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Downsizing companies has become a common occurrence in today’s global economy. It’s never a nice situation to be in and I believe that it’s usually a decision that leaders make after spending many hours deliberating.

Society has, however, become more accustomed to the concept of downsizing, but it’s not generally the same for everybody. Some people prefer not to get emotionally involved and may not feel empathetic towards the people who have been retrenched and don’t want to try to understand what they are going through. Being emotionally tone deaf might be a coping mechanism that the unaffected use to protect themselves. What happens to a retrenched person is much more than the loss of income; the ability to provide for themselves and others has been taken away. The emotional impact is much deeper and lasts for a longer time. They will go through a chain effect of emotions at an alarming rate.

An unemployed person loses their sense of meaning and purpose in life which results in a decline of self-worth and self-confidence. Overnight the person has to find a new daily structure and routine, something that could take a few weeks or even longer. Without a structure to our days they become rudderless and feel that nothing matters. The retrenched person might feel shame and embarrassment which results in social withdrawal and isolating themselves from friends, family and social situations. This will obviously lead to relationship starvation and loneliness and questioning humanity which in turn leads to caution and distrust.   As you can see it can be a fast downward spiral that impacts on the person’s overall well-being. It is normal to wish for a new job quickly and reverse the downward spiral, but often it doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like.

Research into this area highlights two aspects:   Firstly, the emotional memory sits deeply seated in the brain and we can remain distrusting for a long time, even towards new employers and colleagues. The saying “Trust can be broken in an instance and rebuilt over months” holds true. Secondly, after traumatic life events people tend to return to their well-being level before the traumatic incident. However, for un-employment this does not hold true. The individual may never recover to their pre-well-being level.

So the question remains: “what now?” We can all work together to positively stimulate the economy and over time change to a healthy budding economy. However, that is the long-term and we need to work out what we can do right now?

Let’s get emotionally involved and support those who have been affected. Maintaining and nurturing relationships, caring and supporting becomes the social responsibility of the person not affected. Drive that and keep going even when it is difficult. To get through traumas we need people around us. Let us be the social network that holds and cares.