How to support your employees through a cycle of change

Victoria McLean our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 04 July 2023

Supporting your employees through a cycle of change isn’t easy. In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about the five stages of grief in her book, On Death and Dying. 


Since then, the Kübler-Ross model has been applied in much wider contexts where change is imposed upon us - most recently, how people dealt with (and adapted to) the effect Covid-19 has had on lives and livelihoods globally.


But her change curve is not just limited to death and superbugs, it can be applied to job losses, too.

Understanding the effects of change on your employees

As an employer, understanding the phases that your team is likely to go through and the emotions they experience (which aren’t necessarily linear) can help you communicate and tailor support in the right way.


Crucially, for redundancy, it will sharpen your focus on supporting outgoing employees prepare for change, accept the situation and free them from any feelings of guilt. It also places you, as employer, in a more favourable light, protecting your brand and your reputation.

The 5 stages of the change cycle and how employees are affected

1. Denial – ‘This can’t be happening’

On first hearing the news about losing their job, people tend to go through denial - those feelings of shock, confusion and disbelief.


Your employees might be thinking that this is temporary. That it’s all a mistake. At this early stage there can be a tendency to retreat and withdraw, which is why swift intervention with the right kind of outplacement support can be very useful.


2. Anger – ‘It’s not fair’

Employees may feel frustrated, worried or just plain angry. They could be looking for someone/something to blame…the organisation, management, colleagues, the economy. So it’s very important to be open and clear about the reasons behind the job loss. Make sure they’re fully informed about what’s happening next, the support you have in place and give them a safe environment to voice their fears and concerns.

3. Bargaining – ‘If I’d worked harder, would this have happened?’

This phase isn’t about trying to negotiate for your decision to be changed. It’s more a case of employees making sense of that decision, and its implications. This includes trying to rationalise it to themselves, to protect the life they had before. It can also be a time when they bargain with themselves. If I act in a certain way, things will be better. If I promise to do this, the change will go away.


This is a good opportunity to focus on the positives, to set expectations and help your employees realise what they’ve accomplished, what they have to be proud of, the skills they’ve learned and the contribution they’ve made. This will equip them for the next phase and remind them with confidence about what they have to offer in future roles.

4. Low mood - ‘Why bother? What’s the point?’

It’s natural for outgoing employees to feel depressed or anxious about losing their job, their sense of belonging and to some extent, their professional identity. They might also feel overwhelmed, helpless, demotivated and low on energy.


Offering your employees structure and routine will help mitigate these feelings. It will give them direction and purpose at a time of change. Including holistic as well as practical advice in your outplacement programme will gently remind them about the importance of self-care and exercise as well as promote mental well-being.

5. Acceptance – ‘Can’t fight it, so may as well get on with it. It’ll be okay’

This is the phase where people come to understand what’s happened, recognise the experience and emerge the other side. They may now feel resigned to the change and ready to move on. It’s a good time to reiterate the positives, capitalise on the potential that a fresh start offers and to navigate them towards successfully transitioning to a new role.

How can you support your employees?

At Hanover Talent Solutions, we offer flexible outplacement programmes that respond to the needs of your employees, wherever they are on the scale. We can also advise on the benefits of outplacement strategies if you’re not sure where to start. Or indeed why.


From guidance on preparing a CV and strategies for job searching to our newly launched Career Refinery and group workshops, we make it easier for employers to educate, engage and empower employees about their choices.


And as our very own Victoria McLean, CEO of Hanover Talent Solutions, says, “We’ve infused our outplacement services with learnings from the Kübler-Ross model. Our experienced consultants reach out to individuals with tools, activities, workshops and webinars that align with each stage of the cycle in a flexible way. And it’s that flexibility that sets us apart. We’ve worked with exiting employees who jump quickly to acceptance and are keen to look at exciting new opportunities. Others may need to explore and understand their behaviour before being ready to transition. Our approach is practical, supportive and empathetic at a time when this is needed most.” 


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