How to Keep Your Head Up After Losing Your Job
Being made redundant can be a real blow. Or it can feel like the best thing that could happen to you. Or both. I experienced being made redundant as a real blow – to my ego, to my resilience, to my confidence. I was in a job that, mostly, I liked and felt passionately about. I was well aware that lots of people were also being made redundant as local authorities down-sized but that didn’t help at the time. What did help was talking it through – with family and friends, and especially with a therapist: she was objective and impartial, as well as empathetic and compassionate.
We can experience redundancy as a rejection, as being ‘other’. We may feel no longer part of the ‘gang’ at work. Neurologically, our brains predispose us to belong to a group: to be ejected from a group is painful at a subliminal as well as a conscious level. It might bring up feelings of past rejections which have not been dealt with sufficiently. We may revisit painful memories of childhood when we felt left out and not as good as others.
Redundancy often carries a stigma, which can cause deep feelings of shame from the past to be re-experienced. Carl Jung cited ‘the shadow’ and we may be quite forcibly confronted with the shadow side of ourselves at this time – the side of us that we prefer not to see or to be seen. This can be the part of us that is very angry or envious of those who are able to stay in the workplace, as well as those feelings of shame and self-criticism.
Losing our jobs can be experienced as the loss of the hoped-for future, with pragmatic worries about getting another job, about finances, about the loss of colleagues or friends, of routine and the known. Losing our jobs brings the loss of a vital part of our identity: for many, work contributes to our sense of who we are.
So it’s a time of uncertainty, of change, of the unknown – experiences that most people find difficult. This can lead to feelings of acute anxiety and depression, especially if the process is not sufficiently well-managed by employers. And all this at a time when we may need to be most on-the-ball and able to present our ‘best selves’ so that we can secure another job.
And what about those who have to give the news that someone is to be made redundant? There’s an impact on them too. Some will deal with this by seeming casual or business-like, some may shift the blame onto others, and some may manage to be empathetic as well as pragmatically supportive.
Some redundancy processes are protracted and there may be an uncomfortable period of working alongside colleagues who are not being made redundant, uncomfortable for those who are forced to leave as well as those who are staying. There may well be feelings of fear and suspicion – who’s next?
It’s really important to be able to talk through these perhaps intense and unexpected feelings with someone who’s neutral, not a family member or friend and someone who’s unconnected to the workplace.
Redundancy is a kind of grief. And grief hurts. So if this is your situation, I’d encourage you to talk about it. This isn’t a sign of weakness or not coping. It’s a courageous next-step for the future.
And for me, it did (eventually) turn out to be the best thing that could have happened!