Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

The right way to fire ... and to be fired

Edited by Jill Wright,

The roll call of big companies departing Victoria steadily increases. We don't yet know how many of the 5000 employees to be dismissed from Qantas will come from this State. But as the eddies begin to engulf smaller companies that supply them, hundreds of employees have already had a final, devastating meeting with the manager or HR department, or are dreading that call.

It isn't easy for anyone involved. The toll on those who are being dismissed is obvious enough, but the people who have to deliver the bad news often also suffer emotional stress, and the survivors can feel grief, or in many cases, guilt.

That's the sort of thing that Psychology Melbourne's experts in retrenchment and outplacement have to consider, as they are being called in increasingly to help and advise.

The way a company handles these events can be crucial to their future. If they are not seen to be acting with integrity, respect and concern, not just for the people who are leaving, but also to those who are staying on, their reputation, employee morale, productivity and ability to attract future recruits can suffer dramatically.

Many of the companies that have used our psychologists tell us that they don't consider the expense a cost. They see it as an investment in the future.

As I was thinking about that recently, I recalled an article in Harvard Business Review which I read a decade or so ago. It was titled "The Right Way to Be Fired".

The article looked at what differentiated those who had made the best of their termination, and those who had not.

Those who had successfully moved through the shock, disappointment and anger that virtually everyone who loses a job inevitably feels, and rebounded swiftly, absorbed what the article described as an “assignment mentality” - essentially a view that these things are part of a career stepping path.

Those who did not fell into a variety of traps: a "lost identity" trap, a "lost family" trap and a "lost ego" trap.

Psychologists with expertise in outplacement services understand these pitfalls, and they can help dismissed staff avoid them, so that they can move on. That knowledge is just as valuable as the skills they have in helping people tap the hidden job market - the positions that aren't advertised - and the other factors that contribute to finding the next role, such as career direction, resume construction and interview coaching. 


About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the APS Victorian branch Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.

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