How to Prioritise the Mental Health of Departing Employees: Offer Career Coaching

There’s been a push for employers to ensure workplaces are mentally healthy environments for their employees. That means preventing workplace bullying and discrimination, equipping leaders to better manage workplace conflicts, reducing stressors, and of course reducing the stigma around mental health.

But, what is being done about the mental health of employees in the final stage of the employee life cycle? Who is taking care of the mental health of employees when they are dismissed or made redundant?

The effect of displacement on employee mental health

To understand the impact that job loss has on a person’s mental health, it’s critical to comprehend the tie between work and identity. A sense of self-worth comes from doing something perceived as worthwhile or that gives their life meaning. The more these factors depend on someone’s job, the bigger the risk to their mental health when they are let go.

There are a few groups where this risk to mental health is heightened.

1.  Men

The impact on mental health is often heightened for males,[1] because their traditional ‘warrior-like’ role is perceived through their work. The loss of a job means: they lose their traditional provider role; where they belong; and also their power and sense of self-worth.

2.  Higher-level executives

More significant impacts on mental health are also seen among higher-level executives who lose their power, their place to go every day, and even the appeal they are perceived to have among those in their social circle. After all, when you’re married to your job (particularly at the expense of relationships with significant others and children), you find yourself wondering who you are without it?

It’s also true that the level of seniority a person holds tends to increase the duration between losing one job and finding another because there are more limited opportunities at senior levels.

3.  Those “trapped” in certain roles

There are some industries where people are more vulnerable, due to being “trapped” in a particular role. Let’s look at a specific example, where unhappiness within a role could be the cause of mental health suffering.

In my experience, 7 or 8 out of 10 HR directors (and Marketing Directors for that matter) are female. Often, in an effort to honour diversity and inclusion policies, executive leadership seems to put women into particular leadership roles.

That means out of 10 HR directors, only 2 or 3 are male. But what happens when a male HR director is stuck in a role he doesn’t like? He feels trapped here, as there is a 2-3 chance in 10 chance he will be hired in a new HR Director role, compared to a female.

Signs of suffering

Research shows the likelihood of developing anxiety and depression increases with job or financial loss.[2] So, in the event an organisation does not offer outplacement support and career coaching to departing employees, those employees will commonly experience or show signs of:

●    Fatigue

●    Sleep problems

●    Memory and concentration problems

●    Feeling overwhelmed

●    Overreacting

●    Withdrawing from others

●    Loss of direction

●    Self-doubt

●    Sense of powerless or lack of control

And right now, in March 2020, there is an additional layer of worry when it comes to job security, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses are already being affected and undertaking damage control.

Hopefully, it won’t, but if a recession does strike, displaced employees will need more support than ever before.

Outplacement programs that include career coaching are proven to help departing employees move on faster – for both their mental state and their career.

How do outplacement programs and career coaching really help?

Offering outplacement support is one way to help is proven to mitigate the risks to the mental health of a departing employee. Outplacement gives structure, purpose, direction, and hope to the vulnerable.

Outplacement support services give displaced employees the opportunity to reset what they actually want in a job, and a chance to find purpose and career enrichment. A great outplacement program doesn’t just set up leads or provide introductions to recruiters, it provides tools to boost mental resilience and personalised career coaching to make sure where they go next is going to be truly satisfying.

What else can be done?

Let me be clear, outplacement is not the be-all and end-all to prevent mental health issues after a job loss. There are many other resources that can help, particularly when coupled with career coaching. Specifically, I also suggest looking into:

●    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

●    Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

●    Mindfulness practices

●    Resources and support services offered by R U OKBeyond BlueBlack Dog Institute and Lifeline

With 45% of Australians experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime,[3] and uncertain times ahead with the coronavirus pandemic, surely we have a social responsibility to avoid further impacts on mental health for our employees – at every stage of the employee life cycle.

[1] https://www.business.unsw.edu.au/research-site/centreforappliedeconomicresearch-site/Documents/S.%20Mendolia%20-%20The%20Impact%20of%20Job%20Loss%20on%20Family%20Mental%20Health.pdf

[2] https://resources.beyondblue.org.au/prism/file?token=BL/0373

[3] https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/facts_figures.pdf?sfvrsn=8


If you’re looking to engage in professional outplacement services, Career365 can help. We specialise in outplacement programs designed to support your outgoing employees and protect your brand.

What’s more, our outplacement programs are delivered remotely, via online training modules and video-based coaching – meaning we can provide these services to those in self-isolation if required.

To find out more about our affordable outplacement programs, visit www.career365.com.au

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.