Facing Retrenchment? Four ways to a Better Outcome
Knowing that your job is being made redundant and that you are heading for retrenchment can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for anybody. Even people who have chosen to be retrenched when options were presented can feel quite anxious about the future and unsure about whether they have made the right decision. Those who have redundancy thrust upon them often experience a range of challenging emotions with anger about what has been done to them high on the list.
Whatever the circumstances, the prospect of retrenchment calls for a clear head, rational decision-making and resourcefulness, all of which can seem completely out of reach when you feel you’re in the middle of a crisis that is not of your own making. It’s important to know that there are practical things you can do to make the journey easier on yourself and those close to you like family and friends. The four ‘ways to a better outcome’ covered in this article involve:
- managing your reactions;
- giving serious consideration to assistance offered;
- proactively seeking any support you need; and
- focusing on the future – building on the past.
Managing your reactions
Whether your job is disappearing because of a restructure, a merger or some other major organisational change often makes little difference when you look at the situation from a personal perspective. Of course you ‘get’ the rationale but the fact remains that your job is disappearing. Your sense of security can feel undermined, plans for the future might need to be put on hold and worries about how you will cope might be parked front of mind.
Thoughts like these can prompt strong reactions such as anger about what has been done to you, fear about what the future might hold and anxiety about the implications for those around you – family members in particular.
At times like this, it’s important to know that strongly felt reactions are normal and that it’s okay to feel how you’re feeling. Expressing how you are feeling to somebody you trust can be a helpful way of starting to deal with your reactions. Suppressing your feelings as if you don’t have them is generally not a good idea. Not speaking about them does not make those difficult feelings disappear; in fact, trying to ignore how you feel can have the opposite to the desired result – adversely affecting your mood and the relationships that are important to you.
To deal effectively with the emotional side of retrenchment it helps to start by acknowledging that it is a major life event. Acknowledging your reactions and also putting them in perspective can leave you with the mental energy necessary to also focus on the future and your working life after retrenchment. The benefits flow not only to you but also to those close to you who might otherwise find themselves adversely affected by your negative emotions and disempowered to support you.
The next two sections of this article offer suggestions about getting short-term help to manage your reactions.
Consider all assistance offered
The news that your job is to be made redundant and that you are being retrenched is, in some situations, accompanied by an offer of support services such as ‘outplacement’, financial planning or counselling.
Some people’s first reaction can be to reject all offers of help. Their anger about what has been done to them is such that they just want to turn their back on any employer-sponsored support. And they do so without giving it any consideration whatsoever. But it’s important to know that, when assistance is offered, it is just that – an offer. There is no obligation for you to take up the offer or to follow advice if you take up the offer. But it does make sense to learn about what’s on offer so that you are in a position to make an informed decision about whether or not to accept the help offered.
‘Outplacement’ services are sometimes offered to managers/professionals as part of their redundancy package. Contrary to some people’s assumptions, outplacement is not about correcting something that is ‘wrong’ with a person. And it can offer a whole lot more than assistance to rewrite your resume – though that is generally part of the core service. Depending on the scope of the services offered, outplacement can present a valuable opportunity to work with an independent professional to review your career to date, strengths, likes and dislikes and the relevance of your accumulated experience. Outplacement also provides the opportunity to reflect on the factors which help you do your best work, the factors which get in the way, and the influence of your own personality and working style on how you work and the outcomes you can achieve. Whilst there is no guarantee of your next job from outplacement, it can give a significant boost to your sense of confidence about your employment future as well as practical advice for your next job search.
Other retrenchment-related services that can be on offer include financial advice, psychological counseling and various forms of training. Before making a decision about whether to take up one or all of the services on offer, be sure to ask the questions that enable you to be clear about what exactly is on offer, who is providing the service, how you can access it and for how long it is being made available. This information is fundamental to you making informed decisions about what support would be helpful.
Proactively seeking the support you need
Heading for retrenchment can be stressful and anxiety-provoking especially if it happening to you for the first time and/or it has come completely out of the blue. For your own benefit and for the benefit of those around you such as family members, it’s important to not try and ‘go it alone’ unnecessarily.
Whether or not the sort of support mentioned in the previous section (outplacement services etc.) is included in your redundancy package, it’s important to think broadly about the sort of help and support you need. Professionals facing retrenchment usually find that some or all of the following can help them make the transition from an uncertain future to facing the next stage of their career confidently:
Advice from a personal finance expert can include guidance on managing short term cash flow shortage, how to use your redundancy package effectively, how to reorganise the household budget until you are reemployed and any other finance-related concerns. Whilst a financial adviser might not be able to tell you much more about finance than you already know, having a sympathetic expert to help you through the decision-making can be enormously valuable especially if you are feeling stressed and under pressure.
You don’t have to be mentally ill to gain valuable support from a professional counsellor or registered psychologist. These professionals are just as skilled in assisting people who are generally healthy to optimise their sense of psychological wellbeing. And being psychologically well puts you in a far better position for making your next career move compared with trying to ‘soldier on’ in a stressed and anxious state.
A counsellor or psychologist can help boost your self-esteem when it’s taken a battering, help you ‘reframe’ a situation so that you see the potential as well as the darker side and help you deal with any adverse emotional impacts. You can expect to be helped to tap into your inner strengths and, if needed, to learn some new skills for coping with an adverse situation.
Using your network
Your personal and professional network can be a great source of support to think about your working future and to explore the potential. Tapping into your network can also yield valuable information about job vacancies that would not otherwise become known to you. And remember that your network is not just the people to whom you are directly connected but it also includes people to whom your direct connections might refer you once they become aware of your circumstances.
Making use of your professional membership
You’ve paid for membership of associations like Professionals Australia and when you are heading for retrenchment there is a range of services you can call on:
- The Workplace Advice and Support area can review the terms of your redundancy to ensure it has taken place in accordance with the required processes and that the amount you’ve been paid is correct (make sure you bring them in early so they can ensure the process is managed correctly rather than asking them to step in at the last minute – and don’t sign anything saying you accept that the payment is in in full and final settlement until you have the payment and payment terms checked by Professionals Australia);
- Financial planning services;
- Resume review service;
- Mock interview;
- Advice on career planning including the Professionals Australia Professional Career Guide, the Work Ready Guide, information on career transition, interview skills, how to utilise social media in your job search, what employers are looking for and how to access the hidden job market (see Further Reading section;
- Use the opportunity to update your skills – consider a Chifley course or accessing one of the Professionals Australia scholarships;
- Check in with Bayside Personnel for inside information on your industry and possible job options;
- Check the Jobs Board for possible opportunities; and
- Keep up to date by reading the latest Industry Briefings.
Focusing on the future – building on the past
When you’ve had a major life change like retrenchment imposed on you, there’s likely to be plenty of advice coming your way about the need to ‘move on’, ‘turn the page’ and ‘get over it’. Whilst these recommendations are usually offered with the intention of making you feel better, they can be quite unhelpful as a basis for dealing with the circumstances, especially if you hold negative feelings about what has happened.
A far more realistic and practical approach is to allow yourself to acknowledge the situation in which you find yourself – a looming ‘ending’ to one phase of your working life but to avoid seeing the past as irrelevant or to be ‘left behind’. On the contrary, your work and life experience to date is the foundation on which you can build the next stage of your working life. The sources of support mentioned in the preceding sections will each help you think about your background in different and constructive ways.
For example, a qualified architect found herself in a position of having to find a new role when the position she had held for four years was made redundant as part of an organisational ‘downsizing’. Outplacement services provided much needed support to reflect on her career to date and to think about the ways in which she wanted her next role to be different from the one she had just left. Psychological counseling, which was part of the outplacement package, enabled her to see that her perfectionist streak had been something of an inhibitor to feeling part of a team. The short term counselling enabled her to ‘reframe’ her approach to collaborative work. It took longer to secure an appropriate new role than she had originally hoped as she bypassed several opportunities for which outplacement services helped her realise she was not well suited. But she started the new role confident that she had made a wise choice.
When you are heading for retrenchment it makes sense to plan for the future and to use your reflections on the past to help guide your future direction. And as the ideas in this article illustrate, there’s plenty of professional help available to do this.
About the Author
Janet Fitzell is an organisation development consultant and facilitator, providing consulting services through FourLeaf Consulting Pty Ltd (email@example.com).