Another season of college football is winding down and, as is typically the case, the number of head coaching vacancies is increasing by the day. For most of those who were, and will continue to be let go, I’m sure it wasn’t a huge surprise. After all, if they weren’t winning enough games or if they were selling a VIP newsletter as was the case with Dennis Franchione, they were on the hot seat. And they don’t call it a hot seat for nothing.
Luckily, most of us aren’t on as short of a leash as most coaches. But, if we’re caught up in corporate shake up or one of our key team members leaves unexpectedly, we also have to deal with the sudden unexpected loss.
According to Dr. Phil, there are four stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, and resolution. Losing your job, whether or not it was expected, definitely counts as grief for most of us. And how we handle each of those stages as we exit the organization will determine whether we leave there with our brand intact. Because resolution isn’t something you’ll need to react to during the process, for today’s discussion we’re going to focus on the first three stages.
Shock: Besides anger, this is the hardest one to mask as, when you hear the news, the only thing that hits the floor before your jaw is likely the pit of your stomach. And, because you’re in shock, there’s a good chance you’ll say something you’ll regret. When I was downsized a few years back, I went the opposite route. Usually someone who was never at a loss for words, I sat there speechless for what seemed like hours but was probably more like 60 seconds.
Don’t feel as though you have to respond right away. Take a few moments to compose yourself, catch your breath, and then respond as you see fit. And that doesn’t mean unleashing a series of expletives.
Denial: This always reminds me of an unexpected breakup. Unfortunately, usually when it’s come to this point, it’s likely all over but the shouting so there’s no sense rehashing how you got to this point. But we’ll talk more about shouting in a minute. In most cases, you should have seen the writing on the wall so any bouts of denial will be limited.
Anger: Whatever you do, don’t get angry. I know it’s easier said than done, but do your best to keep your cool, at least in public. When you let off steam, which you will, talk it over with your partner, a family member, or your dog. Remember, in most cases it’s business, not personal. Do your best to finish out your time with the company in stride. Don’t trash talk your boss or the organization during the downsizing or afterwards.
How we exit an organization is just as important as what we accomplished while we were there. Even though we might not get caught in the “coaching carousel,” there’s a good chance we’ll have to navigate the stages of grief mentioned above at some point during our career. As mentioned above, do your best not to be “that former employee”—the one everyone jokes about because you stormed off in a huff.
Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).