Since the Brexit referendum almost three years ago, new initiatives and groups popped up all over the UK to represent the voices of the people who voted to remain. These people refuse to accept the consequences of Brexit, but why is that?

Brexit has been like no political and social event we have ever seen before. Brexit is dominating people’s thoughts and actions. To understand why people respond in certain ways to the consequences of Brexit and to predict what their behaviour will become, you need to consider how people behave psychologically.

Back in the 60’s, a psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a model of thought that suggests people go through five stages of grief after a crucial life event. I imagine she was never thinking of exploring a model of thought that could be applied to Brexit, rather she was explored how five stages of grief made sense when someone lost a loved one or faced a crisis.

However, as time has gone on – psychologists believe that this Kübler-Ross model can apply to any situation and that unfortunately, people can get stuck on one of the stages. If we apply the Kübler-Ross theory to Brexit, you may be one step closer to understanding how people think and how you can help them.

Stage 1: Brexit denial

Many people simply cannot comprehend that their friends, family and colleagues would vote to leave the UK. People who are stuck on the beginning of the curve really still believe that Brexit will be overturned.

Stage 2: Brexit anger

Not everyone can stay in denial for an extended time and so much denial can lead to anger. But where will this anger be directed? For some it is towards politicians who are responsible and for others it’s their family and friends. People who are stuck on this curve can feel this emotion in the workplace and that can cause disruptions to their everyday lives.

Stage 3: Brexit bargaining

The third stage of Kübler-Ross is the hope that the issues can be avoided and a compromise may be reached. In regard to Brexit, perhaps it means a special status for the UK within the EU? But in this model of thought, bargaining will not resolve the situation.

Stage 4: Brexit depression

When stage 3 doesn’t work people can believe that nothing in life is going to work well again. Regarding Brexit, the danger is that people can see financial leaders and government are in despair,  and they may be worrying about their own careers and future. People may become silent, mournful and sullen and it is dangerous for them to be stuck on this part of the curve. It is the responsibility of employers to help move people off this stage.

Stage 5: Brexit acceptance

Finally, on stage 5, people accept or even embrace the future. Kübler-Ross found that people most impacted by an event were among the first to accept it. This is good news for people’s mental health once they reach this stage but what will it take to get everyone there?


How long will it take for a colleague or employee to move forward from a Brexit grief stage of the curve that they’re stuck on? Well, how long is a piece of string? To speed up the process they may need your help.

Making your work place a positive place to be is an essential aspect of employee mental health, regardless of whether the issue that’s impacting them is Brexit or not. To establish that kind of working environment, it takes both a strong top down and bottom up approach.

Ways to start creating this positive working environment include:

  • Encouraging a pinch of selfish thinking among employees. What can they do to take care of themselves?
  • Looking out for others. Can you see a colleague struggling in silence? Let them know there is help available.
  • Make your work place a space for safe discussion. Let employees know that they can talk about any and all health, safely and confidentially.
  • Give back alongside your employees. Do you have a company-wide charity initiative that everyone can get involved in?
  • Work events! Socialising can help relieve some symptoms of mental health challenges.

Do you want to create a positive health-led working environment but don’t have the time? Companies such as Health in Action can transform the lives of your organization and individuals by empowering them to manage their workplace and personal health in a sound and constructive way. Contact us for a no-obligation conversation about improving health in your workplace.