Life After Redundancy – What Next?

Life after redundancy can scare us all; we all worry that if we were to lose our jobs, how will we pay our mortgage? How long will we be out of work? How do you present with confidence at an interview, when you feel your skills and experience were not appreciated by your last employer?

So, it had finally happened. Andrew had been served with his notice of redundancy and although he knew it was coming, the reality was still hard! He was experiencing a myriad of emotions: failure, loss, hurt, anger, confusion… what would his future hold for him?

Andrew at our first meeting was very intense; the anger at being made redundant was very much present as was his feeling of being treated unfairly. He was also at a complete loss. He described how some days he felt numb; he couldn’t quite believe what had happened, and on other days he felt afraid. He simply had no idea what he was going to do. I asked him to draw how he felt. Andrew scribbled all over the page, and explained that he was so confused he couldn’t even identify with his emotions.

I asked Andrew if he had ever lost someone he loved. He told me that he had been very close to his grandmother, who had died when he was eleven. The sense of loss he said had never really left him, and he still felt empty when he thought about her. I asked how he had managed his grief, and said his way of coping was to compartmentalise it and shut it away.

I reflected to Andrew that being made redundant is not too dissimilar to losing someone we love. Yet, no matter how hard it was we had to confront our grief, and to work through the phases step by step.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified five different stages of grief that people go through when they have lost someone they love. Losing a job can be just as upsetting and indeed unsettling, and it was important for Andrew to recognise and accept that his feelings were perfectly natural.

I drew the curve and placed the five phases on it for Andrew to identify with:
1 Denial
2 Anger
3 Bargaining
4 Depression
5 Acceptance

I also explained to Andrew that we can all write our own book on grief, and each person will experience different emotions at different times, so it was important that he worked through his own issues rather than compare himself to others.

We explored each of the phases in our coaching sessions:

Phase 1: Denial
I told Andrew about a friend of my parents, who years ago, had lost his job in the city. Yet every morning he still got up at the crack of dawn, dressed for work and caught the train to London. He followed the same ritual every day until one day after about eighteen months, the bank foreclosed on the mortgage. This was the day his wife found out he had lost his job. He simply could not accept what had happened: he had been in denial. Instead of letting those around him who cared for him help, he had continued, not wanting to admit what had occurred. He had felt a failure. His wife also felt a failure as she hadn’t been there even when he had most needed her.

I asked Andrew what was the hardest thing for him about losing his job. He identified immediately with the feeling of failure. I asked him how many other people had also been made redundant at the same time. Forty five others had also been made redundant. All equally as long serving, all in relatively senior roles. Put like this Andrew could see he was not alone, and the reason given for the redundancies e.g. cost cutting, may well have been genuine.

Phase 2: Anger
At our next session he described how angry he felt. He was being difficult at home and he knew it. He was constantly demanding from his wife to offer explanations as to why this had happened to him, and had often made her cry. He recognised that this was dangerous but felt unable to help himself. I asked Andrew how he felt he could manage his anger better, before the erosion of trust with his wife grew so great the relationship was damaged irreversibly.

He told me he liked to run. We considered how he could build this into his daily routine, to try and let of some steam so to speak. He agreed to do this on a trial basis.

Phase 3: Bargaining
At the end of our second coaching session we started to talk about networking. I asked Andrew to spend time before our next session thinking about who he could contact to help him find opportunities.

At our next session Andrew had only thought about a few people. All of the people he had contacted didn’t have any opportunities for him, and he was starting to feel despondent. I reflected on our last session and asked Andrew if I had suggested to him that he ask other people for a job?

He thought about this and said he thought that was what I had asked. I responded to him that I had asked him to think of people who might be able to help him identify opportunities rather than offer him a job. Andrew fell very quiet. He looked up at the ceiling and blurted out that he had always hated networking. He wasn’t good at small talk and he felt awkward and out of his comfort zone at networking events.

We spent the rest of the session devising a networking strategy which included approaching two people each day and asking if he could meet them for 30 minutes for a coffee. That he was not asking for a job, but would like to chat to them about what his next role might look like and he would be very appreciative of their time and experience. I suggested to Andrew that most people would be flattered to be asked, and also that most people like to help others. After meeting them, he would follow up with a quick thank you email, and then ask if they could recommend anyone else they thought may be worth Andrew chatting to. The emphasis was placed on putting the energy into moving forward.

Phase 4: Depression
“Whenever one door closes, another one opens somewhere.” But, as someone else also said, “It’s the hallway in between those doors that’s torture.” This can be very true!

Andrew came to our next session, and when I asked him how he had got on, he looked at the floor. I waited for Andrew to speak. After about five minutes Andrew admitted that he had not completed any of the actions from our previous sessions. He was going to bed later and later, and getting up later and later as a consequence. He had not gone for a daily run, and was putting on weight as his drinking had increased. He was full of self-loathing.

I countered this by saying that it was great to see him regardless and the important thing to keep in mind was that he could still change things. Andrew was finally coming to terms with the redundancy, and it was important for the coaching session to focus on options.

We reflected on the options from the previous session, and Andrew committed to making contact with one person each day, and building up to the two suggested contacts each day before we met again. He would also go for a walk each day rather than a run, and he would schedule a set time to do this. This was all productive, and by feeling reenergised, losing the weight he had put on, and structuring his day, he would feel more able to establish further goals.

If you’re experiencing significant or persistent low moods consult your GP. Depression can be treated effectively if diagnosed early. For further information on depression, visit:
Understanding Depression

Phase 5: Acceptance
Andrew came to our next session. He looked better, and was more confident than I had seen him before. He had contacted a former colleague, who like Andrew had been made redundant. He had suggested to Andrew that setting up their own business may be a possibility.

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They were busy putting their business plan together, and compiling a list of contacts who could offer advice on areas they were less clear on such as sales, marketing etc. This was great news, and it was good to see Andrew full of optimism. We spent the remainder of the session exploring tools Andrew could use to identify his markets, and other considerations.

I suggested to Andrew that he set himself objectives using SMARTER goals and regularly appraise these to monitor progress his progress but to also challenge himself.

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Being made redundant can be very emotional. However, time spent on working through your emotions is time well spent. Be kind to yourself, recognise being made redundant wasn’t your fault, planning what to do next needs time, network effectively and be proud of everything you have achieved.

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