“I would like to have good news, but unfortunately, we’re here because this is your last week at the company… Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.” In those words, George Clooney informs employees about impending layoffs while playing a consultant in the movie “Up in the Air.” How it ends for him and some others, see for yourselves. In the real world, the subject of workforce reductions is poised to personally affect many of us as the contemporary job market undergoes constant transformations. Companies disengage from endeavours that once seemed promising, cut costs during economic slowdowns, delegate tasks to machines, change their business profiles, and reorganize to better align with evolving client expectations. Nonetheless, despite such changes are almost certain, downsizing remains a scenario for which both employees and their superiors are often unprepared. How to effectively navigate through this period, and what form of professional support from specialists can employees and employers covered by the ICAS EAP Program rely on?
FROM AN EMPLOYEE’S PERSPECTIVE…
Parting ways with one’s job typically entails a substantial life transition, irrespective of the reason. When it occurs as a result of an employer-initiated termination, it becomes a profoundly challenging and overwhelming experience. It evokes a whirlwind of emotions and brings forth a series of practical consequences that need to be addressed.
Fear of losing a job
The prospect of employment termination can be nerve-wracking in the months leading up to it. Sometimes, there are hints of impending changes within the company, or employees themselves speculate about them, based on the company’s performance and the market outlook. As tension rises and office rumours proliferate in the hallways, instead of losing sleep and tormenting oneself with the question, “What will happen?” it’s worth examining the fears and taking action. Every employee covered by the ICAS EAP Program can, at any time – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – have a completely confidential conversation with our psychologist about how to alleviate stress and construct a balanced perspective of the situation. Many of our fears never come true. However, when the announcements turn into reality, it is prudent to consider – through consultations with a corporate psychologist or a seasoned coach – strategies to enhance one’s odds of retaining their position within the organization or formulate a contingency plan in the event that an undesired scenario starts to unfold. This approach serves to calm the mind and enable one to concentrate on their current responsibilities, while also creating a sense of agency, and taking the reins of one’s destiny into one’s own hands, as opposed to merely awaiting the for what’s to come.
Navigating one’s own and close ones’ emotions
The news of job loss can make an employee feel as if the ground is slipping from under their feet. Beyond the cessation of employment, it entails losing not only a source of income but also connections with colleagues and clients, a familiar daily and weekly routine, a sense of belonging, satisfaction from completed tasks, a sense of purpose, recognition from others, and opportunities for personal growth. Even if the job doesn’t bring people happiness, they would prefer to make that decision themselves. Otherwise, they might have feelings of “not being good enough”, accompanied by sentiments of bitterness and a sense of injustice surrounding the undervaluation of their contributions and dedicated efforts. ICAS psychologists assist in coping with the wave of emotions both immediately through the Support Line and during planned and regularly held sessions, whether by phone, video, or in person. They also provide advice on how to discuss the job loss with loved ones, including children. Furthermore, consultations regarding how to handle the situation and best support the individual facing job loss can involve the employee’s partner and other close relations. And for those moments when even the articulation of one’s emotional turmoil proves challenging, resources are available for engagement via chat or email.
Seeking a new employment
“Look at it as an opportunity” – are not necessarily the words one facing job loss wants to hear, but, with the passage of time, it often turns out to be true. Parting ways with a job can mark the commencement of a novel chapter in one’s professional journey, offering a prospect for personal development. Professional coaches from ICAS accompany individuals through such transitions, so they can assess their skills and professional goals, prepare an action plan, determine the missing competencies using knowledge of market trends, consult the CV, practice job interviews, and obtain valuable feedback. Alternatively, one can discuss the use of one’s talents in different industries and roles, or even dust off long-cherished aspirations and crystallize an entirely new path. Notably, with the EAP, the benefits endure even after the termination of one’s employment, for the period specified in company agreement with ICAS. This means access not only to individual consultations but also to an educational program and knowledge resources. What’s also important, is that the period between jobs is a good time to attend to one’s health, stay active, manage one’s diet, and nurture relationships.
Important formal and financial matters
All the emotions that accompany parting ways with employment and the necessity of contemplating the way forward must not overshadow the numerous formal and financial considerations. Through EAP legal consultations, employees can, when necessary, ensure that upon departing from their job, they have attended to the gathering of all requisite documents. They can also review any clauses in their agreement with a subsequent employer that raise doubts or scrutinize the terms and conditions of establishing one’s own business. They will also receive information about the obligations entailed by non-compete clauses if such provisions were included in their contract, along with guidance on renegotiating consumer agreements to reduce existing obligations stemming, for example, from subscriptions, should the new circumstances necessitate it. Concurrently, ICAS financial experts will offer advice on domestic budget planning and the preservation of financial liquidity, the judicious utilization of available resources from severance pay and vacation compensation, as well as loan repayments, and other types of indebtedness. This guidance will also extend to the management of occasional income, as well as the utilization of public benefits and subsidies, such as support for launching a business, social supplements, or unemployment benefits.
Why it’s worth parting on good terms
In moments of intense frustration, the allure of a dramatic door slam, confronting the boss with a decade’s worth of grievances, or destroying the fruits of one’s labor to show the employer what they’re losing may seem tempting. However, it is better not to burn bridges. Even when justified in their anger, individuals need not resort to acts of destruction. Firstly, one never knows when and under what circumstances they may cross paths with their bosses, subordinates, or colleagues again. Life weaves diverse narratives, and it’s worth remembering, for instance, that Steve Jobs was once ousted from Apple, the very company he co-founded, only to return a decade later, after ascending to billionaire status. Secondly, in the period just after leaving a job, all opinions, recommendations, endorsements, and guidance from former colleagues can prove to be genuinely valuable. Therefore, the opportunity to consult one’s situation with an independent and experienced EAP expert, capable of shedding light on these aspects, is truly invaluable.
FROM THE EMPLOYER’S PERSPECTIVE…
While the predominant focus naturally gravitates towards the challenging situation faced by the employee losing their job, the necessity of carrying out layoffs is also a burdensome task. Many managers, cognizant of the inevitability of these changes, genuinely aim to execute them with respect and empathy.
The long-term benefits of the EAP Program
ICAS’ collaboration with clients often spans over the course of years. As a steadfast and longstanding partner in the domain of mental health, we become well-acquainted with the organization and the specific challenges that accompany its operations. We stand ready to assist employees as soon as the initial concerns about layoffs arise. Furthermore, employees are familiar with our Support Line and often place their trust in it based on prior interactions. As a result, they do not view us as intruders suddenly appearing solely for the benefit of the employer’s image. This helps to alleviate the situation, temper emotional intensity, and enhance focus on work. We maintain an ongoing discourse with the HR Department, and collaboratively devise a plan of action whenever the need arises. Equipped with a solid comprehension of the company, we can bypass basic inquiries, recognizing the importance of time in such circumstances. In addition to conventional forms of support, we offer tailored workshops, on-site consultations, webinars, and educational materials. If such services are included in the subscribed package, they do not entail supplemental expenses, thereby mitigating potential cost concerns during times of organizational challenge.
24/7 access to a psychologist on the line
Employee terminations often elicit intense and abrupt emotional responses. Despite their empathy and genuine concern for the fate of departing personnel – who are frequently esteemed and accomplished individuals – employers typically lack the requisite preparation to offer professional support during these circumstances. Moreover, even when they make well-intentioned efforts, these endeavours often prove to be uncomfortable for both parties involved. In organizations that have implemented an EAP program, management knows where to direct an employee so that immediate assistance can be provided. The capability to connect with a psychologist via the Support Line in a matter of seconds is an invaluable asset. This service extends to non-Polish-speaking employees, as support is also available in English, Ukrainian, and Russian. Moreover, if managers themselves feel overwhelmed, disheartened, and helpless in the face of questions such as “Why me?”, “What should I do now?” or “How can you do that?” during a period of downsizing, they can also confidentially call and address their own emotions. This is highly important for HR professionals, who frequently serve pivotal support functions within companies, embracing the role of absorbing and processing the emotional narratives of others.
Consultations with coaches, legal advisors, and financial experts
ICAS EAP comprises a group of over 200 individually selected and verified experts, offering support across a spectrum of domains. Employers who provide a comprehensive EAP program need not concern themselves with the selection of the most fitting specialists to assist employees who cope with complex emotions, need tips on how to talk about the new situation with their children, require assistance in crafting a compelling CV and evaluating their career trajectory, or seek advice on how to communicate with financial institutions. The ICAS 24/7 centre ensures that the appropriate specialist is assigned to address each unique problem. Considering the multitude of practical issues that individuals facing job loss must confront, access to such a reservoir of expertise proves invaluable. These experts remain readily available to executives, offering preparatory guidance for challenging discussions and the opportunity to rehearse them within a secure and confidential milieu. Furthermore, they facilitate the management of the team, as the departure of employees often entails role adjustments and shifts in responsibilities for those who remain, often necessitating the rapid acquisition of new competencies.
A pillow to soften the harsh landing
In the EAP program, the term “pillow” refers to the period during which an employee and their close ones continue to receive support even after their employment has ceased. In most agreements, this constitutes a standard component of the program, designed to facilitate the transition to a new phase of life. The “pillow” is valuable in all types of employment contract resolutions, but it holds particular significance in the context of layoffs. This is because employees who are especially sensitive to how they have been treated by the company do not find themselves adrift. Even after they cease to appear at the workplace and lose their daily interactions with colleagues and clients, along with their goals, tasks, and daily routine, they can still rely on a kind of “lifeline” provided by the employer. Moreover, the number of services rendered on the Support Line, both during employment and throughout the duration of the “pillow” period, is not subject to limitations. Therefore, if a compounding of issues were to occur, an employer with EAP in place would not be compelled to contract additional services incurring supplementary costs. ICAS assumes the responsibility of managing adequate resources and processes.
Why is offboarding important?
Recruitment, onboarding, motivation, engagement, goal setting, career planning, and competence development processes garner considerable attention and are inherently appealing. In contrast, offboarding tends to receive less focus, despite its undeniable significance. From the perspective of departing employees, it holds weight because it will leave them with enduring impressions. Those memories, both positive and negative, are cultivated, subsequently shared with others, and thereby contribute to the company’s reputation. Furthermore, it is crucial from the standpoint of those who remain, for they keenly observe how the company treats its departing members and may justifiably harbour concerns that they, too, might find themselves in a similar situation one day. Whether we are amenable to this reality or not, offboarding constitutes an integral facet of an organization’s life cycle, one that significantly influences the prevailing team dynamics, corporate public relations, employer branding, and, fundamentally, the overall effectiveness of the enterprise. A well-executed offboarding process ensures the continuity of work and safeguards the preservation of knowledge resources. Conversely, a poorly conducted offboarding process poses the risk of competency gaps and informational turmoil. Hence, the presence of a seasoned and adept partner, well-prepared to accompany organizational transitions, is not a superfluous luxury but a judicious and pragmatic choice.
In summary, today, no one has a guarantee of holding one job from employment to retirement… and that’s a good thing. Loss, as a facet of existence, stands not only as an inescapable verity but also as an integral catalyst for growth – a phenomenon experienced by individuals, teams, and entire organizations alike. The divestment of the old becomes a prerequisite for the advent of the new. Hence, it makes a futile quest to eradicate or evade loss. However, the manner in which parting is conducted affects how we cope later on and whether we will tremble before future losses or accept them with equanimity – and this truth holds for all involved parties. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to invest effort in ensuring that parting, though challenging, lays a solid foundation for the construction of a promising future.
For those seeking a comprehensive understanding of ICAS’s offerings, we extend an invitation to contact us.