The importance of culture when facing a dismissal

When a company has to dismiss some of its employees, it should not underestimate the complications and side effects that may result from this process. All factors must be taken into account. It is not just about the actual process, but also about attitudes and actions – something we can refer to as “culture”.

Preparation, preparation and more preparation!

Lay-offs, however many, are a huge intervention in people’s lives and a company’s culture. The better prepared we are for the task, the more valuably it will proceed for everyone involved, and the more easily both the company and the affected employees will move on.

We are involved before, during and after

We have many years of experience of advising and training executives, mid-level managers, shop stewards and HR on the subject of lay-offs.

Often dismissed employee goes through several stages

We know that a lay-off round can be rough on the dismissed employees. Everyone reacts differently. Most people goes through the three stages below here, when they have been given a notice.


  • Minutes/days
  • Disregard, calm & composed (under the surface there might be chaos), denial, anger, crying, breakdown, apathy, hyperactivity, panic, clingy behaviour, laughing. Difficulty in taking in and processing impressions, traditional problem-solving strategies are disabled. Memory troubles. Physical symptoms: vomiting, dizziness, shaking, palpitation etc.
  • Basis-intervention: Listening/”container”, to secure connection to one’s private network, repeat, follow-up, directive, make a plan, write it down.


  • Weeks/months
  • Beginning realisation, chaos of feelings, outbursts of feelings, guilt, anxiety, grief, psychosomatic reactions, isolation, desperate actions, hope, happiness, confusion.
  • Basis-intervention: “Acting as bin”, psychoeducation thoughts-feelings-behaviour-body (cognitive triangle), involving relatives and possibly employer, research exception & mastering. Restructuring of negative automatic thoughts.

Processing- and repurpose-stage

  • Adapting to a new life situation, a realistic attitude towards what happened, establishment and development of relations, the grief eases, mastering experiences, hope for the future, act upon wishes for the future.
  • Basis-intervention: Support of hopes, investigate successful experiences, create motivation, support at relapses. Explorative approach, solution-focused methods.

Prior to lay-offs it is a good idea for the management team to ask themselves the following questions: