Dismissal: A new start or the end of your world??
John was 55 years old and, within the last 10 years, he was leading the maintenance department. At that time, I was the HR-director. John was visiting me every week, asking when he could be pre-retired. He wanted to enjoy life and especially spending time with his grand-children. Unfortunately, I had to disappoint him every time. The pre-retirement was only for those employees whose job would disappear. A few months later, we needed a big restructuring because of bad financial results. I was able to cancel the job of John. And he was on the top of the list of the people who could go with the pre-retirement procedure.
When I announced him that he would be dismissed using this procedure, he became very angry on me. I was flabbergasted. I expected that he would be happy and not angry. In his anger, he shouted to me: “Why me ??... I worked always hard and I made a lot of extra hours and the appreciation for this is that you dismiss me !!”. And he continued: “And now my job doesn’t exist anymore, that means that I did all that work in the past years for nothing”. And like this he went on for a while. Later that day I went at home totally puzzled. Why he was so upset. The next day, he came to me and apologized himself for his behavior. But for me was even more important what he said: “I was so upset because it was very painful for me. I didn’t take the decision to leave the company myself. You did that for me. And that made me furious”.
Later I learned that his reaction was understandable. People who are dismissed against their own will follow a certain pattern. That pattern can, depending of the person, vary in time or emotions. The first stage when people hear that they are dismissed is that of ‘denial’. Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept the facts, information, reality etc. related to the situation concerned. It’s a human defense mechanism and perfectly normal. In this stage people often say: It can’t be, they made a mistake. Or, the company can’t without me, I am needed.
The second stage is the stage of ‘anger’. Typical words people use in this stage are: “Why me? It is not fair. No, I cannot accept this.” The anger can be directed on themselves or on other, especially people close to them. This anger is often combined with irrational thoughts ousted by the dismissed people. So, it is also quite normal that the outside world has difficulties to understand the person in this situation.
The next, third stage, is called ‘bargaining’. In this stage, people tend to work even harder than normal and put in lots of overtime to prove themselves as invaluable hoping to avoid retrenchment. People want to find a way out of the situation. People can come up with alternatives for the organization or proposals to retract the dismissal.
The fourth stage is the ‘depression’. In work, you see that those people may reach the point of feeling demotivated and uncertain about their future. People asking why they should continue to give their best at work because the company was obviously not to committed to them. People don’t look in this phase actively to another job: “what’s the point of trying” you will hear often followed with an excuse like I am to old, don’t have enough education etc. etc. The people also have often an increase in absenteeism at this time as people use sick leave.
The fifth and last stage is the phase of ‘acceptance’. For the first time, people consider their options. They realize that they have to do something, but they are still uncertain in what it can bring to them. They want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it can also give creativity. People learn a lot about themselves.
As you are probably aware, it is a real painful process. But there are still things that you can do. Indeed, those involved didn’t make the choice of leaving the company. But for all what is coming later you can make your own choices. You can have influence. Epictetus (50-135) said: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them”. If a person is dismissed, he might be thinking: “This is a disaster, I will never find another job again”, it’s a point of view. In the same situation, your thoughts can also be: I don’t like that I am dismissed, but I have enough qualities to find another job. Of course, this is also a point of view, but at least it’s not so dramatic as the first example. Unfortunately, we often tend to think in a negative way, the disasters. An example. Sorin was 52 years old and the company where he worked for 2 decades went bankrupt. Sorin was during those 20 years a loyal and motivated employee. He was a skilled man. Unfortunately, in his mind he created the idea that companies never will hire older people. And around him he saw a lot of examples what proved his point of view. So, when he was invited for an interview, he went with that mindset: “They don’t hire me because of my age.” And what did the HR-manager see? A man without energy, without any self-confidence and just one of the many others. Off course he didn’t get the job.
Apparently, Sorin needs another mindset. Next month, I will write about what you can do in this sort of situations.