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My name’s not in the box!

by Nancy Jones
02 March 2009
BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL ETHICS;
SOCIETY, RELATIONSHIPS AND CULTURE
Even if you work for a company that invests in a formal program to assist people in a new job search when they are made redundant, nobody can quite prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster that follows, writes Nancy Jones.
 
What the hell happened? You know you’ve been doing a great job. Your last performance review was very good. But now your role has gone (remember, it’s the role that has been made redundant, not you).
 
Confirmed at the very public meeting when the new organisational chart was blown up on the big screen – your name wasn’t in a box (sorry, your position wasn’t in a box). The person sitting next to you had a box, the person you go to the gym with had a box, some people had to apply for their boxes again – but your role no longer existed in the organisational chart. Now that hurts.
 
Like thousands of others, I’ve just been made redundant. I’ve heard that some companies simply hand you an envelope, and if yours happens to be red, well, that’s your caring communication for you’ve just been made redundant: please leave the building – now!
 
What’s worse, a swift kick out the door, or as in my case, the painful process of a formal program which involves the opportunity to be ‘redeployed’ within the company, before ‘retrenchment and redundancy’?

So what’s worse, a swift kick out the door, or as in my case, the painful process of a formal program which involves the opportunity to be ‘redeployed’ within the company, before ‘retrenchment and redundancy’?
 
Given the global financial crisis, unless you walk away with twelve months salary in your pocket, getting another job is probably the most important thing to work towards.
 
For me, after the initial shock and disbelief, I found that absolute misery set in like a morning mist that struggles to lift all day. And even on those days when I started out in a relatively positive state, occasionally that very same misery came crashing down upon me like ocean waves. Worst case scenario, I’d find myself engulfed in a dumper that would set off a desperate battle to avoid tears or have a complete meltdown.
 
Along with other colleagues who are being made redundant, I’ve been offered redeployment and a supportive program through my workplace. Through speaking to a doctor and friends, I’ve learned that losing a job in this way often requires a traditional grieving process that starts as soon as you learn your name isn’t in a box.
 
So what are the accepted grief stages?
  1. Numbness/Denial
  2. Anger/Guilt
  3. Bargaining (imagining the ‘what ifs’)
  4. Sadness
  5. Acceptance

Although I am truly grateful for the support my workplace offers to those of us who may eventually be shown the door, I still must endure the daily grind of:
  • People who tend to treat you as a pariah, invisible or more like a new virus that you shouldn’t open up to or speak to
  • People who think you feel better when they tell you they’ve been made redundant three times – only to learn that they have managed to pay the house, the car and the holiday home off and their experience is not at all similar with yours (this is my first time and I have only been with the company for two years)
  • People who just get on with their job, because they have got one, and appear not to give a toss either way (I remain faithful in humanity, and don’t believe this is the case).
 
Thank goodness for those very special individuals who actually ask if you are okay and are genuinely very sorry to hear about your loss (the only problem with this one is that you just want to burst into tears!).
 
I have heard of people who simply walked out after viewing the presentation full of everyone’s names in boxes except their own. For me, this was not possible: I have to go through the ‘redeployment, retrenchment, and then redundancy’ process – not doing this would jeopardise my compensation payout. As the bread winner of the family, I have to do everything possible for optimal dollars.
 
Ah, the payout! The big topic of discussion. The holy grail.
 
If you’re lucky to get one, a payout is supposed to solve all your problems: you can pay some off your mortgage, you can go on a well-needed holiday, you can relax for a while.
 
Hello? Hasn’t anybody heard there is a global financial crisis? While a payout provides some comfort and compensation, it is NOT a cure to the emotional rollercoaster of redundancy.
 
Whilst it is often claimed that redundancy is not about you (it’s the role remember?), the instant you are made redundant, it most definitely is now about YOU. It follows that you have to do whatever you can to make sure you stay healthy and happy, and this is something you might need to work at for a while.
 
Bereaved people often show symptoms similar to those of depression. This too is okay, and if you need it, I urge you to seek help from a doctor. If you are one of the lucky ones who can take this sort of thing in your stride, good luck to you and with your job hunting.
 
I want to take this opportunity to ask everyone to spare a thought for those people who have not been as fortunate as others in securing their positions during a round of workplace redundancies or restructures. You might even want to take them out for a coffee.


At the time of writing this article, Nancy Jones had applied for three internal positions within the banking and finance company that made her Senior Executive role redundant. Hopefully she will know the outcome of these interviews by the end of March 2009 and whether the long process of redeployment was worth the added effort of keeping her chin up, continuing to do the job that was made redundant and playing to win.