Redundancy and Kübler-Ross

Swiss-American Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) identified the five stages of grief – Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. But what relevance does it have to redundancy?

The Kübler-Ross Model should be approached with an element of caution as it was originally conceived as a model to deal with the death of a loved one – but anyone working with those affected by redundancy can see how aspects of the model can be applied to redundancy. There are very real practical steps that can be taken to mitigate the grief-like effects of redundancy and help a person move forward via effective Careers Information, Advice and Guidance known as “Outplacement.” 

The Five Stages

Stage One: Denial & Isolation

A sense of disbelief about the situation hits everyone during redundancy, particularly those who’ve been in the job a long time. Overnight, a person goes from being a valued colleague to an outsider.  People they talked to and worked with every day no longer know what to say and the sense of isolation can be made even worse by reflection – with questions like “Why was I chosen?” Many people feel unable to tell loved ones they have been made redundant, which further increases the sense of isolation.

Relevance to Outplacement:

The earlier employees are given as much detail as possible (avoiding ambiguous language) and engaged through trade representatives or unions, the more likely denial can be overcome. Using an outplacement service from the start – and publicising this – helps make the situation ‘real’.

State Two: Anger

Emotions can quickly become charged in a redundancy situation and sometimes that emotion can be misdirected. This can cause friction with friends, loved ones, colleagues or any other helpers, leading to real issues in people’s professional and personal lives.

Relevance to Outplacement:

This is a real issue and the role of outplacement is not to deal with emotion but to focus employees into taking practical steps to help them quickly re-focus their emotions into new and more productive employment activities.

Stage Three: Bargaining

Many people will desperately (and understandably) try to retain their job, pleading with colleagues/managers and promising to improve their performance in order to meet their perception of avoiding the redundancy criteria.  Unfortunately, they do not realise that this will probably not work. These kinds of situation can lead to people making poor decisions that can have long-lasting consequences. 

Relevance to Outplacement:

This is a difficult stage to overcome because the employee wants to ‘bargain’ their way to staying with the employer.  A skilled intervention through outplacement can help change this psychological state and refocus the employee’s energies.

Stage Four: Depression

This is one of the most common issues reported to counsellors regarding redundancy. Without their job, many people feel lost and without purpose, which has a huge impact on a person’s self-esteem. The sense of loss can be large and lasting, with effects including sleep disorders and appetite changes. At the time when a person needs to be active and engaged to move forward, depression can rob them of these vital attributes.

Relevance to Outplacement:

Outplacement has a fundamental component that helps keep depression at bay – through the generation of hope. A properly constructed, realistically optimistic, well thought-out ‘action plan’ that focuses less on negative emotion and galvanises the employee with practical steps helps them to ‘think less and do more’ to find a new job (or other appropriate outcome).  This can significantly help keep depression at bay.

Stage Five: Acceptance

The slow realisation that the change and its consequences are unavoidable and that new structures need to be put in place in a person’s life. Reaching the acceptance stage can be an uneasy journey. For some it may involve permanent loss of income and status. For others, however, acceptance can represent a positive change, with new opportunities where the employee may look back, in years to come, and not quite believe how much their life has improved. 

Relevance to Outplacement:

Action planning can help employees on the path to acceptance and change. Outplacement, with its focus on step-by-step action planning, helps employees prepare their way forward with steps including updating their job search skills for the modern jobs market, understanding their employability skills and what employers are looking for, and interview preparation and practise.  All of these are actions that can make a real difference to your employees, helping them move forward much faster and with more success. 

Digital Support

Having the right kind of online digital support can give employees 24/7 access to an information source to answer their questions quickly.  And you’ll be happy to know that many outplacement providers – including ourselves – provide just such a tool to their clients. 

In Conclusion

While bereavement grief and redundancy have their differences, both circumstances have very real psychological effects upon employees.  Employers engaging an outplacement provider to support their employees are providing significant and beneficial impacts that help employees focus their career mindset and move forward in a positive fashion.

To find out more about how Career Connect Outplacement can help your business and employees contact: