Outplacement, mental health and unemployment: Finding the balance

Outplacement, mental health and unemployment: Finding the balance

Whether it’s onboarding, offboarding or outplacement support, HR managers see the whole life cycle of employees. Naturally, there are some parts of the job that are less pleasant than others and many HR managers can struggle to know how to manage their own feelings around situations that are beyond their control.

When it comes to things like discipline or letting employees go – for any reason – it can be particularly difficult to navigate the emotions that come along with these things.

In my capacity as an outplacement consultant, I often speak to HR managers who report feelings of guilt and anxiety surrounding these trickier parts of the job. Many have told me they feel a little like they’re seen as the ‘villain’, tasked with delivering the bad news and that these experiences overshadow the more positive aspects of a HR role, causing them to lose sleep at night and experience a negative impact on their mental health in general.

These feelings are not surprising, especially when we take into account the impact that these big decisions from organisations can have on employees themselves.

Unemployment and mental health 

Losing a job is rarely, if ever, ‘in the plan’ for individuals. When employees find themselves being let go it can be a trigger for a number of negative effects on mental health.

As difficult as it is to include this statistic in this article, unemployment itself is associated with a two to threefold increased relative risk of death by suicide compared to being employed.

Studies also show that the longer unemployment continues, the more individuals will feel these detrimental effects, and the harder they’ll find it to re-enter the workforce.

Empathy, compassion and a love for people are usually some of the driving forces in individuals taking up HR roles in the first place. It’s not surprising that many HR managers are deeply troubled by the impact they can have when they need to let employees go.

career365.com.au_outplacement_man sitting with his hands in his hair sitting near water

Compassion in HR is a strength – use it 

Letting employees go is an unavoidable part of the job, but it can be made more bearable for HR managers by providing the right support to help employees as they transition to unemployment or into a new role.

This is where thorough offboarding processes and outplacement support comes in.

In a study looking at employment transitions and mental health in a cohort of 45 years and older Australians, it was found that participants who stayed, or transitioned to being, employed or retired ahd lower risk of experiencing psychological distress, compared to those who stayed, or transitioned to being, unemployed or not in the labour force.

While this is just a small snapshot in the scheme of career transition, it’s clear that intentional and effective transition can yield more positive outcomes for individuals, helping HR managers feel satisfied with the effort they’ve put in to be responsible for those ‘under their care’.

At the end of the day, it’s important to feel proud of the work you do, rather than guilt-ridden and burdened by the weight of organisational decisions.

To feel more at ease with the trickier parts of a HR role, it’s important to do everything in your power to support employees, regardless of the situation. Letting an employee go is never going to be easy, but it can become bearable if you know you have the right structures in place to support them and help them transition into their new circumstances. While HR is often the bearer of bad news, they can also be the instigators of better support.

Do you need help with supporting your employees?

Want to support your employees through restructures and redundancy with effective onboarding, stay interviews, offboarding, and outplacement programs? Get in touch with me today to organise a 1-1 call to see how Career365 can support you and your team. Click here for more information.


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Greg Weiss

Greg Weiss is the founder and director of Career365 and Australia’s leading career coach. Greg has coached well over a thousand people from recent graduates to CEOs as they pivot, re-launch and accelerate their careers. He is the author of three practical books and the creator of three online courses: “Career Clarity. How to find career fulfillment”; “Career Networking. How to unlock the hidden job market”; and “Career Success. How to succeed in your new job”.

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