Are you Grieving a Job Loss?

“What feels like the end can often be a time for a new beginning.”

Grief is a complicated emotion.

It’s important to grieve when you transition through a job loss stage in your career – it helps you understand more about yourself, and deal with the feelings of loss

For some people, a job is just a job but for most of us, it defines out identity and provides us with a way of making a living. Therefore, if someone has experienced a sudden job loss especially in the current pandemic, this can become a traumatic experience with no idea on how to move on.

The covid-19 has led to massive economic disruption with financial repercussions including industries that have been shut down completely and unimaginable lay-offs.

On the flipside, we have to remember that this is an opportunity to come out stronger on the other side, but we have to go through the whole stages. Some take weeks, others take months.

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, there are 5 stages of grief and they are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

1. Denial

If you lost your job because of the pandemic then you must have gone through this or are still in the denial stage. This is where there is an initial sense of anxiety and there could be an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It is very normal to feel this way.

Denial is a way our mind prevents us from going into shock – it is when we want to believe everything will just be fine. This stage quickly turns to anger when you get to the boiling point realizing there is nothing you can do about your situation and start looking for someone, something to blame.

2. Anger

This is characterized by blaming, pointing fingers and complaining. During this phase, it is imperative to minimize contact especially with social media. Keep in mind people remember the negative more than the positive.

People work hard. They sacrifice and give much of themselves in their jobs, so when that job is lost it can feel as though your contributions haven’t been valued. Many people feel angry about losing their job and the circumstances of that job loss can further exacerbate the feeling of anger

Once the anger passes, fear kicks in which brings up to the bargaining stage.

3. Bargaining

The third stage involves the hope that you can avoid a cause of grief. This is where someone is willing to do anything, it is more of short cuts. They want to get out of pain.

Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. For instance: “I’d give anything to be back—work hard, take up the shift that I always avoided or even work under the manager that I hated.” Or: “If only he’d give back my job, I’d promise to stay focused and perform better.”

The bargaining stage makes us rush into things without having a strategy in place or thinking through our actions, in other words, it is a kne-jerk reaction.

And this kind of reaction will lead to depression when the quick reaction does not get the desired results.

4. Depression

This stage is characterized by an overwhelming sense of sadness and could be because an action was taken and no desired end results or plain inaction where heads are buried under the sand. It does affect self-esteem as most people will look at themselves as failures and they would tend to think there is no point in spending time in anything.

Usual thoughts at this time are: “There is no meaning in working hard for organizations like this. There is nothing to look forward to. It’ll be really tough to find anything; I feel like giving up. What’s the point in putting up a fight and, after all, what am I fighting for?” At this stage, you might realize the ultimate realities of life—an absolute lack of control over such events, helplessness, and uncertainty. In this state, people close to you find you being silent, refusing to meet people or not taking interest or pleasure in your usual activities.

5. Acceptance

If you have reached his stage, congratulations. You now know and understand that some things are beyond your control and it is okay. You are at peace with any mistakes you may have made in your past job that could have led to the job loss. You know you can’t change the past and hence are perfectly okay leaving it where it belongs. You own that it has happened and gone. You stop beating yourself up.

It is where you are clear that you are ready to get into the space of working to grab new opportunities.

The grief process takes time. You do not want to rush through any of these stages, as each is important to help you heal after a loss. Once you recognize the signs of the stage you are in, you will be more apt to acknowledge your feelings, accept your situation and move toward a more positive future!

Our next blog will feature some things you can do to cope with Job Loss.

In the meantime, here are some tips you can try during the career grief:  

1. Go on a negativity diet. (Avoid toxic people, negative information, negative social media content, online content etc.) If possible switch off updates on Covid-19 and stick to only trusted sources. E.g., Find online support groups that have a no covid-19 policy forwards, but their purpose is to support each other during this period.

2. Try Pomodoro technique – Use this technique to do things that you need to do e.g., LinkedIn profile set up, resume revamp, interview preparation, job search research etc. In essence it is intentionally doing the things you have wanted to do or thought of doing but not sure where to start from.  

3. Try making a streak – as a verb, means ‘move very fast in a specified direction’. Basically you want to get to the next stage of your life as soon as possible and this means taking daily steps towards the same; be it networking online, connecting with recruiters, researching how to re-skill and up-skill yourself, checking out the industries that are hiring. When committed to doing something about your career growth and new job search every day, you will realize you have made long strides in 30 days where you are more confident and better informed.

Mental Health in the Workplace

“The strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about.” 

According to the World Health Organization, mental illness affects one in four persons globally. In Kenya, it is estimated that about one out of ten individuals suffers from mental illness. 25-40% of people seeking treatment from general medical facilities suffer from mental illnesses. Most of the individuals who are affected by mental illnesses are below the age of 35 years.  A survey carried out by Dr. Edith Kwobah which was published in the BMC Psychiatry Journal indicated that there might be close to 5 million Kenyans affected by mental illnesses.   

The effect of the subtle and often ignored mental illness is made evident by the rising number of suicides in the country. Conservative estimates indicate that the suicide rate in Kenya is about 7.9%. Mental illness related suicides are not limited to any tribe, religion, gender or social class. In October 2018, Steve Mumbo who had worked as business recovery manager at PwC, a leading audit firm in the country plunged to his death from the 17th floor of a building. It was speculated that his death may have been as a result of work related stress and depression.  Mental illnesses can take various forms including bipolar disorders, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. The underlying causes of mental illness are complex and multifaceted but work related pressures have been known to trigger or aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions.

In a speech that was delivered by the Director of Medical Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko, it was revealed that 10% of absenteeism from work is related to mental illness. It has also been found that an episode of depression can lead to a loss of up to 36 working days. Mental illness can also result in presentism which results in employees being present but mentally disengaged from their jobs.  While statistics on the effect of mental illness on business in Kenya are scarce, other countries have found that mental illness has serious financial implications. For instance, statistics from the USA indicate that depression costs the economy $51 billion. Estimates from the UK indicate the mental illness costs UK businesses about €26 billion. 10% of these costs go towards the replacement of staff, 20% are attributed to absenteeism while 60% are attributed to reduced productivity at work. In the report on the costs of mental illnesses in the UK, it was reported up to 30% of these costs can be reduced by implementing work place well-being programs at the workplace.

 Mental illness remains a taboo subject in Kenya with most people attributing it to spiritual causes. The country only spends 0.05% of its health budget on mental health making access to mental health facilities beyond the reach of many. There is a scarcity of psychiatrists and psychologists in the public and private health care sectors. Insurance companies are hesitant to cover costs associated with mental health related illnesses in the country. These factors contribute to making it difficult for organizations to take steps towards the improvement of mental well-being at the work place.

On average, a person will spend 90,000hours at work. Internal or external factors related to the work place can contribute to poor mental health which in turn affects employee’s productivity and career prospects. Work related matters such as an overload of work, long working hours, unreasonable deadlines and job insecurity contribute to poor mental health. A review of 228 research studies on employee wellbeing reported that there was a significant relationship between work place stress and health outcomes. Job insecurity was found to increase the odds of reporting poor health by about 50%. Having high demands at work increased the odds of being diagnosed with illness by a physician by 35%. When a local office technology company in Kenya carried out a survey, it was found that most of the employees only had functional relationships at work. Most of the employees stated that they felt isolated and unrecognized which made them anxious at times. This is just one of the many organizations in Kenya whose employees may be courting poor mental health at the work place. Most organizations lack data on the status of the mental health of their employees in spite of the significant contribution of mental health to productivity.

In as much as there has been an increase in awareness about mental health in the workplace, most organizations have been slow to implement mental health policies. Traditionally, most organizations implement mental health initiatives at work following a mental health related incident in their organizations. Reactive measures towards improving mental health at the workplace often have little effect as compared to proactive, data driven measures. Most organizations also lack an understanding of the business case for having initiatives that promote mental well-being at the work place. Measuring the return on investment (ROI) for workplace well-being programs often stands as a barrier to companies seeking to improve the mental well-being of their employees.

In spite of the existence of these barriers, a number of organizations are leading the way. Unilever is a good example of an organization that has a mental wellbeing program in place. The company provides training for its managers to enable them to recognize signs of mental illness. The Copy Cat Group Limited in Kenya has an employee assistance program in place which allows employees to call a counsellor who works for the organization and discuss matters relating to their mental well-being. Kenya Railways has trained peer educators and counsellors as part of its work force who help their colleagues navigate matters related to mental health.

There are still many organizations in Kenya and in other parts of the continent that are lagging behind in promoting mental well-being at the work place. This mirrors the low priority assigned to mental well-being in the continent. Statistics by World Health Organization indicate that about 46% of countries in Africa lack a mental health policy. Employers need to create a culture of mental health awareness and promote initiatives that help prevent mental illness. Leaders play a crucial role in encouraging employees to talk about mental health and providing support for those who suffer from mental illness. This would help in mitigating stigma associated with mental health hence improving outcomes associated with mental illness. Barclays Bank (currently trading as Absa Group) provides a good example on how to do this. The bank had a campaign dubbed “This is Me” in which employees suffering from mental illness talked about their struggles and triumphs with mental illness. There are other actions that can be implemented by organizations such as:

  • Creation of  a culture of proactive, preventative management of  workplace well being
  • Having leaders model work-life model
  • Evaluation the effectiveness of  workplace well-being interventions using tools such as Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index

There is no one size fits all but a company needs to start somewhere; and what better place than how you hire by really getting to know your potential employees. Talk to us today for your hiring needs and we shall be part of your employee’s journey.