As a result of the pandemic, businesses and organisations around the world are having to make valued employees redundant. Those employees may not have had to seek work for a long time and, when compounded with the shock of job loss, their confidence may be at rock bottom.
This means that looking for a new job is going to feel daunting. How can their confidence be restored? And what can employers do to help restore it when planning redundancy support?
At the most basic level, what’s happened to the employees who are leaving?
Readers of MAD World News will be familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs:
- Physiological – the need for food, air, water, warmth;
- Safety – the need for shelter, job security, health, safe environment, emotional security, personal freedom;
- Social belonging – the need for affection, love, contact with other people;
- Esteem – the need for self-respect, self-worth; and being respected & valued by others;
- Self-actualisation – the need to able to express one’s fullest potential.
Maslow believed that these basic needs must be met in order for us to feel healthy and satisfied as human beings.
Although his theory describes the framework as a hierarchy (physiological first, followed by safety, social belonging, esteem and self-actualisation), Maslow observed that in reality each need is only going to be partially met at any one time. For example, someone might have 85% of their physiological needs met; 70% of their safety needs met; 50% of social needs met; 60% of self-esteem needs met; and 50% of their need for self-actualisation met.
And then redundancy comes along…
At which point those percentages go haywire.
Maslow wrote that ‘Any thwarting or possibility of thwarting of these basic human goals… is considered to be a psychological threat… It is such basic threats that bring about the general emergency reactions.’
In the first instance, those reactions are likely to be emotional: panic, fear, anger, dismay, disbelief, despair, etc.. They are typical during career transition. And they’re perfectly understandable given what’s happened.
Those emotional reactions in turn have an impact on thinking. They trigger an onslaught of questions and beliefs relating to the individual’s basic needs:
- Physiological: Will I have enough money to pay for food? Will I be able to feed my family?
- Safety: What happens if we can no longer afford to pay the mortgage? Will we have somewhere to live? I’ve lost everything that gave me a sense of stability: regular hours at work, a monthly salary, an office. My world has been turned upside-down.
- Social belonging: I’ve lost my friends at work. I’m home alone. I have nobody to talk to. Nobody loves me.
- Esteem: I’m dispensable. I thought I had some value but apparently I don’ I’ve lost my self-respect. I’m worthless.
- Self-actualisation: I had plenty to give and now I’ve got no way to give it. Is there going to be any purpose to my life now? Who am I now?
At the most basic level, the mechanisms that the individual had in place to meet their needs have been disrupted, and their mindset – which might have been quite positive previously – has been severely destabilised, with a knock-on adverse effect on confidence.
So how can employers help their soon-to-be-leaving employees rebuild their confidence?
When something big happens (like job loss), we have to take a moment to consider what’s happened, reflect on our emotional response, reframe our thoughts and beliefs, and consider what our needs are now that the change has happened. Then we can decide what behaviours and actions we should take.
Employees need help with this if they are going to feel less threatened and more confident moving forwards.
From the employers’ standpoint, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a reminder that if confidence is to be rebuilt, redundancy support packages need to address all five of the basic human needs, not just those that appear to relate most closely to work.
For example, workshops involving general life coaching and training in financial literacy can be used to help employees consider how to address their physiological, safety and social needs:
- What new lifestyle habits might they need to introduce to ensure there is nourishing food in the house and that they are maintaining healthy eating patterns now that they’re no longer in the office?
- What new daily and weekly routines could they design to reintroduce a sense of stability? How will they keep fit and active? How are they coping emotionally? What tools can they be given to help them undertake a review of their finances?
- Which of their personal relationships are most important at this time? How might they invest in their existing relationships and are there ways to develop new ones? How will the most important relationship of all be nourished, i.e. the relationship with self?
Career coaching can be used alongside life coaching to help address the needs for safety and social belonging, and to rebuild confidence around esteem and self-actualisation:
- Employees might be encouraged to establish a new daily routine to include ‘work’ – in recognition of the fact that finding a job is a job in itself.
- Insight sessions can be offered to explore the changing world of work and the new attitudes and skills that employees can develop to enhance long-term employability.
- Professional networks can be reviewed and ideas developed for expanding them to enhance a sense of belonging.
- Self-efficacy and self-worth can be developed through learning about strengths and recognising the uniqueness and inherent value of each person’s strengths ‘package’.
- Self-esteem and self-respect can be rebuilt through engaging with work experience, volunteering and new learning experiences. If the individual can see they are once again making a contribution that is valued by others, their respect for themselves will return.
- Finally, although the short-term goal may be to get a new job as soon as possible, individuals can be supported in using their new ‘work’ routine to build a vision of how they want their life and work to look in the medium- to long-term. This involves a more in depth exploration of who they are, what they have to offer, what they want to offer and why, followed by consideration of who they might want to that for, where and how. Giving employees this sort of in depth career support can restore their faith that a life that allows them to express themselves and fulfill their potential is still possible.
The pandemic has been a new experience for us all – employers and employees alike – and the uncertainty it’s generated isn’t going to go away. The fears that individuals are experiencing are normal and understandable given that their usual ways of meeting their basic human needs have been unsettled.
Employers can be mindful of what those needs are and provide holistic redundancy/outplacement support to their former employees to help them address their needs in new ways, with a view to rebuilding confidence. In doing so, they will demonstrate that they understand how their soon-to-be-leaving employees are feeling and care about what happens next in their lives.
About the author
Charlotte Whitehead is a careers consultant who offers a strengths-based approach to professional and personal development. She works mostly with people who are at a transition point in their work, especially those in mid-career who are seeking a new direction. She uses Gallup’s CliftonStrengths® assessment along with other tools to help clients identify their natural talents and abilities, and understand the contribution that they, uniquely, can make. She has particular interests in meaning & purpose in work, and in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/charlottewhitehead1 or via her website at: www.careerpractic.com.