I caught up with a friend last week and she mentioned that it was coming up to four years since she had been made redundant from her role. We talked about the challenges experienced over the four years – the rare highs, the many lows and her path from then to now – and it reminded me of my earlier working life when I had been made redundant three times.
While I accept that it would be challenging to have to tell someone that they no longer have a job and that the person may not have the experience or training to do it, in my case I felt there was a lot of room for improvement.
My friend mentioned being particularly offended when she was told “don’t take it personally” and how much it had continue to affect her. When someone has invested a lot of their time, energy, enthusiasm, belief and expertise into their role over a number of years, that comment may be well-intended but poorly received in the moment.
I often use the phrase ‘we bring our selves to work’, in other words, our work life and personal life are intertwined particularly when so many spend long hours at work. This is principally true when we love what we do and bring all of our discretionary effort to it, happily devoting all of our expertise to doing the best we can and yes it’s our choice to do that. Such was the case with my friend; so when it was suggested that she didn’t take the loss of her job personally she felt as though all of her personal contribution and determination was being diminished and devalued.
Being made redundant can lead to a cascade of emotions; initially shock then anger, denial, bargaining and then, over time, acceptance, at least of the situation. However soon after that may come, in no particular order, doubt, a drop in self-esteem, reduced confidence, anxiety, confusion, uncertainty, shame, resentment and lack of belief in ourselves to ever get a job again particularly if we are older and may see ourselves as less employable. All of that can take a toll on our physical, psychological and social well-being and it can take some time to get through.
This was certainly the case for my friend who struggled for a long time with her emotional roller coaster and has only recently felt as though she is coming out of the fog. She now lives in a beautiful area with friendly neighbours, family close by and works for a company that values her existing skills and offers plenty of opportunity for her to extend those and build new ones.
Me? Much as each redundancy was painful and took time to work through, I can now look back and recognise that each was actually a gift although I didn’t realise it at the time. I would not have done all that I have since or be where I am now if it hadn’t happened.
My suggestion? If you have to deliver such a message, take time to consider how you would like to be told in the same situation, seek advice if you need to, provide context where possible, offer support where you can and acknowledge and value the person’s past and contribution.