Losing a job can be tough and in many circumstances, feels devastating. Redundancy can leave people reeling, even if they know it’s coming. Unfortunately, in our current economic climate, this is an experience all too familiar to many.

When people are subject to redundancy, it is not just their salary that they say goodbye to. They also part ways with many other things that are important to them including their sense of security, incidental relationships, and their confidence and for some, their sense of self-worth. This can make it a challenge to process the shock and to then determine what steps to take next.

Being retrenched means less structure to the day and a possible sense of isolation while the rest of the world goes about their routine. For some people who have been doing the same job for many years, they have to face whether their skill set is still viable or will they need to innovate? It can take a significant re-calibration emotionally to adjust to the news and to figure out their next steps.

For a partner, coping with a loved-ones redundancy can be incredibly stressful. Your ability to help them to handle the news can have a crucial impact on how your partner deals with the transition and moves forward. Some of us will react with intense fear and panic.

Managing our own emotions and getting support for this is important. Depending on how our partner is coping we may need to consider who can be an independent source of support for us. If we are feeling panicked perhaps look into what redundancy support our partners company has offered. Many packages include financial counselling or emotional counselling. It can be a good idea to take this up as a couple or as individuals. If we are feeling a bit overwhelmed remember that this can add friction to the relationship. Arguments can be avoided by managing the stress proactively.

If we have children it is important to consider how much we share with them and to be conscious of age appropriate information. If our emotions about the situation are difficult for us to deal with, they will be even more difficult for a child so seek appropriate support and be calm for our kids.

After that initial shock when a loved one shares news of their redundancy, many of us jump to looking for silver linings. Hearing their news and seeing their reaction to it may feel distressing and uncomfortable. Yet we want to reassure them. It’s tempting to want to make them feel better about the situation so we might try to rush them to a resolution; we want to tell them it’ll be ok; that this is an opportunity in disguise. This can risk the person not feeling heard, their reaction not being validated and in doing so we risk disconnecting with them at a time they may most need our support. Before opportunities can be seen to arise out of this challenging change, there are many emotions to be processed – from rejection, grief, anxiety, panic, worry and self-worth.

To help support someone through this transition, instead of glossing over their emotional reaction or rushing them towards feeling positive, this simple four-step process can help us to communicate more effectively:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Empathise
  3. Explore Options
  4. Plan for Action

We need to acknowledge their reaction – either fear, sadness, rejection – is real for them. Acknowledge that their reaction is true and valid for them. Hear it. Don’t try to tell them they’re over-reacting or that it’s not that bad.

Express empathy for their feelings. Tell them you are sorry for their distress, or sorry they are sad, or that their shock must feel so unsettling.

Allow the time for them to explore the options that suit them. Some people will need support with the pragmatics of what to do immediately today. Encourage them not to make rash decisions straight away but some pragmatics might be worth exploring. And then when they are ready to explore their options for moving forward, again hold that space with them and discuss a range of options and pros and cons with them.

When they are ready to test out some of the options plan for action with them. They may or may not need your support with this. Engage as appropriate for the boundaries of your relationship, respecting their decisions.

This approach is about being gentle and acknowledging them, allowing them to go through the shock and the grief – helping them to understand they aren’t redundant, just that their position was.