How Successful Executives Respond: A Phenomenological Study of Unplanned Executive Career Transition /By David C. Miles
This phenomenological study looks at senior executives who were involuntarily terminated but who did not experience the typical negative emotions and loss of self esteem which usually accompanies unplanned separation from employment. Fifteen individuals who a) met four criteria to qualify as senior executives, b) were deemed highly successful because they did not suffer negative emotions and loss of self esteem, and c) who went through an outplacement program with a certified counseling firm participated as co-researchers in the study. The study relies heavily on data gathered through phenomenological interviews with these executives. The study also features a review of research literature in the areas of outplacement, adult life-stage development, career transition, career management, and the psychological and sociological experience of individuals in career transition to provide a theoretical framework for analyzing and interpreting the data.
The research questions dealt with the recollections of highly successful participants about their personal experience of unplanned career transition and prior to the beginning of the career counseling process. Participants narrated the events of their separation and described their psychological behavioral reactions and their emotional/intellectual experience as the reality of career change occurred. In addition, the study looked at the significance of several factors related to the event of termination: the executives perception of his/her position as a leader; the employers handling of the termination event, the impact on family, friends and co-workers; the duration of potentially negative intellectual and emotional responses; and anticipation of or preparation for the future.
This study significantly contributes to a small, but growing body of research that identifies self-awareness characteristics and coping behaviors that individuals can learn and use to minimize the negative impact of unplanned career transition.
This study suggests that enhanced self-awareness, improved coping skills, and personal management of career alternative planning can assist all senior executives who will experience unplanned career transition. The stories of these fifteen co-researchers de-stigmatize the event of termination and provide models of career resilience, giving insight not only to senior executives but also to individuals at multiple levels of the socioeconomic strata and organizational levels.