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How to deal with retrenchment in Singapore

Don't take on the stress of retrenchment alone 

Many of us feel defined by our jobs, striving to add value while extracting a sense of purpose and satisfaction from what we do. Imagine how you’d feel if you were unexpectedly told to pack your belongings, as you were no longer required at work.

The shock of retrenchment alone is enough to send you reeling, and that’s just the start. “Apart from loss of income, the knock-on effects of retrenchment can include the loss of professional identity, self-esteem and self-confidence,” comments Hiroko Kobayashi of The Counselling Place. “You lose your daily routine and structure, a sense of purposeful activity, a work-based social network, a feeling of security and certainty. You may even feel that your life has lost all meaning.”


Even if the savings account is healthy and the retrenchment benefits are generous, grief, self-doubt and a loss of identity may take hold of you and affect your daily life. Grief may manifest as sadness, anger, hurt, panic, rejection, anxiety, depression or fear.

“Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are true for you at the time,” is Hiroko-san’s advice. Actively dealing with your feelings and finding healthy ways to grieve about your loss will equip you to move forward.

Challenge Negativity

Self-doubt is inevitable, so do your best to challenge every negative thought that springs to mind. Ask: “Is this thought rational or irrational?” If you think, “I’m a loser”, find evidence to the contrary, for example: “I lost my job because of the recession, not because I am a loser.” Write it down. As basic as this may seem, it can help to reset your attitude.

Power of the Pen

Expressing your experience through writing not only diffuses intense emotions, it may change the way you view the situation altogether, which can be liberating and cathartic.

Lessons in Loss

Acceptance of the situation will happen more quickly if you can find the lesson in your loss. So ask, “What can I learn from the experience?” Perhaps you now have a chance to reflect on your life, career and how you balance priorities. Although stressful, the situation may make you stronger and more capable of dealing with curve balls. Try to find even the slightest silver lining, to help you move forward.

Regain Control

Retrenchment is unsettling, and that feeling of being rudderless will worsen if you focus on it. Shift your attention and take action to steer your own ship.

1.The glass is half full: Remind yourself of your strengths and other positive aspects of your life. Write lists of what you’re grateful for and what you like about yourself (skills, personality traits and accomplishments). When self-doubt surfaces, you can refer to your list.
2.Stay connected: You may feel helpless, but reach out and share your feelings with people you love and trust. You don’t need to bear the stress alone. Swallow your pride and ask for the support you need. Your natural reaction may be to withdraw out of embarrassment or shame, but isolation is not the answer.
3.Be inclusive: Retrenchment may have left you feeling out in the cold, but don’t do the same to your family: distancing yourself may make them feel rejected or cause unnecessary conflict. Tell them where you are at with your job search so that they can support you during this difficult period. Giving your spouse a chance to express his or her feelings and concerns will strengthen your emotional connection.


What About The Kids?

Tell them enough: When given limited information, children have a great capacity to exaggerate by filling in the gaps with their imagination. Share the facts but don’t overburden them with emotional or financial details.
Remove any blame: Kids might think that you did something wrong, or that they are responsible for your job loss, or that they are a financial burden. Regardless of their age, reassure them appropriately.
Be a team: Discuss what they can do to help, such as reviewing allowances or getting an after-school job.
Have family time: Hop off the emotional roller-coaster to find time for fun with your family. You can connect with and reassure them while forgetting your troubles.


Numero Uno: Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is especially vital during this time.


Regular exercise is an excellent way to elevate your mood, temporarily distract you from your situation, release your frustrations and keep you healthy and fit.
Sleep influences mood and productivity, so aim to get as much shut-eye as possible and stick to a regular daily routine to curb stress.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and meditation are powerful stress relievers that instil a deeper sense of calm so that you are better equipped to take on challenges.


The Counselling Place is at 7500A Beach Road, #04-323 The Plaza. Call 6887 3695  or visit www.thecounsellingplace.com.