Managing Transitions with Susan Kaye - PART I

If you find yourself transitioning in between jobs, Susan Kaye will help put things into perspective! Thanks to her extensive experience in all areas of Human Resources as well as in outplacement and career counselling, she brings these unique characteristics together coupled with a very practical approach to work and how to move on. In this episode she talks about the importance of allowing yourself the time to heal if your job was made redundant and making sure you get the necessary support so that you are in the right state of mind to start a new beginning.

00:02 Susan Kaye: If you don't let it heal, you won't get better.
00:08 Paola Granati: Welcome to this episode of the World of Work podcast, the WoW. I'm Paola Granati, and today we will talk about how to best manage transitions together with Susan Kaye. And as you just heard her say, healing is an important part of that process. It's an important part in order to be able to move on to something new. Before we kick this off, a brief introduction of today's speaker.
00:32 PG: Susan Kaye is a senior HR professional with extensive experience in all areas of the HR function, having worked both in a large Fortune 500 corporation, as well as a boutique, outplacement firm, she really has this unique combination of very strong career coaching and counseling skills together with an in-depth understanding of the strategic value of people in organizations as well as of HR.
01:00 PG: A dual British-Swiss national, she has lived and worked in the UK, Mexico, Switzerland and the US, and has traveled the world for both business and pleasure. I started this conversation by asking Susan to help us better understand what we typically mean by transitions in the world of work.
01:19 SK: First of all, transition means we're going from one state to another, so we're going through a change process, and, that change generally is... If we're talking in the employment area, is from an old job to a new job. Now that can be a transition and a change that's taking place voluntarily; it can be a choice, a personal choice, it can be an internal change within a company, and then you're transitioning from one particular situation in one company to another situation in that same company.
01:57 SK: It can be a transition from one company to another, again, as a choice, but very often when we're using the terminology in the career counseling arena, we're most often talking of transitions that are taking place in situations where employers have made the decision for a whole variety of reasons that that person's job is no longer necessary, and that that person needs to leave the organization. And then we talk about a career transition process. And it's in that case, a transition process that has a starting point which is not voluntary or at least, not decided generally by the individual it concerns. So it's a change from one state to another, but that's basically provoked by a decision that the individual it concerns doesn't control.
02:56 PG: Yeah, even if individuals may know that something's coming, it always does come as a...
03:02 SK: As a shock. And I've... Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And by... When... When it's not a personal decision, I.e., the individual saying, "Well, I want to move into another job, into another role, I am taking this decision," when that decision is taken by someone else, fundamentally, the individual's environment is rocked and completely turned upside down. And even in situations, one you've just mentioned, people could be assumed to have expected that it was going to happen, because maybe the economy is down, maybe the firm is not doing well, maybe their boss doesn't like them; there are 15,000 reasons why this could happen, it doesn't stop the fact that it is always a shock.
03:50 SK: Even when people expect it, that shock will have different impacts, depending on whether it's actually a relief, because there are situations when the individual comes out of it, saying, "Finally, it's done, now I know where I am, even if I don't really know where I'm going but I know what the situation is." But there are lots of situations where it's not a relief. It's a shock, it's... It's... It's a total catastrophe, their world is falling down around them and they need to be able... The individual needs to be able to manage that.
04:30 SK: And the reality is, that the first most frequent reaction is going to be shock, which can put people in a total non-reaction mode, where they look as if they haven't really heard what you've said to them, and then that is going to... They're going to move from there, and they're gonna move in different ways, depending on their personality and depending on their history and what they've already lived through. Some people are going to move very quickly into an angry zone, some others are going to try and shrug it off and move into a zone where they say, "Oh, I'm fine." Others are going to be in total denial, they're going to be trying to negotiate their way back in. So, there are... And all of these different reactions can be simultaneous, they're practically simultaneous for some people, everything's happening at the same time.
05:28 SK: So that's why it is such a complicated time to deal with because... Because people are reacting and don't feel in control anymore. And so, the key message that needs to be able to go through, to people in that stage is first of all, it's okay to be angry, it's okay to be upset. It's... It's okay to want to vent about a decision that one wasn't consulted about, and that one just fundamentally disagrees with. It's okay to have that, but it's not okay to spend the next six months complaining about what happened and adopting the approach of a victim that has no control. In the moment, when you're informed, you have no power and you couldn't be in control, but as time passes, you will move on if you can accept that it's not the situation that was forced upon you that dictates how you should react to it. You are still your own person, and you have tools and means, and abilities and skills, and competencies that you can... Your resources you can use to stand back up on your two feet. But you need to accept it's going to take a little bit of time.
07:07 PG: And it's going to take time, but not too much time. That's also what you were saying. It's like, there's a moment of grief. Let's put it this way. There's a moment where, allow yourself that moment of anger or frustration or... Before you get to the acceptance. But you need to make sure that you move on to a next state that allows you to look at it with a resourceful perspective, because, ultimately, I think people tend to underestimate the fact that this negativity, because these are emotions, anger or whether it's anger, whether it's frustration, whether... I would also imagine, yes, grief are emotions that are part of who we are as humans, of course. They tend to drag us down. They're not necessarily boosters of forward-thinking and even of looking into, "Oh, okay. What other options can I have?"
08:14 SK: Yes, absolutely. But if I can come back to the notion of time, this will... When people ask me, "How long is it going to take for me to feel better about all this?" There is no one answer. Because everyone is unique and people are going to react differently. But there's a comparison that's a useful comparison. When you are told from one day to the next, that your job is over, that your career is over in that company and that you're gonna have to get back on the market, and maybe you haven't done that in 20, 30 years, or maybe you've never done it, then it's extremely scary. What you're in fact, facing is a similar situation to what you face when you're riding on your bicycle and you slide off the road and you break your leg. You break your leg, it hurts, you go to a doctor, you get potentially an operation or a cast or whatever it is you need.
09:11 SK: You are going to inevitably accept, because it's a broken leg and it's very visible, that you're going to have to let time pass for it to heal. You don't heal a broken leg in two days. It's going to take whatever it is, six weeks or something like that. That is a fact. The difficulty with when you lose your job, is that you are in fact going through a similar process, but it's a mental process. Something has broken. And if you don't accept that that something needs to be taken care of, and therefore you need to allow your body and your mind to react to that and allow it time to heal, you're going to be doing like the person who sprained their ankle and goes right back on their (bicycle)... Or... If they can, running around and they're just going to make it worse. Because if you don't let it heal, you won't get better. So how do you heal? Well, you get help. Fundamentally, it's the same as when you break your leg. You don't expect that you can resolve your broken leg on your own.
10:22 SK: Well, same thing. You lose your job, you've had a huge slap in the face, it's something very violent that's happening to you in terms of your personal... Your self-confidence, your feelings about yourself, what you think you're worth. So I generally recommend to people that one of the first things they should do in the early days is actually go and seek out just their general practitioner and just talk to someone in the medical world about what they're feeling. They're probably not sleeping well, they're probably having nightmares, they're maybe, they're probably feeling very angry and maybe feeling violent. A lot of things can be happening. Well, there's help out there. And talking to someone, to someone you can trust, someone who's neutral, who's not emotionally involved in what you're living through. So I'm saying your doctor or someone else, a third party. Talking to your spouse, of course, people are going to do that. But the spouse is very, very, very involved emotionally, and that can create another set of complications. So yes, you talk to your spouse, but you can't expect your spouse to be the one who's going to be carrying you along this way.
11:43 PG: That's an important part too, which is the ripple effect of actually the moment you do lose a job. Of course, it impacts you, but it impacts the ecosystem as well within which you live. So that's your family, that's your close friends, your close relationships. And everyone is different. To your point, everybody reacts differently. The fact of the matter is most people will know, or most people definitely in your family or will sense that something has changed. And it's interesting what you're saying to seek out more of a third party, a neutral type of individual who is also qualified. 'Cause one thing is, somebody who listens to you, which is really not the point. It's really not the point. The point is... To your point, when you break a leg, you've got to find somebody who's going to fix it for you or who's going to help that leg heal, so reaching out to somebody qualified in this area is really important. What would you recommend those who say... Not necessarily they're in denial but that they say, "I don't need... I don't need to do this, I don't need to go through this process of grieving, I'm just angry and I'm just going to get back into the market, get on with my life. And it's fine, it's everything is good."
13:20 PG: Have you ever encountered those situations in your profession as an executive career counsel? And let's not forget, right, in many cases, egos are also impacted, and by egos I mean the sense of identity, individuals who may have had very important leadership positions and all of a sudden are asked to leave. Their sense of worth perhaps is also impacted. I'm curious to hear your perspective on that and what have you seen.
13:56 SK: A lot of people will try and hide or push back their anger and say, "I'm moving on. No, I'm fine." And as you say, very often at pretty senior levels, because it's very difficult for most of us to admit that we have been completely demolished in our own estimation of our worth by what's happened. We no longer believe we're capable of doing something or doing it properly. And to mask that, how do you mask your lack of confidence generally by overly talking about how good you are at something and that there is no problem. So how as a consultant, I would work with someone who's like that. There's not much point at first in confronting someone in the early days about, "You're wrong, and that's not how it's going to work and you're going to sink anyway, and you're going to... " There's no point because that's not going to help them.
14:58 SK: So you help them in different ways. You help them by making them work through what they've worked on, what they've achieved, how they can talk about what they've achieved. And progressively, you pick up on sentences, on things that they will say inadvertently as you go through the conversations with them and you ask them things like, "How are you sleeping these days?" And when they say, "Not really, yeah, I've been up since three this morning," and you say, "Well... " That's when you sort of going to start opening the door about... "Well, you do realize that what you're just going through is, it's not easy for anyone, most people don't sleep well after this."
15:50 SK: So you use what they reluctantly, but inevitably will start communicating to get a little bit more into the whole self-care, "Take care of yourself, you have been hurt, there's no shame in admitting that you're hurt, there's no shame in being depressed, anxious." And it takes time. Some people, it's going to take a long time, others, it's going to go faster. It's very... To me, that's very... It's linked to two things, one is how the communication came through to them, and the other one is how well they are surrounded by friends and family. And those two components are absolutely key in this process.
16:47 SK: If the news was delivered in a human fashion, then moving on and accepting and being able to turn that page over is going to come easier because they were still treated with respect, and they didn't lose their self-respect by losing their job. When the actual discussion was a bad one and unfortunately, it does happen, then not only is the person angry, but they've been basically told they're worth nothing, and that makes it... And they're not respected, and that makes it very difficult to move on. The same about family members and friends. If you go home and your spouse's reaction is, "Oh my God, what did you do to get fired?" That's going to be very complicated to manage. So your surrounding is hugely important.
17:55 PG: Exactly, so what you're saying about you must have done something wrong to... Why you and not somebody else, or why were you amongst those? And unfortunately, sometimes family with all that... With love and in good intentions, there is that risk of kind of pointing the finger and making you feel even more insecure because maybe it's something you've done as opposed to a situation that may have happened to you. Well mind you, of course there are differences, right, as well, if it's been a performance-driven issue, although that opens up a whole other debate which we will not go into...
18:38 SK: No, we don't want to go into it and I understand, at the same time I think it's very important here just to say that I always try to reinforce with people, they lost their job because for a number of different reasons, the company decided that that job should not be filled by them or that that job needed to disappear. So when people say, "I got fired," I say, "No, you did not get fired. Your job was suppressed," or "your job was transferred to another country" or there're a whole lot of other reasons, and when you talk about performance, in the whole career, in the 15 years I've been counseling people who have lost their jobs, honestly, the real pure true performance-related firings, to use that horrible word, are very few and far between, because there are so many other parameters that come into... A good performer in one place is a bad performer in another, etcetera.
19:45 SK: So yeah, we're not going to go there. But the fact is that what helps people move on is when they start understanding that even if they have lost their job, they have not, from one day to the next, become nothing from a professional standpoint. They're still professionals, they've got tons of skills, of competencies, of knowledge, of experience, it's all there, it's just not associated now with a company, but that doesn't mean they're not professional. And that is something that a lot of people have trouble focusing on because their focus is, "If I don't have a job anymore and I got fired, I'm no good, and I'm not worth anything." And the whole point of what will get people back onto the right track and the positive track is getting them to the state where they say, "Hey, I'm good at this and I like it, and I can do it," and then they can move on.
20:48 PG: And that is ever so important, learning how to move on is a positive mindset, and turn the page and start new. So that was the end of first part, of the first part with Susan Kaye. We are also going to be moving on to part two, should you be interested to continue to tune in, to listen to the end of this episode, feel free to subscribe and you will have access to the private part of the podcast. Thanks for listening. Looking forward to the next time. 'Til then, take good care.

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