Losing a job, for whatever reason, can come as a shock – even if you knew it was coming. It’s a massive change and as human beings, we don’t take changes very well. Yes, there are opportunities which arise out of the change but first you need to process the feelings of rejection, grief, anxiety, panic, worry, loss of self esteem (as sometimes the rejection experienced in redundancy is taken personally) and loss of ‘self’ as you probably linked your self-worth to your job.
In this blog, I am not going to handle redundancy from the point of view of the person being made redundant but from the point of view of the person who is supporting a partner or loved one through a redundancy.
It may be that your partner, parent or close family friend has just been made redundant and you are watching them spiral slightly out of control.
Many feelings will arise including moodiness, upsetness, depression, anxiety, panic and insomnia. It is very hard to know how best to support someone through the roller coaster of emotions and if they are your close partner, you will almost feel like you are on the roller coaster with them.
It’s tempting to want to make them happy, distract them or tell them to stop being gloomy and feel different/ look on the bright side of life. A common human trait is to try to intellectualise the emotion:
“think of the opportunities”
“you never liked your job anyway”
“don’t be sad, this is a chance to really examine everything from a fresh perspective”
Although all these statements are probably true – it’s ALL about timing. Delivering these messages in the first few weeks is not going to go down well.
In the first few weeks, it’s critical for the ‘redundee’ to just feel their emotions. Emotions, when fully experienced, naturally evolve along the path of healing but its often the people supporting the person being made redundant that interrupt this healing pattern.
The Redundancy Healing cycle
The Redundancy grieving cycle
- Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
- Anger and betrayal stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
- Panic and negotiation stage: Seeking a way out. Making deals with your company, trying to make deals with others in avoiding the inevitable.
- Humiliation, fear of failure or looking bad stage: Gradually sinking into a spiral, feeling embarrassed and avoiding seeing people.
- Despair stage: Realization that something awful is coming your way and you’re strapped into the roller coaster and helpless.
- Loss, grief and depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable, surrendering to the grief.
- Space and nothingness stage: Once you have grieved and grieved, experiencing loss and pain, you’re left with a feeling of nothingness. It’s different to numbness because you feel very present and can notice things around you. Your senses are heightened. You may also find that you cannot cry anymore. You experience an emotional vacuum.
- Acceptance stage: Seeking realistic solutions and finally finding the way forward. It’s not a feeling of resignation. It’s a feeling of profound understanding of the way things are and the way things are not.
- Responsibility and forgiveness stage: Taking responsibility for what happened and examining if there was anything you did which may have contributed to it happening. Forgiveness is key at this stage and is a critical part of true and real healing.
- Gratitude stage: Transformational experience. Learning from your redundancy and seeing positives and negatives from the experience. This stage completes the healing.
What you don’t realise, in offering intellectual platitudes is that you are only doing this so YOU can feel happy again. It’s your own discomfort with their emotional state being so linked to your own emotional state that upsets you. If you resist their emotional state, it will persist because it has no avenue to be expressed.
So to survive and be happy in the first few weeks of supporting your partner, it helps to stop linking your happiness to the happiness of this person – move to your own orbit and allow them to simply ‘BE’ where they are. Break your dependence on them and instead of fretting, go play tennis, go for a walk on your own or go shopping and allow them to be.
Here are a few tips of what to do and what not to do in supporting someone through this change.
- Don’t give pep talks. Its not your job to pump them up and ensure they are happy again. Understand their need to express their emotions and use the BUCKET exercise below to give them an avenue to express these emotions Don’t intellectualise their emotions or offer any ‘sage’ advice – telling them to look on the bright side of life or telling them that ‘everything happens for a reason’ just invalidates the pit of despair they are looking into. Allow THEM to come to this conclusion on their own – this way, they will own the conclusion on a deeper level Don’t orbit around them or link your own happiness to their happiness – they are entitled to their process and way of dealing with things.
- Don’t tell them to snap out of it
- Don’t tell them they are being ridiculous, self indulgent or dramatic – use the BUCKET exercise to hear them – sometimes people just need to vent their emotions – its not necessarily about you.
- They will want to indulge in what I call STEATs (short term emotion avoidance tactics) so they can feel better and run from their emotions. They will want to avoid dealing with their emotions by focusing on decorating, shopping, partying, drinking or being super ‘busy’ with something or other. Rather than rejoice in these activities with them, encourage them to stop and feel their emotions. Validate their right to their emotions. If they engage in STEATs for too Long, they may end up depressed due to repressing their emotions
One thing to guard against is that your partner does not avoiding dealing with their emotions by burying themselves in things which either numb the pain or distract them. Don’t get me wrong, in the early days of redundancy, the S.T.E.A.T.s are probably the things which help your partner feel better in each moment. BUT the thing to be aware of is that it’s not feeling better for real – it’s a false sense of security – a false feeling of recovering. It fits into the false healing category.
Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics include but are not limited to:
- Excessive eating
- Alcohol and drugs
- Excessive anger towards others
- Excessive socialising
- Fantasy or escapism activities (books, TV, movies)
- Random sexual encounters
- Shopping/retail therapy
- Spending countless hours with your children under the guise of being a good parent but the actual agenda is using your children to help you feel better
The problem with Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics is that they are short term. They do not last, and they do not deal with the true emotional issue. S.T.E.A.T.s are distractions that either damage or delay the recovery process.
- Have compassion. Allow them their feelings and validate their need to process things in their own way
- Do reassure them that you love them as they are, that they are amazing, that you are here for them whatever happens
- Do show them the redundancy emotional cycle and reassure them that they have a right to their emotions and there will be an end to the journey and that you have full faith in them
- Listen to them
- Give them lots of hugs.
- If they look sad – just give them a big bear hug
- Whilst they look for new work, discuss everything with them positively, reassuring them
- Get them to read the following books which are really supportive: Brand You: Turn Your Unique Talents into a Winning Formula by John Purkiss and David Royston-Lee, Become A Key Person Of Influence by Daniel Priestley, Rebuilding Your Life After Redundancy: The New Life Network Handbook by Janet Davies and Overcoming Redundancy: 52 Inspiring Ideas to Help You Bounce Back From Losing Your Job by Gordon Adams
- Give practical advice about how their skills and competencies can be utilised in different industries – The book BRAND YOU is excellent at focusing on skills and how they can be applied in different situations
- Buy some books on writing an amazing CV (but only after reading and working through BRAND YOU) like You’re Hired! CV: How to write a brilliant CV by Corinne Mills and The CV Book: Your Definitive Guide to Writing the Perfect CV by James Innes
- Encourage them to bucket and do this daily for 21 days (see below)
- Once 45 days have passed, if they are still moping around – get them to see someone to process their feelings so that they can move on
BUCKET YOUR FRUSTRATIONS
Go fetch a bucket (a real one) and sit together with no TV or chaos in the background with the bucket between you both You start by encouraging your partner to express their frustrations, feelings and emotions into the bucket – you not allowed to respond except to acknowledge that you hear what they are saying and ask if there is anything else to go into the bucket – encourage your partner to ‘put all their frustrations into the bucket’ and vent everything that is pissing them off about life and how life should be The job is – JUST LISTEN Keep asking if there is anything else and keep going until the bucket is full and they can think of nothing else When done, you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door Now it’s your turn It’s good to say how you feel but I recommend not sharing your worries about the redundancy – focus on other things that annoy you or frustrate you — this way, your partner will feel they are not alone in being frustrated but they will feel that you are not pressuring them to snap out of their emotions When done, you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door
Now you both take turns to say what you are grateful for about your life. Your lives are actually very rich and amazing BUT because you dont focus on that, you dont see this. I want you both to come up with at least 5 things you are grateful for
Now you both take turns to say what you will accomplish tomorrow. This is important because at the moment, life is happening to both of you – neither of you say how you want your life to go or feel like you have any control over your lives.
So, I hope that helps a bit. It is very challenging to go through a redundancy, but even more challenging if you are the partner of someone in that situation.
Till next time!