a drug is suddenly removed, you go into withdrawal. Your powerful cravings for it, physically and mentally, leave you feeling depressed and lethargic, learning you cannot live without it. How is having suddenly your salary taken from you, Rick says, any different?

Studies are showing that those who go through layoffs or reduction-in-force can or do become physically ill, complain of headaches, nausea, and other symptoms compared to drug addiction because they cannot live without their salaried positions.

Furthermore, they feel helpless and anxious, confronting their fear that they can no longer provide for their family or themselves. They want their salary back, Rick says, just as they would a drug.

Working harder, not smarter.

It is hard to build wealth as a drug addict. Addiction forces you to have hard, fixed expenses built around your drug habit. People, places, and things. You quickly know or learn how much you can afford and engineer your lifestyle around the supply of drugs. You spend what you make. How is this not, Rick says, a lot like someone with a salary?

With your salary, your weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets are planned based on what you make in your salaried position. It’s hard to accrue wealth beyond these amounts. You are spending most of your time and effort making and then surviving on the sum of money your salary allows you each year.


When you do not have the drug for a while, you begin to relapse. Addictions cause you to panic, become desperate for another hit. If you become lucky enough, you find it quickly. However, most of the time, you suffer for not having that fix you have come to depend on. When strangers offer you drugs, Rick says, even if it is for a little while, the reward center in your brain screams at you, and inevitably you will say yes.

How is this not the same with a job offer after you have gone a long time without a salary? Are you not, Rick says, incredibly tempted to accept? Will you give up your freedom for that promise of another paycheck?

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

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Drug addicts develop a love-hate relationship with how their drug habit controls their life. Most of us undoubtedly realize you should not use drugs.

However, when you become addicted, you cannot help yourself. How often have you dreamed about owning your own business? You want to, may even need to for a host of reasons, pursue your dream? Then inevitably submit to the harsh reality, including help yourself return to the “security” of a salaried job?

This reality is how many people, Rick says, end up in retirement with too many “what ifs” instead of experiencing the joy and freedom that comes from knowing they have lived their best life. Moreover, an existence that is free from the control of a salary.

Like Rick, over the years, I have been working as a therapist, change consultant, executive coach, I too have seen thousands of people trying to kick the habit of salaried employment. And explore other options because they want to become masters of their destiny. Some have done so while others do not and become martyrs and involve their spouses and family as collateral damage.

Your road to recovery.

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The first step in your journey to recovery is to admit you have a problem. Discovering the truth, as others say, will set you free. Like in any twelve-step program, you too must start each morning with your mantra, “I am a salary addict.” 

Once you can, you will be on the path to recovery, where you can become hopeful again and find your inner strength to kick your habit so you can explore other options.

Here is a story for you to think about as you begin your path to recovery. One that should help you avoid too many “what ifs.” And instead, help you to discover the courage and your options to become the master of your destiny, experience your joy and freedom of knowing that you have lived your best life.

The day after the tragedy of 9/11, a lot of things were going on across the country. As Newsweek staff tell it in their online article, “The Case Against Layoffs: They Often Backfire,” there were no commercial flights in the United States. It was uncertain, they reported, when airlines were going to be permitted to start flying again or how many customers would be on them. The economy was entering a recession.

According to the Newsweek staff, all of the airlines were doing what so many U.S. corporations are skilled at doing. They were announcing tens of thousands of layoffs.

The one airline that did not cut staff was Southwest. At that time, it never had an involuntary layoff in its almost 40-year history. It had become the largest domestic U.S. airline and had a market capitalization more significant than all its local competitors combined.

The reason for this, according to Southwest’s former head of human resources? 

 “If people are your most important assets, why would you get rid of them?”

If your company is the 21st century equivalent of the proverbial buggy-whip industry, says Newsweek staff, “don’t fool yourself—downsizing will only postpone, not prevent, your eventual demise.”