• Retrenchment

In the face of globalization and competitive markets, organizations are less likely to offer a long-term employment relationship. This impacted on the traditional career patterns with a shift for career management from the organization to the individual.  Changes in the economic environment is forcing companies to retrench employees. Retrenchment (or involuntary career transition) is a reality and common practice in today’s organizations.  In South Africa the retrenchment process is guided by the LRA S 189.

To be retrenched is possibly one of the most stressful and devastating experiences in life, no matter what stage of life you at.  Change itself is very stressful. How you deal with this change and the kind action you decide on, will determine how you manage your career transition and emotional landscape. The reality of the retrenched individual is that change is so dramatic and suddenly that most people are unaware to what to expect and are confronted with dealing with an emotional landscape of mourning, how to stay motivated and positive, how to approach job opportunities and how to prepare and present yourself during an interview.

When facing retrenchment – what reaction can I expect?

The most immediate is the emotional turmoil – you can expect feelings of sadness, anger, a loss of confidence and perspective, self-doubt, self-pity, embarrassment, feelings of incompetence and a lack of self-worth, which often can lead to depression. As most people do not know what to expect when they are retrenched, they do not anticipate the negative mental effects on themselves and their families. Regardless of the circumstances, some form of distress is a common and natural response to unexpected events that involve retrenchment and change. In some cases, this reaction may be similar to grieving and considered a mourning process. This process is best described in hand of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stages of transformation (amended):

  1. Shock: You have been retrenched!
  2. Denial: Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual and may lead to feelings of shock, disbelief, numbness or fear.   ‘This can’t be happening to me’ ‘There must be something wrong.’ Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation.
  3. Anger & Frustration: Once you realized that denial cannot continue and confronted with reality, you may become angry. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. . People can be angry with themselves, or with the people who are responsible for the retrenchment process. This may lead to feelings of hurt, disappointment and rejection, which can manifest in outburst or loss of control. ‘why is this happening’ ‘After all I have done for this company’ ‘This is not fair’ ‘I am competent, why must I go’
  4. Depression: The onset of depression is often subtle – you become conscious of your inability to effectively manage normal day to day matters. You may observe a lack of energy and motivation or even struggle to make decisions. Somehow you need to come to terms with your status and start developing’ job-find’ strategies. During this period, it’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty. Feeling those emotions indicate that you have begun to accept the situation. ‘I feel tired & sad and can’t do anything’ ‘I gained weight and do not have any decent clothes to wear’. I hide because I am drinking too much – avoiding to face the situation.’
  5. Bargaining & Experimentation: You bargain with the situation ‘if only’ – ‘if only they considered and implemented some of the new ideas’ ‘if only they offer me a contract, I can still make a difference’. During this phase you are searching for meaning and a better understanding.
  6. Decision & Acceptance: Finally you realized ‘It’s going to be okay’  ‘I can make it’, there are jobs out there, and I just have to apply to what seems suitable.
  7. Integration & Explore new opportunities: You developed resilience, able to identify your strengths and competence. May be upskilled yourself to improve your employability.
  8. Moving on: At this point you ready to identify job opportunities and manage your career transition and path.

Retrenchment is not an easy process. This process may take days or weeks depends on the action you decide on to journey through the transition.