How to Use Your Retrenchment to Advantage

Technology advancements, restructuring, downsizing, and other forms of cost cutting inevitably mean that some jobs just won’t exist anymore.  One unfortunate outcome of the remarkable changes in today’s workplace is redundancy - termination of a worker’s employment because that worker is now surplus to company requirements. But your redundancy need not be bad news- providing, of course, you’re prepared to make the most of the opportunities…

1          Keep your ear to the ground.
Retrenchment should rarely come as a surprise. By keeping yourself informed about developments inside and outside your organisation, you will have a pretty good idea about how the organisation is travelling and about your prospects. Current management literature, the media, the office grapevine—all are sources of information. These days, you should be preparing yourself long before the news breaks.

2          See retrenchment positively.
As one door closes, another invariably opens. Being retrenched can provide the encouragement you need to make a break—even pursue a new career path that you may not have considered previously. Remember, whether you see any event positively or negatively is your choice. Career changes are the same. As the ancient sages taught us, our interpretation of 'good news' or 'bad news' often depends on the way we view it. View a redundancy in a positive light.

3          Pull yourself together.
Psychologist Karen Nixon urges us to tackle the fear of losing our jobs. To avoid fear by trying to push it away only gives it more power. Fear should not be repressed, she adds, and feeling our fears is the best way to control them. So, if you notice that you feel anxious, be courageous enough to allow yourself to 'feel the fear' or anxiety until it dissipates.

Nixon advocates the following in fighting the fear of losing your job:
  • Imagine losing your job.
  • Allow yourself to feel the anxiety this generates.
  • When the feeling subsides, make a contingency plan and take action as required (e.g. learn new skills).
  • Focus on what you have to offer.
  • List what you really need to live.
  • Notice the precious things around you that money can't buy (sunsets, children, rainbows, songbirds).
  • Practise feeling fortunate and grateful for what you have.
It's not a nice feeling to lose your job, but you'll gain little by indulging your emotions. Self-pity will not get you another job or help pay the grocery bill. By the time of your exit interview, you should have already begun to take positive action.

4          Be prepared for your exit interview.
In house or contracted outplacement services are becoming more common. Find out in advance about the outplacement services provided by your organisation. In addition to helping you finalise your payout, the services may also include assistance with your résumé, interview coaching, career advice, counselling, advice on superannuation and financial planning, and temporary work accommodation. As well, you'll need to agree with the organisation about any public statement that will be made about your career change. You can't afford to have mixed messages communicated—particularly at your expense.

5          Negotiate fair severance compensation.
You have a right to be compensated fairly and to negotiate the best severance arrangement for your situation. Become fully versed in your organisation's severance policies and be firm in any negotiations.

6          Adopt a positive position and stick to it.
Redundancy is an opportunity to show some of your real qualities. Avoid complaining, whingeing, or carrying on a 'poor-me campaign'. Realise that 70 per cent don't care, and that the other 30 per cent enjoy the entertainment. If you want to let off steam, save it for a select, trusted few; better still, hit a golf ball, go for a run, meditate, or find some other form of relaxation. People will think the better of you if you adopt a rational approach.

7          Resist moving immediately into a similar position.
A common and predictable response from people who fear change and crave security is to seek out a position similar to the one they have just left. A better approach is to take time, to play it cool, to consider your options, and to decide rationally what you really want to do. After all, you only get one chance at life; so make sure you get the best from it.

8          Resist burning bridges.
Business is a series of relationships between people, so, if possible, try to maintain existing relationships: you never know what the future holds. Wish your former employer and colleagues every success and move on to the next chapter in your life.

9          Think and act strategically.
Panic will get you nowhere. Plan your next life transition; consider how you want to spend the next phase in your life, the names of others who may be able to help you, and how you are going to go about letting people know that you are on the market. Professional outplacement support services can help you to do so.

Redundancy can be tough on the ego, but that's even more reason to attack the job market energetically. Develop your job search strategy and follow it through.

Quotable quote
To be made redundant, that is, to be declared superfluous to the needs of an employer, is a traumatic event in the life of a person. Loss of income, loss of self-esteem, cessation of familiar work, and reduced contact with work colleagues make redundancy a dramatic change in lifestyle. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that redundancy has become a significant aspect of many workers' lives today as industry and businesses change employment patterns.

Here’s an idea
In preparing for the possibility of retrenchment, ask yourself, 'What makes me professionally unique at work?' Identify the things that make you attractive and employable. And if nothing special comes to mind, see what you can do to add to your professional portfolio of skills, starting today.

Anyone who has strayed in youth into the wrong profession might gain immense success in another.

Here’s an idea
If you are being laid off, don't hesitate to ask your boss for leads to decision makers, telephone calls on your behalf, and letters of recommendation. If you are a good employee, but the project has ended or your company simply is eliminating your position, then you should feel comfortable asking for help from every source. What better person to start with than the person who knows your work best and can sell you better than you could possibly do on your own?

Don't fool yourself into thinking that the organisation will fall completely apart when you leave. It won't. Take the case of an upper level manager in a large national enterprise who later admitted:

"When I was made redundant I didn't think they could make it without me. But somehow they did, of course. Now the only person who remembers me after my 28 years' service with the company is the finance officer who, as part of my parting package, sends me a regular cheque every month and damned if he isn't an IBM machine! My advice to you is to get on with life."

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This document does not constitute human resource or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should contact the HR Help Desk or seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. © Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd 2017