5 Psychological Stages Of A Layoff – D.A.B.D.A

4 minutes

Recent research has suggested that it’s tougher to get over a job loss than divorce or death of a spouse

To get over a layoff, first, it’s important to understand how it affects an individual emotionally. The typical emotional reactions of individuals, who experience a significant loss, was conceptualized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a well-known Swiss-American psychiatrist, using her DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) model. This model captures various emotions people go through after they’re laid off, considering that, for most, losing a job forms a loss that symbolically represents their established identity, designation, role and responsibilities.

Let’s look more closely at the various stages:

1. Denial

Initially, you might get into a stage of denial and believe that the decision by the organization is false. You might stay in disbelief thinking – there is some misunderstanding, I think I need to sort it out”. You might continue to believe somewhere, something has gone wrong, and cling to a false, preferable reality.


2. Anger

Then you may recognize that the denial cannot continue. You may get irritated by that very fact and become frustrated. People around you find you getting angry without any apparent reason. You might ask yourself or people close to you, “Why me? It’s not fair”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?”

3. Bargaining 

The third stage involves the hope that you can avoid the cause of grief. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. For instance: “I’d give anything to be back – work hard, take up the shift that I always avoided or even work under the manager that I hated.” Or: “If only they’d take me back, I’d promise to stay focused and perform better”

4. Depression

Soon, this leads to depression, and a feeling of sadness. Usual thoughts at this time are: “There is no meaning in working hard for organizations like this. There is nothing to look forward to. It’ll be really tough to find anything. I feel like giving up. What’s the point in putting up a fight? After all, what am I fighting for?” At this stage, you might realize the ultimate realities of life – an absolute lack of control over such events, helplessness, and uncertainty. In this state, people close to you find you being silent, refusing to meet people or spend time outdoors.


5. Acceptance

Finally, a calm sets in, and you start to feel a lot more in control about not being control. You tell yourself: “It’s going to be okay.”; “There is no point fighting it anymore. I am done with this organization; I may as well prepare for something new, possibly better.” In this stage, you might embrace reality or the inevitable truth. This stage brings you confidence within and a kind of conviction about whatever you are able to do.

Introspecting these stages and understanding layoffs is very important

There are no short-cuts. It’s better that you go through these stages as they are natural emotions experienced by most people who’ve experienced a similar situation. Individuals go through these stages at their own pace, staying at each stage for varying durations. Those, who stay longer have psychological adjustment problems and typically experience negative effects of stress. Another situation we need to watch out for is when people carry anger or depression to their next job causing problems with productivity, interpersonal relationships and work efficiency. Further, those who fake acceptance, put themselves in big trouble as their emotional problems continue. Therefore, it is important you go through these stages, finally leading to acceptance.

This article is a part of  #Fired2FiredUp Campaign by YourDOST. Visit the page for real life stories, learnings and tips from career psychologists and recruiters.

Have you experienced a layoff recently? Are you finding it difficult to cope with it? Talk to an Expert at YourDOST.

Dr. Sunny Joseph

Dr. Sunny Joseph is a Clinical Psychologist and Behavioural Neuropsychologist currently associated with Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. He received his professional training and initial work assignment at the prestigious NIMHANS. With a decade of experience working in the area of Clinical & Behavioural Neuropsychology, Mr. Sunny Joseph has collaborated with corporate organizations such as Hindustan Unilever and has also provided personal coaching and training services. To add to his credit, Mr. Sunny Joseph has contributed several research papers for journals and has also written a few chapters for academic books.