We have seen and heard retrenchment happening left, right, and center. In a tight Asian tech market pool that we are so familiar with, these few months we saw people struggle to find a new job in a market that has seen hiring plummet. 

Even if you have a job now, the looming uncertainty can lead to overthinking, anxiety, and sometimes, anxiety that leads to depression. 

If we dial it back a little, can we actually deal with retrenchment or the potential of retrenchment with more stoicness? How do we thread the overthinking and anxiety lightly and in a less devastating way?

When you hear of news about your company potentially doing retrenchment exercises, that is when employees begin to think or re-think past strategies or decisions that affected where they stand within the organization and overthinking ensues. 

But what can you do? Can you actually avoid being retrenched? If there are things you can do to avoid it, do it. If you have done whatever there is, the truth is you have done what you can control. It's difficult to guarantee that someone will never be retrenched, as there are many factors that can contribute to a company's decision to downsize or lay off employees. 

Retrenchment or the fear of losing one's job sometimes needs to be analyzed in context. If retrenchment has happened/will happen because of the weakening macroeconomic situation, this outcome is generally out of your control. If it happens because of the lack of personal contributions to the company, then perhaps take this chance to do some reflection and relearning to make the next job experience better.

Things to try: 

  • Increase your contributions to the company: Being more valuable decreases the chances of being laid off.
  • Start applying for roles out there: It is always good to have a backup
  • Ask your manager: Am I at risk? How can I lower the risk? If you can get a straight answer, that’s great. If not, at least they know you are cognizant of the possibility and have put up your hand to contribute to secure yourself.
  • Control the negative channels: There are people in the office you know you should avoid because all they do is sprout doom and gloom, avoid them like plague.
  • Exercise: Replace cortisol with endorphins is a tried and tested route
  • Read: Would recommend books/podcast on Stoicism that helps balance your viewpoint and perspectives
  • Stress-reduction techniques: Encourage the person to practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness or deep breathing to help manage their anxiety. I find the free app Insight Timer pretty useful
  • Find joy in your life: if you have been laid off, chances are you haven’t got the chance to do all the things you had no time to do when you had a job. Go do them now. And who knows, you may find a new career from the passion you have cast aside for work.

A lot of the negativity is what you let into your mind so be very careful of allowing only useful thoughts. Practice makes permanent.

Trying to help your loved ones overthinking about retrenchment?

  • Listen actively: Be present and listen to the person's concerns without judgment or offering advice. Sometimes, knowing that they were heard is more than enough. Sometimes, people just want to be listened to and are not ready to listen to solutions yet.
  • Offer support: Let the person know that they are not alone in their experience, and offer words of encouragement and support. Comfort and wisdom can be a great help.
  • Help them problem-solve: If the person is open to it, help them think through their options and develop a plan for the future, such as updating their resume or looking for other job opportunities.
  • Connect them with resources: If you can and if necessary, help the person connect with resources such as a therapist or job search support group.
  • Avoid downplaying their concerns: Instead, acknowledge their feelings and offer support. We have varied ranges of realities, just because your experience is different, does not invalidate the other person’s thoughts and fears.

Remember, everyone experiences retrenchment differently, and what may work for one person may not work for another. It's important to approach each situation with empathy and be open to listening and supporting the person in a way that is most helpful for them.

If you are currently in Singapore and need to talk to someone or know of someone who does, you might find this link useful https://blog.moneysmart.sg/healthcare/counselling-singapore-free-affordable/