Coaching as a Tool for Dealing with Retrenchment

Retrenchment is a life changing event for many individuals. Even if we know we will be retrenched, it is quite sobering living through the experience. Coaching is one of the tools that can make the transition smoother.

Case study 1: Group intervention

An SME wine production company retrenched close on 60 of its staff at all levels in the company. The Operations Manager requested an intervention to better prepare the employees. As a result workshops were held with different groups. e.g. marketing, administration and production.

The purpose of the workshop was to:

  • Help employees gain greater self-insight
  • Review the normal process of adapting
  • Highlight various coping strategies and
  • How to move forward in a constructive and practical way.

Employees were able to raise concerns or ask questions. Participation was active and employees welcomed the opportunity to voice some of their fears to an objective outsider.

Case study 2: Individual coaching

Paul was an executive at the time of his retrenchment. His company offered a series of coaching sessions as part of his retrenchment package.  His HR Manager gave him the names of three coaches.

I suggested to Paul that we first meet for an initial session in which I would set out ways in which I can support his transition. It was also important for him to determine whether he was comfortable with me. After our first meeting Paul gave the go ahead. He later mentioned that he had liked the structured approach. Although I must add that it was purely a rough framework.

Our first session focussed on what exactly he wanted to achieve with the sessions. Then we explored how he would know whether the sessions were benefiting him.

Coaching was initially aimed at gaining a better understanding of Paul as a person. So we revisited different aspects of his upbringing that had shaped him and his choice of career. The thorough background interview provided insight into his coping styles, support structures and key drivers in his life.

We then explored what emotions and beliefs the retrenchment triggered. We reviewed critical aspects to him. Paul saw the retrenchment as a chance to re-evaluate his life. He felt he needed time away from the corporate world to explore some of his other interests.

In subsequent sessions we addressed ways to manage the transition.

Benefits of individual coaching when retrenched?

Paul felt coaching allowed him to talk. Through talking he shifted out of his head. As a result he was able to reflect on the various aspects that were mulling over in his mind. He felt coaching was positive and encouraging, affirmed his thinking and supported his plan of action.

Furthermore, Paul experienced coaching as facilitating his growth as opposed to being a prescriptive process. He experienced empathy and understanding for his key issues of financial security and self-esteem at that point in his life.  Paul felt comfortable to talk about his family’s reaction to his retrenchment. He felt understood as opposed to being judged and this meant a great deal him.

Paul commented that pointed questions were asked during coaching that helped him to think more clearly about himself.

What engendered trust in the coaching process?

The confidential nature of the discussions played a vital role. Paul generally builds trust quite easily unless he sees red flags but in this case there were none.

More importantly though he felt I was genuinely interested. Periodically after the initial sessions I contacted Paul to see how he was doing.  This meant a lot to him especially as he felt vulnerable after discussing matters at a very personal level during coaching.

When I asked him if it concerned him that I was a woman and also a clinical psychologist, his response was that it never entered his mind. Paul has thrived since leaving the corporate world and is enjoying all the different aspects that this new phase offers him. He is also involved in a variety of income generating projects and enjoys the diversity.

During coaching I am always very mindful that I am treading on sacred territory.  Men in particular are very private when it comes to their inner world. Few people are privy to their deeper thoughts, emotions and experiences. And so any sharing is treated as a precious gift.

If you are facing retrenchment and need a trusted person as a sounding board, coaching may well be of benefit. Take your time however, to find a coach that you feel you can trust.

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Posted in Executives, Well-being.