The five shades of outplacement candidate – where are you on the change curve?

Dealing with redundancy can be tough and emotions play a big role in career transition. Some people – used to thinking rationally and using logical processes – just don’t use their feelings and instinct. Others become very emotional and start their outplacement service feeling angry, fearful or in denial. In this article we take a look at the different types of outplacement candidate that we encounter and explain how we can support each one.

The change curve and the Connor outplacement service

Change triggers a cycle of reactions and feelings that fall into predictable stages. The sequence of emotions can be plotted on a model called the change curve.

The Connor outplacement service is personal and built around the unique needs of each candidate. This approach includes our consultant assessing where an individual is on the change curve and adjusting their style and support accordingly, to help them to accept and manage the changes that they face.

We encounter five different sorts of outplacement candidate so let’s take a look at each one in a bit more detail:

1. The shocked, in denial outplacement candidate

This is a common initial response to change. Candidates minimise the change by trivialising it or denying it exists at all.

Behaviours Feelings Likely to say
Unable to make plans

Find it difficult to reason

Find it hard to understand

Make light of the change

Deny change is happening

Act as if nothing has changed




This doesn’t make sense

“I need time to take this in”

“This is not what I expected”

“This is very similar to”

“The last time I did this I”

“This is just the flavour of the month, ignore it and it will go away”

How to support a shocked, in denial candidate – be directive

  • Explain what is happening and why
  • Give facts and figures where they exist
  • Get a response – ask them what they think about it
  • Provide opportunities for people to talk it over.

2. The angry, nostalgic, fearful outplacement candidate

Candidates in this state display strong emotions and often experience low self esteem as they struggle to cope with new circumstances and find it hard to accept change.

Behaviours Feelings Likely to say
Lose temper

Show anxiety

Erratic action

Silent and withdrawn

Do nothing

Confront others

Reduced performance





Uncertain about role

Anxious about future

Out of control

“What’s going on?”

“I don’t know what to do”

“I don’t know how to do this”

“They must be crazy if they think this will work”

“Why wouldn’t they want me?”

“What will they do without me?

How to support an angry, nostalgic, fearful candidate – be supportive

  • Listen
  • Allow individuals the opportunity to express their feelings about the changes
  • Acknowledge feelings and show empathy
  • Be encouraging and supportive – it takes time
  • Help individuals to value the past and let people mourn the loss.

Connor consultant Suzanne Sharp recalls working with a candidate who was fearful about moving on: “I worked with an individual who had three separate job offers but was finding reasons to reject all of them. In reality he was scared of making the next step. Its natural to be apprehensive about doing something new. In this case I was able to ask him what was stopping him from accepting one of his offers. He agreed there wasn’t anything and he called me after a couple of weeks in his new role thanking me and confirming he’d had no reason for being worried.”

3. The accepting outplacement candidate

At this point the candidate will let go of their conscious or unconscious attachment to the past. However, self esteem and clarity are not always there, so we may move back and forth between resistence and experimenting before moving on.

Behaviours Feelings Likely to say



Swings from positive to negative behaviour


Some optimism


Some concerns remain

Improved self esteem

“I know I will be okay”

“I’m not sure what I want yet, but there is life out there waiting for me”

“I understand what is different”

“I know what I need to do”

How to support an accepting candidate – be supportive and encouraging

  • As people can waver between resistance to and experimenting with change, coaching support needs to be both supportive and encouraging

4. The curious outplacement candidate

The candidate is open to exploring new opportunities and approaches. They might have a plan of what they want to do next but will feel frustrated when mistakes or setbacks happen.

Behaviours Feelings Likely to say
Lots of activity


Tests new ideas

Experiments with acting differently

Improved confidence

Higher self esteem

Some anger


“We need to do it like this”

“Let’s try another way”

“I’m going to try that, I know it’s the right thing for me”

How to support a curious candidate – be encouraging

  • Provide clear direction and guidelines
  • Help individuals to set short-term objectives
  • Help with prioritising so that the focus is on the key issues
  • Provide opportunities to develop new skills that are needed
  • Hold regular planning and review sessions.

5. The committed outplacement candidate

The candidate is behaving differently and has adapted to the change with confidence. They may reflect on how and why things are different, attempting to understand their past emotions and behaviour.

Behaviours Feelings Likely to say
Performing well

Open to ideas





“I’ve learnt a lot, but I’m glad its over”

“I feel like a new person”

How to support a committed candidate – be faciliative

  • Help people to set long term goals
  • Look to the future and encourage forward planning
  • Provide ongoing support and encouragement.

Connor consultant Kevin Howes gives an example of working with a committed candidate in practice: “I was supporting someone who had set their long term goal. Their impressive CV and excellent reputation in the market meant that my role was just to add value where it was required. This was about helping the individual to prepare for face to face and Skype interviews for a number of roles.”

Connor outplacement support for organisations and individuals

Connor supports thousands of outplacement candidates every year – helping them to make their next career move. Talk to me about how we can help you or your organisation.


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