Redundancy: The Emotional Impact
Psychologist, Counsellor & Psychotherapist
Losing one’s job can be an overwhelming experience. Just when you are feeling vulnerable, there is a need to make a range of emotional and practical decisions, including how to tell people of your changed circumstances, how to manage financially and how to re-launch your career. It is a time when you need to be able to make sound and balanced decisions to ensure your future wellbeing and conversely a time when you may feel least prepared and able to do so.
For some of us, our identity, sense of self and lifestyle are defined largely by our job description and status, not just our income. We are placed in a potentially perilous position when our working life is threatened or changed, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Our whole construct of self can be placed at risk.
THE STAGES OF LOSS
Redundancy has been compared to the experience of bereavement. The grieving process involves a gradual reduction in the investment of energy committed to something or someone that has been lost. The initial stages include denial, blaming, bargaining, despair and depression. People may feel a sense of shock when they hear news of their redundancy, even if it has been expected, or at least, anticipated. Typically, when something happens that threatens our sense of self and our world, there is a tendency to minimize or deny it in order to retain a sense of what is familiar. Anger is often directed towards the decision makers, as people wonder why this has happened to them.
Memories of past achievements and awareness of one’s skills and knowledge may fade, to be replaced by a loss of confidence. There can be feelings of failure and a fear of not finding further, or alternate, employment. Feelings of worthlessness will undoubtedly impact on self-esteem. A sense of loss is inevitable – of direction, colleagues, security and daily routine. People can feel stigmatised and experience a sense of lack of control.
The ongoing stress that results may re-stimulate unpleasant memories and alter one’s perception of the present. If this occurs, redundancy may produce a seemingly irrational regression to child-like feelings of emotional neediness and insecurity, of being rejected and unwanted, and of dependence on others. Addictive behavior, such as over-eating, smoking or excessive use of alcohol or drugs may result. The aimlessness of days without structure and focus can be disorienting and de-motivating. The sense of being marginalised can cause feelings of loneliness and alienation, which further impact on self-esteem.
Acceptance is the final stage in the process of grief and loss. The question is though, acceptance of what? Why accept the loss of something valued or loved, unless there is something of equal worth to embrace? Thus, the more important acceptance is not the reality of what has been, but the acceptance of something new that is valuable and can take the place of the loss.
Decisions will need to be made regarding managing debts, budgeting and supplementing finance, thinking about where to from here, updating curriculum vitae, engaging in a job search, and preparation for potential interviews. Coming from a place of lowered self- esteem and confidence, it can be helpful to access a therapist who has an understanding of the emotional impact of redundancy, to help (re)build resilience, confidence, assertiveness and clear thinking, to help in these decision making processes.
Introspection and a personal review of where you are up to in your life, and what your priorities and interests are, are also important in this process of finding something of value with which to replace your lost job. The experience of redundancy can be used to develop other parts of yourself that have maybe been neglected due to lack of time or commitment. For instance, career options could be explored, new interests developed and relationships with significant others be revitalised.
Attending counselling can help to ease the anxiety, anger and other emotions associated with job loss, and also help in the process of finding more productive ways of dealing with them. Therapy presents an opportunity to not only build resilience and confidence in order to make to make rational decisions and choices but to grow in self-knowledge and awareness so the decisions that you make are positive and enable further growth.
If you are facing, or experiencing redundancy and are interested to get more information, please contact Sandra Manessis on 0407 859 413 or email
Mt Lawley Counselling Centre
13 Alvan Street
Mt Lawley WA 6050
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