Avoiding the déformation personelle.
Photo by Jordan Opel
I had initially intended a different blog, hence the delay. However recent developments in the corporate world, across two continents, have created a focus shift for me. I have had to react quickly to client needs. House of Fraser, Mothercare, Toys ’R Us, Debenhams, GE, Nestlé, Tesla, NHS, Brexit, Airbus, steel tariffs …. You get the picture?
Corporate re-structuring, LEAN implementation, redundancies, change management and monumental stress for people. Only some of these enterprises are in my client base, but their recent announcements have impacted the psyche of many of my clients. We have all had to manage the initial reactions. Now, we are starting to respond.
You are not redundant. Your job was made redundant. There is much merit to really embodying the difference between those two mindsets. Yet doing that will take effort, time, support, and the most important distinction between humans and other species: choice.
I would like to think of myself as being a coach with a high awareness of emotional intelligence. Therein, I have propagated a multi-disciplinary international resource network of coaches, mental health professionals, health professionals and corporate consultants. Why? So that when required I could refer clients to other professionals better placed to support areas other than my expertise. It is called best practice. That is why I thank Shelly Sharon[ii]for her astute ability to coach me to a title for this article, Melitta Campbell[iii]for ensuring that the language structure was accessible to the non-coaches, and Mark Phelan (Athena Consulting BV) for his invaluable expertise in corporate change management[iv].
Reaching out to other professionals is part of my practice of a growth mindset. Striving constantly to learn afresh, to research, to up-date. Science stales stealthily, even when behavioural models can seem a fixed entity. We must explore new hypothesis to stay fresh. The ‘we’ I refer to is mankind as a whole, y inclus, as individuals and professionals facing significant changes in the corporate future.
It is a concern about fixed approaches that imbues the thought process for not just this blog, but also a full series of blogs that I am putting together for my clients. To inform this series I have already consulted with other professionals from coaching, mental health, redundancy experts and individuals who have experienced redundancy. I have also scoured the pop-psychology articles from several glossy mags to understand what the populist zeitgeist is presenting as opinion and support.
Slightly disconcerting when it seems that chi-chi berries and pantsdrunk[v]are excellent for managing stress. Danes have hygge. Swedes have lagom. The Japanese have Ikigai. But the Finns have the best – kalsariokanni, or, pantsdrunk – drinking at home, alone, in your underwear. There is nothing particularly offensive in that fun mindset, and humour, or the ability to laugh. It is very important for your health. However, a deeper response is also required for individuals, spouses, families and society, so that those structures are enabled to move forward with resilience.
The Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief was initially a model for grief counselling when a patient faced death. It is also applied to those affected by the death of another. It is a contentious and yet often applied EQ facilitation in corporate restructuring. It is also sometimes then re-framed as the Kübler-Ross Change Model. Indeed I have had numerous discussions with clients about it over the past few weeks. When individuals integrate it successfully (often with support from a trained professional) it gives valuable context that helps people move through a process with structure. Moving through also includes moving on.
Over the next while I will post various breakdowns of the five stages of grief so that there is a resource available for my clients to refer to. I will start in this article by giving a simple breakdown of what the five stages of grief mean using the titles used across multi-disciplinary sources. I will also give what I hope is a short practical outline of the first stage (Denial).
Grief Model Breakdown
Redundancy involves not just the loss of a job. It is amongst other things the perceived loss of financial security and identity. In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five common stages of grief, popularly referred to as DABDA. Grief (loss) embodies emotional upheaval that in healthily functioning individuals works through to manage change.
- Denial (Reptile/mammalian response, sub-conscious instinct, defense mechanism)
- Anger (Fear, Pain/Guilt, defense mechanism)
- Bargaining (Bartering / Anger, coping mechanism)
- Depression[vii](Fear/ loneliness)
- Acceptance (Healing, Moving on, Mindful)
The cycle/recycle model of grief as used in Counselling, and cross applicable to the experience of being made redundant[viii].
Diagram courtesy of Google images.
Whether you are experiencing redundancy or or other grief/loss, the processing structure of Kübler-Ross is relevant. These stages of grief are over-lapping and recycling. You may likely move sequentially between them, but within that you may also move back and forth between them. You may even recycle through them repeatedly in smaller circles over time. These stages are often not distinct, nor linear, because you may find yourself in more than one state at a time. Instead it is more helpful to view each succeeding stage as becoming more dominal over time as you progress through the journey of loss.
I want to give a simple outline of what stage one, Denial, involves from the perspective of grief counselling. Denial does not mean that you are refusing to acknowledge a loss. Please be careful about referring to other colleagues as ‘being in denial’. It is limiting, and I would argue counter-productive in the corporate environment. Denial is more likely experienced as a sub-conscious mechanism. It is a ‘shock-absorber’ built of numbness and disbelief that protects us from becoming overwhelmed. It does this to give our minds time to prepare for experiencing the immense pain of a loss. It is a defense mechanism.
Denial is normal, it is natural, and it is indeed a helpful part of the loss process. Pain can also be healing. However, staying in this stage long term may lead to an issue of unresolved grief that has many unhelpful outcomes.
In this denial stage I would encourage you to start practicing some healthy mindset approaches such as mindfulness, mindful breathing, exercise, yoga, and healthy eating and drinking. I urge this because these practices will help counterbalance the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin etc.) with the happy hormones, (dopamine, serotonin etc.). You need this. Everyone does if they are healthy in mind, body and spirit, and it is a choice. Choice is what defines us from all other species on this planet. Animals’ instinct is just to survive. Healthy humans desire to survive and prosper. Choose well. Sink, learn to swim, or maybe it is time to learn how to surf?
© 2018 Lynda Heffernan. All rights reserved.
Photo by Jordan Opel