1 in 7 people have been affected by redundancy since the beginning of the economic crisis. Displacement is one of the major changes that can impact on a person’s mental and emotional health much more than they are usually prepared for.
We often hear stories of those who leave the armed forces suffering from an acute loss of identity, depression and anxiety when their rank and uniform are taken away. In much the same way people who have invested much of their time and energy into a job with an expected career progression can find themselves floored by the sudden feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and grief when that progression comes to an unexpected end. Alongside this the loss of social aspects of working with people they’ve seen almost every day for years can be devastating.
Until recent times, the term ‘transition anxiety’ was more or less non-existent. However, as businesses become more ethical and people become more self-aware in these rapidly changing times, we are beginning to understand more and more about how big life changes can affect us psychologically when managed poorly or without adequate planning.
Offering outplacement support is something more companies are choosing to do to help prepare their staff for the emotional and practical blow that can come after redundancy. Being willing to offer compassionate, useful change initiatives for redundancy is becoming accepted by companies as a necessary aspect of corporate social responsibility. The reputational impact of managing such initiatives inadequately can be huge.
For many companies outsourcing outplacement support may not be practical or even affordable. However there are things you can do to ensure that the transition for those affected is managed in the most positive manner possible. Here are some suggestions on how you might support those impacted:
Begin with the positives
Whether the participant’s redundancy is planned or has come as a bolt out of the blue, having a career review that focuses on achievements so far and any milestones such as awards or handling difficult situations is a great way of gently introducing a ‘success mindset’. From a rational, cognitive point of view, it is very difficult to berate yourself and feel despondent when faced with the evidence that you have made an amazing contribution to your workplaces so far. Tackling the negative self talk early is a good way of providing some tools to get through any potential feelings of despair as the news sets in.
Explore transferrable skills
Looking at all the different skills the participant has acquired over their career and matching them to different possibilities and directions is another excellent way of helping them to not only see their value but get a sense of how much broader their horizons could be now. Exploring alternative career options is also a way of demonstrating the possibility that redundancy could be a blessing in disguise. Everyone has skills they may not have really had chance to use or develop before. Redundancy can create the opportunity for the participant to take a closer look at their life and make some important and healthy changes.
Allow Staff to Start early with applying for new jobs
It might seem daunting for someone who hasn’t had to look for work in a long time, but getting a realistic handle on the jobs market and learning the tips and tools for success is essential, ideally while the participant is still in employment. One of the problems of transitional anxiety is that the sufferer can get stuck in a pattern of wishing things could be the same as they were in the past, sometimes idealising past situations and forgetting some of the negatives that came with them. Committing to a new start begins with seriously looking at other options and working towards new goals. Those affected by redundancy are entitled to time off to seek new employment.
Get a clear exit strategy
Above all, creating a clear plan of action to help avoid the financial and emotional pitfalls of redundancy, ideally before the participant leaves work, is one of the most important parts of combatting the fear, loss and lack of direction that can descend on a person who has been made redundant. Being truly prepared for the realities of job seeking and the personal and practical difficulties that may ensue without a strategy means working on organising those things before despondency sets in. Most importantly, long serving members of staff will feel valued and looked after, and your commitment to managing HR in an ethical way will be reflected in what people say about your company to others.
The whole process of redundancy can create a wide range of emotions including anger, depression and relief. The change process can be incredibly disruptive for those affected and those who aren’t. The way that you handle the process as an organisation can have a significant impact on how you are viewed by many.
For information on the statutory entitlements for those impacted by redundancy view the government website.
For advice on how to manage an outplacement programme we’d be happy to discuss any queries.