How do I cope with retrenchment?

I know it’s a tough economic climate, but I am very embarrassed about being retrenched. It only happened two weeks ago, and I squirm every time people start talking about their jobs. Invariably someone asks me… and what do you do? How do I cope?

The first thing to recognise is that it is NORMAL to have emotional reactions as a result of being retrenched… not just because the flow of income will have, or has already, stopped. There is a typical range of reactions – and most people will go through some or all of them:

  • Shock.
  • Embarrassment.
  • Denial.
  • Frustration.
  • Anger.
  • Upset.
  • Depression.
  • Feeling stuck and paralysed.
  • Feeling alone.
  • Feeling inferior.

Some people are lucky enough to move quickly to acceptance and future planning, but most are not able to do this for some time. The best thing to do is to learn strategies to cope with emotional reactions and to try to stay energised and motivated.

When people ask about what work you do – tell them the truth. Tell them what has happened in your workplace.

In the first few days you need to put the whole situation into perspective. Focus on what you can control, not on what is beyond your control.

Talk to people and express your feelings. It is important to vent and to express your feelings. Ideally a close friend, spouse, family member or even a counsellor. Bottling feelings is not good for you or your loved ones.

Allow yourself to take a breather. Maybe even a couple of days away will help. Maybe even a trip away to stay with some friends who live out of town.

Remind yourself as you go through angry thoughts and blame that this kind of thinking is unproductive. It keeps you stuck in the past and unable to move forward. Focus on the facts, not the emotions.

Think in terms of opportunities. Allow yourself to think laterally and openly about what to do, who to speak to and what you might do next.

Do some manual things – clean up your paperwork at home, paint a room, do the garden, start walking to get fit, sort out your clothes and get rid of what you don’t need.

Get organised. Make a list of things to do and places to go – for fun that might be free or not cost much, and also for work. Who could help you? What businesses could you visit?

Think of yourself as going through a change and an evolution to the next era in your life. Get on top of your tasks at home that have been left undone for too long, so you get to a stage where you feel mentally fit and organised – ready for your next phase.

Get rid of things you do not need. Give them away to a needy organisation. Culling your unwanted things is psychologically a very positive thing to do.

Do some volunteer work – there is plenty around right now after the disastrous floods and fires. Caring for others makes you feel good and opens doors to new opportunities.

Fix your resume immediately. Remind yourself that finding a new job is a numbers game. You need to follow lots of leads – don’t retreat for too long. Make a job out of getting a job; be persistent; know your strengths and abilities. Be realistic – your last salary may not be a level you can achieve now. So move towards finding a satisfying job that will make you happy and learn to live according to whatever that new level of income may be.


To see the video Coping With Retrenchment, click here.


Eve Ash is a psychologist and co-author of Rewrite Your Life! and co-creator of the DVD Coping with Retrenchment (from the TAKE AWAY TRAINIG SERIES).Eve is funder of SEVEN DIMENSIONS


To see all Eve’s blogs, click here.



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