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The South African economy continues to feel the impact of the pace and volume of restructuring and retrenchments for many reasons some being political uncertainty, our recent junk status, slow economic growth and severe drought which have left many South Africans under strain and feeling unmotivated (Dharamlall & Terblanche, 2016:n.p.).

Several well-known South African organizations have been affected by varied types of structural changes in the last year and it continues to persist. With the South African unemployment rate at a high of 26.7% being retrenched and finding employment has become a major problem within the labor market (Fin24, 2015:n.p.; Harvard Business Review, 2015:n.p.).

From an employee point of view, retrenchments can be very scary and stressful. Retrenchments have a knock-on effect in the family and does not only affect the retrenchee. Many are faced with having to cut back drastically and find ways to cope with the financial pressures in paying for monthly expenses such as medical aid, school fees along with the increased cost of living and rising inflation rate. Compounded with this are the feelings of betrayal after being loyal to an organization.

Employees who stay with a company after a section 189 usually suffer from ‘survivors’ guilt that results in employees questioning their commitment to the company, reduced levels of trust, doubts relating to job security and even an increase in staff turn-over which only makes the unemployment crisis worse.


According to psychologists, being retrenched is like suffering bereavement or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Emotionally there are five stages in the process of dealing with such an event:

Denial: This is a temporary defense and may lead to thoughts such as “This can’t be happening to me. There must be some mistake.”

Anger: Once denial has passed, you may feel angry at your situation or people related to it. For example, you may think “It’s not fair. My colleague is far less valuable. S/he should have been retrenched instead.”

Bargaining: This is the horse-trading ‘if only’ stage. You may be thinking “If they just let me stay on at a reduced package, I’ll make it worth their while.”

Depression: Ultimately you must accept the inevitability of the job loss and the interruption of your career. Your spirits will feel very low and you may become quite tearful.

Acceptance: Once you have got to the end of the process you begin to think “Im not beaten. There are other employers out there with opportunities for me.”

Time to Bounce Back!

After acknowledging and dealing with the negative emotions a retrenchment can bring, it is also a time to fight back, use the following actions points:

  • Update your CV and make it a powerful marketing tool with achievements in your last and other roles and include details like:
    • An exceptional cover letter, displaying your writing skills
    • A compelling statement of intent for the type of value you can add
    • Don’t send your CV for every job opening available (then either end up in a job they shouldn’t have taken, or being rejected for many positions, adding to the feelings of inadequacy)
    • Keep a record of the jobs you apply for and follow up
  • Update your LinkedIn profile
  • Join job boards like Pnet, Careers24, Career Junction and those corporate websites of companies you really want to work for
  • Do a complete assessment of all your skills and expertise, know what you want next so that you can express it clearly
  • Become interview ready, get some professional coaching and ensure you are up to date.
  • Ask for a written reference from you last organization and make sure your referees are prepared to get calls from prospective employers
  • Build confidence by getting to work as soon as possible even if it’s for your favorite charity, school, church etc. as you need to build your networks to find opportunities


For more assistance or for a personalized consult, contact us!