A psychology of layoffs: The 4 stages in overcoming job loss


Posted at Mar 14 2009 07:37 PM | Updated as of Mar 15 2009 03:37 AM

The global economic crisis has led to the unemployment of thousands of Filipinos both here and abroad. Those who are retrenched are now faced with the challenge of making the most of what they have while looking for another job or starting a new business.

Aside from this, however, being laid off can take its toll on a person's mind and emotions, which can be an even bigger challenge.

Ways to cope with layoffs (Source: www.psychcentral.com)

Unemployment is not easy. But you can get through it without having your entire life fall apart.

Layoffs aren't personal, although they often feel that they are.

Being upset with a layoff is normal, but don't let your upset turn into obsession or depression.

Pessimism after a layoff is a dangerous vice: avoid stinkin' thinkin.'

Don't burn bridges; keep in touch with ex-coworkers you had good relationships with.

Work it out if you need references and set them up sooner rather than putting it off.
Focus on and plan for the career you want to have in the future, not the job you just lost.
Don't put off being realistic with your finances and your own personal budget.

Explore all your options when it comes to unemployment and health insurance. Don't dismiss any resources available to you out of pride or ignorance.

Be prepared to be in it for the long haul during tough economic times. This is a reflection of the poor economy, not your skills or abilities.

Stay positive as much as possible and keep an optimistic spirit. Set realistic job goals (sending out resumes, replying to classifieds, etc.) and stick to them.

Believe in yourself, because if you don't, others will have an even more difficult time believing in you.

According to management consultant Karen dela Cruz, a person usually undergoes four stages in overcoming the psychological strain caused by job loss: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment.

It may take a while before one is actually laid off, but dela Cruz said a person may already start suffering from anxiety as rumors of retrenchment start spreading within the company.

"Sometimes it takes a year before the actual retrenchment takes place. But really it's more of coping with the uncertainty that gets employees a little uncomfortable, and some of them want to leave early. But they can't or not allowed to exactly because of that ambiguity," dela Cruz told ANC's "Shop Talk."


At first, dela Cruz said a person would tend to reject any possibility of being laid off despite rumors, and even official company announcements. The denial phase, dela Cruz said, is usually accompanied with confusion, anger, and shock.

As a result, the retrenched person would refuse to make any future plans, or even deal with his state of unemployment: "Some of them think they really are good employees, or that they work in an organization that's quite stable and secure. They believe that the company will not lay off or retrench people."

As the scheduled day for his retrenchment nears, he would begin to realize the reality of unemployment. In the resistance stage, the person would begin to fight the situation by not turning his job over to someone else. This includes delaying tactics and refusal to cooperate with the management.

"Overcome denial and resistance with acceptance. Learn to accept that this is inevitable, and that you can still do something else about your lives. This is a time to get into something you would really like," she said.

However, dela Cruz said some people do not go through these two phases. In other words, they are actually looking forward to being laid off by their company. She said the only problem they could possibly encounter is where they would go next.

"But others actually look forward to (being laid off), especially if they want to go, they've been there for many years, or maybe they're not that happy anymore with how things are with them, with their job, or with their organization. And they feel they've contributed enough," she explained.

After accepting the reality of their retrenchment, these people would start to realize options. Called the exploration stage, dela Cruz said this is the part where people would begin looking for other forms of employment, such as a job or a new business.

"Separation benefits serve as a sweetener. It helps do a more peaceful transition," she said.

When they manage to get better jobs or succeed in putting up their own businesses, dela Cruz said the retrenched people are on their way to recovery. In the commitment stage, they will no longer talk about their anxieties of the past. "They move on."

Getting to the commitment phase may take from weeks to years, depending on the person's character. According to counselor Jean Lim, the family plays a huge role in helping the retrenched person cope with the situation.

"Some people think they lost their identity because they lost their job. Others think that they're a failure if they get laid off. So that's a big blow on the person's self-esteem," Lim said.

"They should help the person realize his value as a human being. They should highlight his value in other things, like his contributions to the family. Work is just one aspect of a person's life," she added.

Rather than being ashamed and depressed, Lim said retrenchment should be seen as a test of faith: "When you're retrenched, it's a test of faith: in yourself, in God, in the company, in the government. So when your faith is tested, it's a challenge for you to respond to that and say 'yes, I'm still okay.'"

For her part, dela Cruz said leaving a particular job is not the end, but the beginning of something new: "This is a chance to rebuild a new life for yourself." --Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com