How to deal with redundancy.
How to deal with redundancy.
Redundancy sucks. I know this, because I was made redundant at the start of May. For the last year, I’d been working as an Inbound Marketing Executive for a digital agency, and the board decided to change the business plan. This plan didn’t include Inbound Marketing, so my role was made redundant, and me along with it.
Redundancy is stressful, upsetting and, despite its regularity in the working world, for most people it’s unchartered territory. I realised that I knew nothing about how redundancy worked. In my initial meeting, I was told to “prepare my questions”, but I didn’t know what questions I should ask, or even who to turn to. Luckily for me, I have a colleague and friend whose husband works in HR, so I had help, but not everyone is in that position. Understanding how redundancy works and how it affects you, in my opinion, is something everyone should be prepared for when they begin working life. I thought I’d share some things I was told to ask, and things you might consider, when you’re facing redundancy.
Firstly, you have to understand that regardless of your relationship with your job, colleagues and management, you’re probably going to hurt. Redundancy is scary - a lot of uncertainties lie ahead and it’s perfectly okay to get angry, cry, feel relieved, numb, or all of the above. You’ll cycle through those emotions, and more, multiple times, so while you may be able to rationalise your situation for now, don’t expect that to last forever. It’s important to reach out to friends or family - you’re going to need their support through this stressful time. You might hate your job, but the stability and assurance of money is now hanging in the balance, so you’re still going to need to hear some words of encouragement during your redundancy process.
Each company will have its own way of dealing with redundancy. I can only draw on my own experience and stories I’ve heard from colleagues and friends. Reaching out to others was eye-opening for me. I didn’t realise how many people had been through the process, some two or three times! You’re not alone, you’re not the first person to go through this, and you will bounce back. Easy for me to say, but I have to keep believing it because this is literally me right now.
It’s important to understand what kind of redundancy you’re facing: genuine or personal. A genuine redundancy occurs when your job title is being made redundant. A personal redundancy bases its grounds in the individual concerned, rather than the job itself. Understanding this distinction is important for framing your questions (and also understanding what exactly your company is saying - either that your job role is no longer required, or that you as an employee have not met specific requirements to endorse further employment).
Chances are your line manager or HR manager will be the one to break the news of your potential redundancy. At this point, you enter what’s known as your consultation period. For most businesses, this will mean that you now have a few days to come up with an alternative job role to keep you in the company, and to list any questions you may have for your HR manager or line manager regarding the reasoning for your redundancy.
Either during or straight after your initial redundancy consultation, find out if you can take a colleague with you into your formal redundancy meeting. If nothing else, it’s comforting to have someone on your side who can take notes (you’ll never soak everything in) and be a friendly face in an altogether miserable situation.
Other things to think about (and ask about, if they aren’t made clear to you) are whether there will be an HR representative present in the meeting, and if you can be emailed/given a copy of your contract. You’ll want to have HR there for formality, and also to ensure your meeting is documented properly. Having a copy of your contract to hand is also really important so you can check your redundancy clauses and confirm how long you are entitled to as a notice period. Your contract might also have clauses regarding competitors, clients, and intellectual property that could be really important for you. Make sure you read them before your meeting and make a note of any questions you have, or things you don’t understand. While your employer has highlighted you for redundancy, it is still within their interest to help you make this as stress-free as possible.
The news of your potential impending redundancy will most likely come as a shock and feel like a kick in the teeth. You need time to process the news, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can have the rest of the day off to get your thoughts in order. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to focus much, and if your line manager/HR manager has any semblance of a soul, they’ll let you take off for the day.
- When will my employment end?
- What about my pension?
- Will holiday days be paid pro-rata?
- Are there any issues with intellectual property? Do you want to claim ownership over any intellectual property which the company could stake claim to?
- Will you be able to take garden leave for the rest of your employment?
- If not, can you apply for jobs and attend job interviews on company time?
Once you have processed, and considered any other roles within the company that you may be able to take up (if that’s an option for you), you should have your list of questions written and ready to be addressed at your redundancy meeting.
Emotions will undoubtedly run high throughout this process. You’ll be upset to have been pushed out of the company, maybe slightly relieved, maybe angry, maybe anxious about the future. It’s important to not dive straight into job hunting in a blind panic, but instead take some time to process the news. Invest in some self-care - you need it. This might be exercise, a hot bath, ice cream, or however you comfort yourself. Mentally prepare to go back to the office. Rumour mills make quick work of bad news, so you’ll have to steel yourself for questions, sorrys and lots of eye-contact dodging. No one knows how to deal with a colleague who has been chosen for redundancy (and yes, you’re undoubtedly feeling much worse than them, but people are not good with awkwardness, especially in the UK). As best you can, keep your chin up and stay positive. It’s important for your own sanity, but also to keep on good terms for a glowing reference from your line manager. Your negative feelings are so valid, but contain them in the office to make sure you can walk out of there with your head held high.
Redundancy is no cakewalk. Remember that sulking is allowed (I’d go as far as to say it’s encouraged), and you’re allowed to wait a few days before you start signing up for the job alerts and putting the feelers out to recruitment agencies or other organisations you’ve had your eye on. So many people have told me that being made redundant was the best thing that happened to them. And being 23, I don’t doubt that I could be put in this position again. Being able to handle it calmly and methodically took a lot of effort. I did it, though, and with the support of people who both understood the mechanics of redundancy and me I was able to walk out of that office with my head held high. I’m sure whatever’s round the corner for me will be even better (and the occasional sulk or ice cream binge is still allowed).