The Six Stages towards Accepting Redundancy
Been made redundant? Been fired? Lost your job? Feeling dejected, worthless and jacked off with working for other people? This might be a tough period for you - but there is a way to get through it - I know - I've been there.
Did you know that many of the largest businesses in the world were created after the owner was made redundant and decided never to work for anyone again. This might just be an opportunity for you rather than seeing it as the end of your world? So read on and find out how you can turn your adversity into something REALLY positive for you.
When a person is made redundant (or is fired), they will go through six different psychological stages. For some it may take days - for others it may take months or even years. Acceptance is Stage 6. Let me introduce you to a bit of background before you examine the six stages.
Sometimes redundancies are genuine, but many times they are not. All too often, it's the way an organisation (particularly in the public service where 'firing' is frowned upon) can seemingly legitimately get rid of people they don't like or don't want. Before I give you the six stages, I thought I'd introduce you to what happened to me, which in some ways validates why I am qualified to write this article.
In my long and varied senior management career, I have hired and fired hundreds of people and have made many redundant. It was my job. I never gave it a second thought. I always did what the company wanted me to do. It never bothered me. That's what I was paid to do. However, life has a tendency to come back and bite you on the posterior. What do they say? "What goes around comes around!" In hindsight, I can honestly say that maybe I understood redundancy with my head but never truly understood the consequences of 'firing' and redundancy with my heart - until recently!
My 'comeuppance' occurred early in 2008 after eight years of building one of the most successful university business incubation programmes in the north of England. It was so successful, that over 500 media articles were written in the press about the project. However, because EU funding for the programme ceased, so did I, in the eyes of the University. I was offered voluntary redundancy - a rather laughable term when the situation leaves one no choice but to accept it.
At age 59, the hope of me finding another post could be considered almost zero, and hence redundancy really did shatter my life for a while. I couldn't think straight. I was angry with people. I felt let down. I felt embarrassed. My life had been turned upside down by seemingly stupid people who still had their job. I had no say in anything. The way I had been treated led me to clearly understand in the dark recesses of my mind why people of a much lesser intelligence go back the next day with a gun.
I can only verify the horror of redundancy by explaining that, apart from the time I was the first on a car accident scene in the 1980s where a car had hit a tree and a man had his face sliced off by the car's windscreen, and the time in the 1970s when my seven year old son's best friend was run down by a council vehicle and became a vegetable for the two weeks before he died, I have to tell you that being made redundant at 59 years of age was probably the third most horrifying thing in my life. I tell you this only so that you know that this article is written from the heart and from experience, not from some niaive academic viewpoint. I've been there! And it hurts! If you have been made redundant recently, you have my heart-felt sympathies.
In my case, what was worse is the way they did it. After eight years I was invited to what I thought was a meeting to discuss restructuring. I was ushered into a room with two other people, asked to sit down and open a brown envelope placed in front of me. Inside was a letter stating that I was no longer required. No thanks for the past eight years. No thanks for having built such a successful business start-up programme for graduates. No thanks for anything! In addition, there was no offer of counselling and no apologies. It was frankly horrific and disgusting. Afterwards, when I commented to the HR Manager that at the very least I could have been thanked for eight years of hard work and dedicated service and the good name I had developed for the University for helping graduates start a business. She simply said, "Well if that's all you want, we can arrange that!" This was one of those occasions when "Whoosh, Straight over her head" applied methinks.
Redundancy shattered my life and threatened early retirement. Other people were also made redundant that day, and one lady was so upset after around 15 years service, that she couldn't stop crying. It was the latter that made me firmly decide that I, at least, had to bite the bullet, somehow 'dig deep' and find the positives in all this and help others get through this horrific time. This wasn't a heroic act on my part, simply a recognition that I needed to fly above all of this like an eagle and not let the turkeys get me down. Shortly afterwards, I decided on starting up a business and I am still getting it off the ground as I write this.
Redundancy, of course, can be genuine and truly unavoidable due to changes in corporate direction, genuine internal restructuring, recessionary times like the early months of 2009, a downturn in sales or profits or a combination of all of them. When redundancy does occur, the people affected are usually faced with a period of high uncertainty about their futures and impact on their financial situation, etc. Redundancy may have dire effects on their personal lives, such as finding another job, periods of unemployment, concerns about how the rest of the family will feel, etc. Redundancy, even at best, will in most cases, be a shock.
For those made redundant, sometimes it was expected and frequently not. However, even to those who expected it, the shock that hits when redundancy finally is announced can be quite horrific. It is therefore important to understand the mental processes that occur when this happens.
Having been a Chartered Member of the Human Resource Institute for many years, and because I have now been on both ends of the redundancy issue, I thought I would share with you the following six stages you will likely go through if you have been made redundant. The stages might last hours, days or weeks each - and in some cases many months. It's possible to go through all the stages, or miss some - everyone is different. You may also need some form of immediate counselling at any of the stages below if the whole thing is really stressing you out.
I went through all of these stages and you probably will to. What is important is to recognise them, deal with them and realise they don't last forever - all things must pass, and if you have the strength to get on with your life and arrive at Stage 6 as soon as possible, then "Good Onya!"
THE SIX STAGES TOWARDS ACCEPTING REDUNDANCY
STAGE 1: STUNNED
This is where you become immobilised when you hear the redundancy news. You cannot think properly. You are likely to take it very personally and run erroneous mental movies which tell you that this was all planned to get rid of you personally, saying things like, "I knew she had it in for me!" There may be some anger, but this will mainly come from your emotional state rather than from any factual objective base. My advice, during this stage is to stay quiet for 24 hours to let your brain adjust to subconsciously make sense of what has just happened. You will make things worse for yourself if you start up a ranting and raving slanging match with the people who made you redundant.
STAGE 2: DENIAL
This is where a defence mechanism sets in to avoid the pain of the truth, where you insist that this cannot be true. You find yourself saying "This is can't be happening to me." "There's been a mistake here!" "They've got the wrong person." "I haven't done anything wrong." You may even find yourself admitting the facts but denying the seriousness.
STAGE 3: ANGER
This is where you find yourself saying, "Why me?" and "This isn't fair" You start to question why you have been selected and maybe not others around you. You will experience one or more of 3 different types of anger. Anger can come from:-
1. Self-preservation through a feeling of being cornered or trapped,
2. Perceived harm caused by unfair treatment by others, and
3. Churlishness, irritability or sullenness.
STAGE 4: BARGAINING:
This is where you find yourself saying "I need a job. Please don't make me redundant. Give me anything, even with less pay, but don't let me go" Or "Find me something else to do." This is where you (as the buyer in the bargaining process) start to run even more mental movies whilst you try to figure a way to mentally bargain with your employer (the seller) to see how things can be made to change or at least give you more than what's offered, or get you out of this mess.
STAGE 5: DEPRESSION
This is where your mood may take a downturn, as you realise there's little you can do and that no matter what you say, or who you talk to, inevitably you might have to give-in and accept your fate. This is where you realise that no-one around you at work actually cares too much about your plight - they are just glad it wasn't them. You have to start to accept that you are on your own here. Talking, bitching and complaining will not get you anywhere. This can be a very lonely stage. You will certainly need family and friend's support, and sadly, sometimes this is not always given because they cannot make sense of it either. It is also the most important stage to get through, because it involves attempting a whole new positive way of thinking - to get your mind set on taking some positive steps.
STAGE 6: ACCEPTANCE
This is where you start to tell yourself "It's going to be okay." You start to detach yourself from your current role and to the life you've been leading at work. You start to look around you at what else you could be doing. You plan your forward moves and look to the future rather than backwards. This is the time when many decide to open a business, and a high percentage of successful entrepreneurs started their businesses after being made redundant.
This is the stage where you start to accept what has happened. You start to measure your worth more positively and realise that you are a good person after all, and that there's no good to be had from taking the redundancy personally. You are okay. You are a good person. Your self-worth is intact. You come to realise that some things are sent to try us - and your redundancy is just another test 'from above' and how you handle it will be the mark of your character. You just need to treat the whole scenario as your next challenge in life - just like you would tackle a work challenge. This is where you decide that your redundancy might just have been the best thing that ever happened to you.
1. If you are involved in any way in making people redundant, than you have my permission to print the whole of this article in full without alteration and with my copyright attached, and hand it to the people you make redundant. It will help them.
2. Also, if you have to make people redundant, and need advice on how to make redundancy more palatable to people, please do contact me.
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