Ray had hired some of them, which made it worse. "I'd sold them on the company, I'd promised them a great career. I kept it together at work, but when I'd get home at night, the stress of it hit me hard."
Of course, she adds, her hires never really blamed her — especially since she was told a few days before the layoffs that she was going, too. Her back went out for a while right afterward. "I'd never had a back problem before, and I think it was just all the stress," Ray says.
Alicia Sanera, 39, of San Antonio has laid off workers. "Some of these people I'd worked with for a very long time. I saw such pain in their faces, but felt I couldn't show my emotions to them, I had to stay strong. I cried a lot, though. As soon as I could, I'd leave for my office, close the door, draw the blinds and have a good sob," says Sanera, who has since started her own human resources consulting firm.
Each time she'd feel down and guilty for a few weeks. Then a few months later, laid-off workers often would call, frustrated and angry about insurance or other continuing benefits. "Some would be really irate, and we got a lot of the blame for the layoffs. That brought back all the painful feelings," Sanera says.
Thinking of layoffs as necessary to save other jobs has eased the burden a bit for Laura Rhoad, 42, human resources director at Sunshine Ace Hardware Stores in Bonita Springs, Fla. "Leading up to it was always the worst. There were times when I felt totally sick to my stomach and couldn't sleep the night before."
Having to terminate a few workers shortly after coming to Sunshine last year wasn't quite as hard as earlier because she barely knew the people. "Now it would be a lot harder because I know them, their spouses, I've heard all about their children."
Still, she says, "You've got to just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go on after layoffs. They can be really disruptive, but you go on."