I’ve heard some fabulous stories about people who’ve been made redundant: The vision of an older man, skipping between desks while stressed workmates hunch over mounds of paperwork, shouting “Yes! I’m leaving! I’m out of here!” is one I won’t forget in a while!
For many people, however, the reality of redundancy is very different.
Teachers and academics who have loved their workplace and invested years of time and energy to improving outcomes for students, and who are living through the erosion of a once proud institution, suffer.
The pain of redundancy applies equally to many other career people who’ve dedicated their lives to a particular sector, whether they be health care or emergency workers, government employees, or blokes in the steel or motor industries.
They’ve often seen the writing on the wall, and are aware that things are changing, long before jobs begin to go in a structured formal way. Budget cuts, departments being amalgamated, a sense that the story isn’t being told in an open and honest way, create a sense of unease that is hard to shake.
There can be a deep sorrow for the loss of all you’ve worked for, which can’t be eradicated by being told to “look for another job”. This hasn’t been just a job. It’s been a career, an integral part of your life for years – that isn’t something caring, dedicated employees shake off with a single outplacement session.
Our identities are often shaped around our worklife. Our work leads to getting up at a particular time, our commute, where and with whom we have lunch, what we discuss, argue about; the banter and camarederie. The loss of the familiarity and routine and in particular the loss of colleagues can result in grief. This needs to be acknowledged, not dismissed by the outplacement service provider.
Some employees find that their shaken world view has been ignored or overlooked by outplacement services designed to “Sit them down, tell them what they need to know, check the resume, give some job hunting tips, and get them out ready for the next one.”
Whilst that might be satisfactory for some, there are others who exit that type of interview shattered. I’ve seen tough blokes, as well as strong women, desolate and weeping after such an experience. This type of interview is nothing like an in-depth career counselling session and it would be better for all if it wasn't presented as such.
The sterile interview experienced by too many redundant workers, is functional, regimented, routine and leaves them without hope, feeling that somehow they are to blame for not being ready to move on immediately.
When there’s significant change, we can experience confusion about our role and identity. Self-esteem can be deeply shaken. Questions emerge which may never have been thought about before: Who will I become? What is important? Who do I want to be? What do I value? How do I want to contribute in the future?
“Sometimes our history limits our imaginations”.
We may need help to see opportunities, rather than believing that what we’ve worked at, is all we can ever do. Not everyone has the luxury to take time off to ponder these issues. However putting aside time to let your brain go into free fall without pressuring yourself with “I have to decide by…” or “I’ve got to start applying for new jobs immediately”, “I’m only trained to do this, I can’t do anything else” can allow you to be open to unexpected, interesting and new ways of thinking about the issue.
It really is time well spent.
If you or someone you know has come out of an outplacement interview which has been less than satisfactory, please encourage them to seek assistance and support elsewhere - not all services are the same. If the service is provided by the exiting company, please let HR know it wasn't suitable. They're paying good money for these services, and our employees who are being made redundant deserve an appropriate level of support. Feeling shattered, useless and unheard should not be part of the deal.