A Coaching Case Study By Juliana Lim Siok Hian, Life Coach, BRUNEI
Coaching Redundant Employees
I am part of a group of coaches to support the employees in the company who are made redundant as a result of a transformation. It’s a paid opportunity for the employees to explore their passion and elevate their skills in order to prepare for their next career move. A temporary human development company, HDC is formed to cater to the transition. With the promise that no redundant employee will be laid off. HDC is going to the extent of looking for business opportunities for the employees and assisting in seed funding for their business startup. As HDC is a non-revenue generating company, no one actually knows how long it will last.
The main players in this case study are me as the coach and the assigned client as an employee in the company. She is in her early fifties. Ten more years to retirement. Her highest education is lower secondary. I will name her Mary.
Mary has been in service with the company for 27 years. She started in the government sector for 13 years before it became a private company. According to Mary, the privatized company promised no layoffs. She was given the migration allowance for joining the privatized company. For the past 20 years, Mary held a junior position in IT support/ billing in charge of uploading payments and system backup.
Mary had divorced her husband many years ago. She is a single parent to her 4 children. She lost one of her teen daughters a few years back. Mary provides for her 3 children who are now in their early twenties as they do not have a permanent jobs. Being able to provide for her children is important for Mary. Besides being the sole breadwinner in the family, Mary has a monthly loan commitment of around 70% of her monthly income.
Coaching Redundant Employees Challenges:
The employees hold grudges against the management and the company for the transformation. Seeing in-house coaches as part of the management. I could sense frustration among the employees. As it is paid to coach, there is some resistance to attending coaching sessions, sometimes turning up late, not showing up for coaching, and needing to be reminded before the coaching session.
Small talks among the employees disempower themselves. Collectively she felt they were “abandoned” by the company. They disagree with the transformation.
As they are promised no laid off and still paying their current salary in HDC, the employees have no urgency in their transition and just go with the flow. Most of the time, they don’t have anything in mind to talk about during the session.
Patience, rapport, and trust have to be built in order for Mary to open up. It takes time for Mary to accept the fact, let go of grudges and move on.
Challenges Encountered During the Coaching Sessions:
Job Opportunity. On top of that, the current local market has a high unemployment rate among the youth which makes it a challenge for Mary’s age and qualifications. Brunei’s youth unemployment rate for 2019 was 21.70% 1.
Salary expectation. Her salary is considered high compared to the current local market if she were to find a job elsewhere. Mary is hoping to find a government job that pays her the same as what she is getting now. However, the government has standardized the salary ranges based on qualification. According to Mary, with her qualification, she will be expecting around 30% of her current salary in the government sector. Hence, Mary has no urgency in looking for a job and just goes with the flow in HDC.
Mindset. Not able to compete with the younger graduates due to her age. As well as no company would offer her current salary which is higher than what the market can offer for a lower secondary qualification.
Loan commitment of around 70% of her salary income. It is her biggest concern. Anything lower than the current salary she is not able to pay for the monthly loan repayment.
Basic IT experience and skill. During one of the sessions, I noticed Mary is not proficient with MS Excel and sharing the screen in zoom. This triggers a warning signal as a coach. It is believed that in small and private companies (SMEs) with the basic skills, the chances of getting hired for her expected salary is low.
Complain and blame. Mary has been complaining about the transformation. She felt she was being dismissed and the management should be responsible for finding her a job in the government sector. From time to time, she blames and complains about the same thing. In the second coaching session, Mary mentioned that the management broke their promise during the migration to the privatized company. Her value of trust and loyalty have been broken.
Disempowering Perspective: Blame, Reacting, and Delay
As Mary was complaining, it felt like she was reacting and not accepting the fact of the transformation. She felt victimized hence blame and not taking any responsibility for finding a job.
Mary is concerned about her age and thinks the companies prefer hiring graduates. Her opportunities to find a job are low, hence, her willingness is also low. She chose to delay, not take any action, and go with the flow. From time to time, Mary will reconfirm her belief when her experienced colleague didn’t get the job. Instead, a young graduate was hired.
New Empowering Perspective: Responsibilities, Responding, and Action
In one of the sessions, Mary was in the complaining mode, I asked what her ideal scenario was in 1 to 2 years. As Mary was sharing a list of things, I could see she was smiling and her energy had lightened.
Mary listed 6 items. Some are not within her control such as hoping all her children have a permanent job, she is able to pay for their daily expenses, being deployed to the government sector, and hoping for Covid-19 to disappear. Her priority is and always has been her children.
Shifting focus to what she has control over in the list, she pointed out that her biggest concern is not being able to pay her loan. At that moment, she realized her top priority and focus should be looking for a permanent job so she can continue paying the monthly loan for the next 8 years. From this session onwards, Mary has been taking responsibility for her life and started to take action. Even though it is slow, she is moving forward. Since then Mary hasn’t been blaming the management.
Disempowering Perspective: Significance
Recently Mary told me her colleagues do not agree with the transformation and the management should find them a secure job before the transformation. It seems like Mary has been influenced and falls back to her previous pattern of blame. It seems like she has not completely accepted the fact. Mary still feels heavy about it.
This arises when Mary went to find out the gap between her current skills and experience versus the market. Mary has reached out to the successor in her previous company to find out the job scope and requirements of the IT billing position. According to her successor (a young graduate), the job scope has increased listed them.
New Empowering Perspective: Lightness
As a coach, I asked what happened if she is still in her previous role with the increased job scope. Mary said she won’t be able to cope that she will be stressed and her health would be affected. What if her previous company would offer her a job with a higher salary, what would her decision be? She replied she won’t accept the job.
Observing a shift in her energy, what comes up for Mary was that right now she has the opportunity to explore what is best for her. She realized her previous job scope has changed, and the team and working environment she used to enjoy are no longer the same. Mary expressed she felt relieved that she has the choice now to choose what suits her.
Disempowering Perspective: Unrealistic Expectation
Based on the previous conversation, Mary has been wanting to work in the government sector even though knowing she can only expect around 30% of her current salary based on qualifications only. Yet Mary’s criteria is to find a secure job (preferably in the government sector) that pays her the same salary which is unrealistic.
She finds working with the government securities. Secure to her means fixing yearly bonus payout and other benefits such as housing and car loan.
New Empowering Perspective: Possibility
With her expected salary in the government sector, Mary replied she will need a National Diploma. ‘What is your plan for a National diploma?’ Mary replied she has no plan and won’t consider taking a National diploma. ‘What if you get a government job that pays you 30% of your current salary, what will you do?’ Mary was enlightened and instantly replied that she will accept even if the pay is lower.
To Mary, job security is more important than compensation. ‘If you were to accept a government job, what would happen to your loan which is your biggest concern?’ Mary replied that if the government is paying her around 40% of her current salary, she will do some part-time business on weekends to help pay for her loan.
Coaching Redundant Employees Next Career Move
In the beginning, Mary was angry about the change. She blamed and felt victimized in most of the sessions. Feeling hopeless Mary is not taking any action and just goes with the flow.
Now, Mary has released grudges on the changes. While her goal is still to land a government job, she has lowered her expectations based on what is realistic in the local market. By accepting that, she is able to open up to other possibilities which previously she did not even consider such as part-time business on the weekend. She is yet to find out the job requirement of IT billing and the expected salary based on her qualification and experience. Mary is also willing to keep her option open to business opportunities that are proposed by HDC. With all the available options, Mary can compare which option is best for her.
1 Youth unemployment rate in Brunei Darussalam in 2019. Published by Aaron O’Neill, Jan 11, 2022.