Using the Bridges Model to process Layoff Loss

Using the Bridges Model to process Layoff Loss

I was laid off from Shopify recently. I’d used the Bridges Transition Model in the past to help teams I worked with process change. So I thought I’d apply it to myself.

Loss in the Bridges Transition Model

In the Bridges Transition Model, “transitions start with ending”. And endings are about identifying and processing the losses we feel due to the change.

Here are the 7 types of loss defined in the Bridges Transition Model, with an example from a layoff.

  • Turf: This type of loss refers to the loss of a physical or emotional space that a person identifies as their own.
    • Example: Feeling disconnected from one’s work community after being laid off.
  • Attachments: This type of loss refers to the loss of a person that someone has formed a strong emotional bond with.
    • Example: Losing daily interactions with colleagues, mentors, or team members due to the layoff.
  • Structure: This type of loss refers to the loss of a routine, role, or way of life that provides a sense of stability and predictability.
    • Example: Losing the daily structure of going to work, having meetings, and performing specific job tasks after the layoff.
  • Future: This type of loss refers to the loss of hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the future, such as a career, relationship, or life goals.
    • Example: Losing the opportunity for career advancement or achieving planned goals within the company due to the layoff.
  • Purpose: This type of loss refers to the loss of a sense of meaning and purpose in life, such as a career, hobby, or personal passion.
    • Example: Feeling that one’s work is no longer meaningful or purposeful after being laid off.
  • Control: This type of loss refers to the loss of autonomy and control over one’s life and circumstances, such as due to illness, injury, or external factors.
    • Example: Feeling powerless or unable to control the situation leading to the layoff or the search for a new job.
  • Identity: This type of loss refers to the loss of a sense of self-identity, such as due to a major life change, trauma, or illness.
    • Example: Losing one’s sense of identity as a valued employee or team member after being laid off.

Responding to loss

The model also specifies four tactics to respond to loss, along with their definitions and example of how it might be used to tackle a type of loss:

  • Restore: This tactic involves re-establishing what has been lost or returning to a previous state.
    • Example: In the case of losing Structure due to a layoff, one can restore a sense of routine by creating a new daily schedule, including job search activities, exercise, and social interactions.
  • Replace: This tactic involves finding a substitute for the loss, either by finding something similar or by adopting a new interest or attachment.
    • Example: In the case of losing Attachments due to a layoff, one can replace those connections by joining professional networking groups, participating in social events, or engaging in volunteer work to form new relationships and connections.
  • Redesign: This tactic involves adjusting to the loss by reimagining one’s life or situation and finding new ways to make meaning and purpose.
    • Example: In the case of losing Purpose due to a layoff, one can redesign their life by exploring new career paths, developing new skills, or pursuing personal passions that bring a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  • Relinquish: This tactic involves accepting the loss and letting go of the need to control or change the situation, often through a process of grief and emotional healing.
    • Example: In the case of losing Control due to a layoff, one can relinquish the need for control by practicing mindfulness, seeking counseling or support, and focusing on aspects of life that are within their control, such as personal growth.

My losses and how I am dealing with them

I went over the types of losses and identified the ones I felt the most. I then chose how to respond to each.

  • Structure is important to me. As someone with a tendency towards depression when I am not productive, I find structure to be a major help.

    During a typical workday I start with a workout, prep for the day (reviewing my mid-term goals, weekly goals and daily agenda). I then make up a daily planner with the meetings for the day and then slot in my tasks and breaks into the buckets of time that remain. Without work and the 5-7 meetings a day I usually have, the idea of letting the structure go was appealing. Then I remembered my tendency to spiral. So I decided to restore the structure: I still wake up early, get a workout in and make up an agenda every day.

  • I’ve learned to develop attachments at work. I spend most of my time with my coworkers. Remote or not, we face challenges together, have fun and even take coffee breaks.

    The good thing about friendships you make at work, I’ve learned, is that they outlive your working relationships. So I’ve restored many of these, meeting with some “work friends” periodically. I’ve also learned to replace some of the more casual, weak connections at work through social networks, checking in on folks once in a while and joining groups with common interests (rucking, IT execs, ex-<company> slack channels).

  • Loss of future aspirations and goals has been a tough one. My teams and I had hit stride and were building momentum. We were working on a cool LLM-based project and how to measure whether interactions were successful. We were defining success for users and collaborating with many other teams in those measurements.

    I’ve replaced those aspirations with new ones around reaching more people through writing and being more holistic in how I measure success in all manner of things.

  • In the past loss of purpose was one that got to me. And it took me many months to process it. But when I did, it was through a major redesign: I decided to switch from application development to data engineering and insights.

    This time, my purpose hasn’t changed: I am want to help groups of people achieve things that are important to them and to do them better. The context in which I am doing this in is different: I am trying to help my friends, former colleagues and broader network.

Change happens. Embrace loss and grow through it

If you’ve dealt with change recently, I encourage you too to think about the losses you feel and how you’ll process them. When you have, be explicit. Share the loss(es) with a friend or write about them. Choose how you’ll respond to them.

Use a ceremony to mark the ending of your last thing and the beginning of the next one.

You got this.


This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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