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Being made redundant

“I was made redundant in December.” When I say that to people I tend to get the head tilt “Oh I’m sorry to hear that.” I changed my stock phrase to “I was made redundant in December but it was a good thing – really”. Then I just looked like I was protesting too much (“denial”). The further away from the event the less it crops up, but it’s been something I’ve had to deal with, and it’s not been the only thing.

The crazy thing is it was a good thing for me – really! I already had my second career, the one I’m really passionate about, being lined up. I was part time, and we can just about survive without my income. I wanted to be made redundant, I’d have chosen it given the choice. Yet despite all that, being made redundant isn’t easy, and now, 4 months on, I can reflect on the reasons why.

  • You’re not the one in control. It’s hard whenever your fate rests with someone else. We all like to be the ones in the driving seat, we want to make decisions that will affect us and our families, we don’t want these decisions being made by a committee sitting round a spreadsheet. For me I’d escaped redundancy several times, and despite the 2nd career in the pipeline, I’d surprised myself each time by how relieved I’d been when I hadn’t been selected. In December the timing was right for me, and I actually had sleepless nights worrying about what I’d do if I wasn’t made redundant. Either way, just like waiting for the outcome of a test or an interview, having your fate in the hands of someone else is a source of stress.

  • We all need to be needed. It’s part of the basic human condition. None of us likes the thought that things can carry on without us. The fact that your role disappears suggests either that what you’ve been working on isn’t that important, or that the importance of it isn’t sufficiently well understood, or the hard work that you put in wasn’t recognised. It’s easy to blame other people, and it’s very easy for bitterness to creep in. Sometimes decisions are made without sufficient understanding of a role, and mistakes can come back to haunt businesses – though it would be in no-one’s interest to admit this. At the end of the day, carrying around anger and bitterness harms no-one but yourself. In my case, I don’t think the value of what I, and my colleagues, had been doing was sufficiently well understood around the business. And who’s fault was that? You can point the finger in lots of places but ultimately at least part of the blame rested with us. If we’d worked harder on key relationships then who knows whether things might have been different.

  • Comparison with others. Why did I get made redundant when that person is still there? Do they seriously value him/her more than me? Thinking like this is inevitable but not at all helpful. Judgements have to be made, and they can be quite subjective. If we fall below the line, so that our colleague gets to stay but we don’t, then we have to accept that something they were doing worked better than something we were doing. It doesn’t mean they’re better than us. Maybe what they’re better at is given more value at this point in time than what we’re better at. We all focus on being good in different ways. Some people focus a lot on turning in top quality work, some people spend a lot of time making sure they communicate well, some people pick and choose when to get it right. Survival in the work place has a lot to do with politics, with picking up the signals, ‘reading the room’, and we forget that at our peril. For myself, I wanted to do a good job, in the projects I was enjoying at least, but I wasn’t particularly worried about what key people thought about me. If I’d been younger and hungrier and more ambitious I’d have put more energy into self-publicity, or self-justification. Without necessarily being aware of it at the time, I think I made the decision easier for people. Perhaps we’re more in control than we think we are.

  • The shock factor. Even when you’re expecting it, to have your job stop abruptly is a real shock to the system. I was with the company for 24 years, I had an inbox, a list of things to do, lots of irons in the fire. One day I was busy and the next day it was all gone – no network access, email, nothing. This is common practice and I knew this would be the way it would happen, but it’s still a shock. I still woke in the night in a panic at various points afterwards, worrying about something I hadn’t done, or had meant to mention, something that was no longer mine to worry about.

  • The people. If you ask anybody what they like about their job the answer you invariably get is “the people”. Given my circumstances (village life, children at the local primary school), I’ve had lots of contact with people since I was made redundant and I’ve not been at all lonely. That isn’t the case for a lot of people, they can spend days without human interaction, which can be really tough. And even though I’ve had plenty of contact with people, there’s a certain camaraderie, banter, that you don’t really get outside of the workplace, and it’s hard not to miss that.

So, if I’m feeling these things and I’m happy about being made redundant (yes, really!), then anyone who wasn’t expecting it or didn’t want it must be going through this and more.

I think it’s important to recognise what you’re feeling. Even when you get another job, acknowledge that what you’ve been through is pretty major and work isn’t just about money. If you feel bitterness or rejection then you need to deal with those feelings before you can truly move on, as they won’t necessarily disappear as soon as you’ve got another pay check. Part of this is looking for the other view point – if you’d been making the decisions would you have made you redundant? By reconciling yourself to the way the decision was made, even if you don’t agree with it, you can get to a better level of awareness, and that can only be good in the long run.

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