Clare Hill, Owner of Smart Culture Psychology, looks at how, as furlough comes to an end and companies review their workforces, redundancies are inevitable. What’s the psychological effect of redundancy, and what practical steps can be taken to move forward?
There is no doubt that redundancy feels personal, even when a redundancy is handled as fairly and compassionately as possible by the former employer. For those who experience their employment being unexpectedly terminated, the emotions are visceral, with painful feelings of rejection being triggered, as well as practical concerns and money worries.
The relationship between us and the organisation we have been part of, and perhaps committed to for a long time, can also run deep. The modern employer often goes to considerable effort to ensure we are engaged at work. We seek out workplaces where we fit in well, where we can fulfill our potential. Many of our psychological, social, and identity needs are met to some extent at work, so it is only natural that this is disorientating, should we suddenly lose that sense of belonging.
Some may jump immediately into their job search to regain a feeling of control, whilst others may feel overwhelmed and paralysed by the sense of loss. We rarely make the best decisions when in a state of heightened emotion, or feeling numb, so how can we move forward?
1. Social support and self care
Take at least a couple of days after the news to draw on social support. Spending time with family, close friends, or pets help us to remember that we are more than our job role, and the social support will lower our stress levels. Take some initial downtime to do the things you enjoy and which are good for you, such as long walks, watching movies, or cooking comforting meals.
“Some may jump immediately into their job search to regain a feeling of control, whilst others may feel overwhelmed and paralysed by the sense of loss”
2. Address practical issues
Once you feel calmer, it is a good idea to pay attention to the practical aspects, such as your finances. It may be necessary to review your household budget, financial commitments and spending. Addressing finances early will give you a clearer picture of your needs during your job search, and a sense of control, which is essential when recovering from traumatic change.
3. Avoid ‘Thinking Traps’
If you find yourself frequently imagining the worst case scenario, i.e. “I’ll never find a new job”, reframing your thoughts in more realistic, hopeful terms, i.e. “It may take more time than usual to find a new job but I will find a way through this period”, can protect against depression, and make you more emotionally resilient.
Excessively ruminating on the circumstances of the redundancy for weeks and months after the event can keep you in a negative cycle of grief and chronic stress. If you find yourself in this state, you may not have given yourself enough space to process initially. Revisit your self-care activities for a day or two, and try to deliberately distract yourself when your thoughts turn to the redundancy. You can also try out some mindfulness techniques to relieve anxiety.
4. Personalise your job search
Have ever done a psychometric or strengths assessment? Now is a great time to dig out the report and refamiliarise yourself with it, or make a list of your personal strengths and abilities. Job searches can be exhausting, and it makes sense to approach it in a way that is as enjoyable and as painless as possible. Use your list of strengths as inspiration for how to plan your job search strategy, for example an extrovert who is energised by socialising may make networking a large component of their strategy. A good job search strategy utilises a variety of methods, including scanning job boards, researching companies to approach directly, or asking ex-colleagues, friends and families for referrals. Mixing up different activities will ensure your day doesn’t get too boring.
5. Have flexibility in your plan
Having a contingency plan in place for if the going gets tough is smart. List your essentials and ‘nice to haves’ for your next role. Ask yourself; how long can you afford to be in the job market before sacrificing wish-list items, what jobs outside of your industry would you consider, do you have skills that you can use to ‘pivot’ in another direction, even if temporarily? Is retraining or learning new skills an option?
6. Culture still matters
Even in a tough job market, consider the culture of organisations you interview with. In difficult times, job-hunters maytake a role, despite a gut feeling that it may not be a good fit, only to leave shortly after. This leads to disappointment, but also a lack of confidence in their own judgement. Meet as many people as possible during the interview process, and ask questions about areas of culture that matter to you, for example, what are the training and development opportunities? How do flexible working practices operate in practice? Organisations that are open and honest are more likely to have a culture you can have trust in, even if it isn’t quite your dream job.