That dreaded event you thought only happened to other people has happened to you……retrenchment! What now? What next? Notice, I never said “You are made redundant” – you are never redundant…. only your position is. You are significant and creative and adaptable!
My personal experience followed more than 15 years with the same organisation, where I proved to be a dedicated, committed and loyal employee who was always willing to go the extra mile. It, like many of life’s experiences, was a great learning opportunity, particularly when adopting the “100% responsibility” mind-set. These are a few of my personal insights from my experience.
1. Acknowledge and understand your emotions and get help if needed.
Being told your position is being made redundant is an emotional experience. The position you hold, for many, determines your sense of identity and self-worth and governs your ability to provide for your family. There is no doubt that you will experience a range of emotions from downright terror to personal rejection. Examine and understand the emotions that surge through you and allow yourself time to process and deal with them. If your company has an Employee Assistance Programme which offers counselling – use it! If the emotions are overwhelming and you are not coping, seek help! Like any other crisis in your life, do what is necessary to get through it. Focus on keeping your emotions in check while at work and don’t allow negativity and fear to control your thinking.
2. Watch your attitude and determine your behaviour.
The norm following a retrenchment notice is for people to completely disengage. Some level of disengagement is natural and to be expected while you deal with your emotions and the changes you are facing, but it is critical for you to work consciously and consistently to check your attitude and level of commitment. Never burn bridges! Do your utmost to leave with your reputation as an engaged, productive employee intact. Remember, you own your response and your character! Keep in mind that you may need references or find yourself working with current colleagues in future jobs. There may even be a slight chance of being re-employed or assisting in a consulting capacity. If you have had a bad attitude, been unhelpful or uncooperative, you will seriously damage any chance possible future work with the same company. An important facet of your behaviour is your willingness to share your knowledge and document processes which might need to be transitioned to others. Do this well and willingly. This entire experience will be a very real test of your Emotional Intelligence and is your perfect opportunity to demonstrate high EI competency.
3. Don’t take it personally.
Statistics show that global unemployment is on the rise, significantly more so in emerging economies such as South Africa. The highly competitive, pressurised and often volatile economy that companies find themselves in forces them to have a vigorously unrelenting approach to organisational efficiencies. The likelihood of your position being made redundant are higher than ever before. It is not personal and it is certainly not about you. It is simply a change the company needs to make and, unfortunately, you are the casualty. This is not the time for a victim mentality. This is the time to re-evaluate your career and personal aspirations and take control of your future. This is the time to re-invent yourself and re-ignite your passions.
4. Look creatively at your skills and abilities for opportunities
Chances are that you will be unlikely to walk straight into another position in the field you have been employed in, so, what else can you do? What skills do you have now that could be used to earn an income? What latent skills or talents could you revive? Think creatively. Were you a star sportsperson in your school days? Could you coach school children now? Do you love fixing things and could you get a plumbing or electrical certificate and become a handy-man? Do you love to bake and could you start a home industries business? Are you a master’s graduate and could you lecture students? Think beyond the obvious and look for the opportunities that your lateral thinking might create. Talk to people, explore ideas, do research and be prepared to move out of your comfort zone. Don’t forget Marc Anthony’s quote “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life”. What is it that you have dreamt about doing? What has tugged at your soul? Maybe, this is the time to do that very thing. Be brave – do it!
5. Network, network, network.
Find a trusted advisor, or, better still, a few trusted advisors. Call on people you have relationships with who could help, guide and advise you. If you don’t know anyone, ask people you know if they could suggest someone. If you have good relationships with management in your current organisation, consider chatting to one of them and getting insight or advice from them. Get help with your C.V and financial affairs. Don’t be shy or hesitant, let people know you are being made redundant and ask them to network or promote you if the opportunity arises. Generally, people are happy to offer advice and guidance if you ask, so work to find your “champion” and then use them to encourage and support you when your fears threaten to overwhelm you.
Lastly, leave with dignity and maintain a strong sense of gratitude to the company for the opportunities they have provided you. After all, they have been the “darkroom” for your development and have contributed to the skills you currently possess. Appreciate the foundation they have provided and build on them! Go forth and Conquer!