How does the “Grief Cycle” Impact on Outplacement?

 In Job Help Blog

The Grief Cycle & Job loss

Almost any significant loss will see an individual going through the ‘Grief Cycle’, sometimes called the ‘Change Curve’.

This is as true about losing a job as it is about any other loss. Indeed, much research has placed the loss of a job in the top five of the most traumatic events that most individuals will ever experience.

It is in no way impossible to find a new job without understanding what the grieving cycle means in practice. Nor is it impossible whilst working one’s way through the cycle. However, understanding the cycle will definitely make finding a job easier. And it will be much easier again if the individual has actually managed to pass through the cycle.

Thus, a key and very early part of an outplacement consultancy role is to help the candidate in this area. It can be a very difficult and emotional area for the individual concerned. And thus, must be addressed with more than a modicum of tact, diplomacy and understanding.

In its purest form the grief cycle consists of five separate stages. It is pretty much universally accepted that one must pass through each of the stages in turn before coming out the other side.

Impact on the job seeker

The cycle tends to impact most strongly in situations where a long serving employee suddenly finds that their position has been made redundant.

Stage I will be total disbelief. This can’t be happening to me.

Stage II will be anger. How dare they do this to me.

Stage III will be negotiating. If I accept a different role or a lower salary will they keep me working.

Stage IV – depression. At my age or with my skill set will I ever again?

Stage V acceptance and moving on. Okay it has happened. Now let’s get on with the rest of my life.

In this series of short blogs, I will look at how the grief cycle impacts on outplacement and vice versa.


Phil Boyle has over 28 years of board level headhunting and outplacement experience. He is one of the country’s most experienced and well respected executive recruitment and outplacement consultants. During his career Phil has conducted face-to-face interviews and psychometric assessments of nearly 10,000 inplacement and outplacement candidates.  Click Here to contact us for more information.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Anonymous
  • VS

    Hi Phil

    I agree with this totally, but do you think you can move into another role while still in Stage 4 and find it really hard to kick on and make it happen in the new job. I finalised with my previous employer in August and started the new role in October, but felt at least for the first 3-6 months that there was a ‘hang over’ from the previous job making it hard for me to settle.

    What do you think

    • rhcareers

      It can be tough. Like any trauma it takes time but a new role should accelerate getting to closure. If possible try to separate the new role from the old and see it as a fresh start.

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