Is a phrase that is becoming familiar to too many people in our sector. The emotional turmoil it brings is enormous. Most of us in charity work have made an active choice to be part of our organisations. It is rarely just a job.
The threat of the redundancy is of course a challenge to the economics of an individual or family. The lack of a salary undermines the basic security of home, and how to pay the rent or feed the kids become basic questions that can dominate our thinking. This is stressful enough. However, the added challenge that feels like a personal attack on your core purpose can be as devastating and as debilitating as a divorce.
We have been on both sides of the phrase “Your job is at risk”. Senior managers also struggle as they try to do their best to ensure the organisation survives and the individuals under threat are thrown into a period of extreme anxiety.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her pioneering work with terminally ill patients developed a model of reaction to extreme personal change. She found that the change process was different for every individual and that the emotions expressed were not linear. In other words, we don’t go cleanly from one emotion to another and progress neatly to the end. In our “messy” reality we bounce from one to another and sometimes trigger regression or massive progression.
Despite the messy reality Kubler -Ross’s model is useful for us to begin to understand what is happening to our colleagues or to ourselves. This knowledge can help us begin to facilitate support and advice that helps us to get to a constructive place of change.
The model looks something like this:
To take it a step further, as objectively as possible look at how you might increase these skills.
This might mean training, reading, volunteering or something else. When you are looking for your next role that fits your purpose and uses your strengths organisations respond well to candidates who are actively looking to continuously develop. You know change is the only constant, your experience of redundancy might be the change you needed.
essential steps to help you through redundancy
This might be family, friends, colleagues. It is good to be able to express your emotions in a safe place. Keeping them controlled and bottled up only leads to damage and it leaking out of you at inappropriate times.
Rob interviewed people who have been made redundant who are still suffering emotionally and it has impacted on their performance in trying to get a new job. A safe place to vent, cry, scream or whatever you need to do is essential.
And because life is not logical you won’t do it just once. A saving grace for one of us when they were on the wrong end of a redundancy conversation was long walks with Steve, the Staffordshire bull terrier who took the rants stoically.
This sounds a bit academic but it has practical application. After fourteen years with Oxfam Rob was made redundant and felt bereft. He felt he had lost family, and Oxfam was a bit like a religion to him and its values, mission were his.
It took a lot of self-examination and support from a skilled coach for Rob to work out that he was separate from the organisation. Over time he was able to see that his drivers of equality, fairness, hard work and teamwork had been shaped by Oxfam, but also by his parents, the Labour party, and other influencers during my life. It also began to free him up to see how he could use those values in other organisations.
Rob said, “This was a turning point for me.” Instead of the mindset of leaving Oxfam he began to look at moving towards another organisation. Another charity that could benefit from his skills and experience as well as looking for a new place to develop. The disaster of redundancy with Oxfam turned into a happy ten years as CEO of Focus Birmingham.
From your experiences at work and within life what are your strengths? If you can’t articulate them now ask the people who you trust to give their view of your skills.
It is a start.
Then, coldly examine how you have used those strengths and start to list examples. Your organisational skills might have been most tested being a wedding planner for a best friend as well as project organising at work. When we coach clients, they can be dismissive of their own strengths because it comes easy to them. This is precisely why you need to catch them and start to evidence them in preparation for the next job interview.
To take it a step further look at how you might increase these skills. This might mean training, reading, volunteering or something else.
When you are looking for your next role that fits your purpose and uses your strengths organisations respond well to candidates who are actively looking to continuously develop. You know change is the only constant, your experience of redundancy might be the change you needed.
building your cv and interview technique
For example, if an interview panel ask, “what are you most proud of achieving in a work context” the danger is that you waffle and confuse the panel. By using STAR, you can succinctly describe the key aspects of your answer.
Situation. For example: I was leading a team of volunteers to ......
Task we had to recruit another 10 volunteers in the next 30 days.
Action I led the team to do a. b. and c.
Result and we recruited 12 new volunteers that helped us succeed in the task.
And for a bonus point tell them what you learnt from that situation so that you would do it even better the next time!
Redundancy feels awful. The impact on the individual can be devastating. Most of us find a way to survive. We can look back at redundancy and see it as an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives, our careers and move to a better path.
Eight years ago, Rob was made redundant from a senior role at Sense. The worries of paying the mortgage, the loss of status and bruises to his ego were enormous. But this led him to take up the risky option of becoming a self-employed coach and trainer. Now looking back redundancy was a blessing he felt he needed to help fulfil one of his ambitions.
We hope the same for you.
About the authors
Rob Legge is an ex-senior manager at a range of National and Regional Charities. He is now a qualified coach and trainer and a leadership trainer for BVSC.
Dan O’Driscoll is an Executive Coach and Third Sector consultant at Engagement Consultancy. Dan has previously worked in senior leadership roles at Oxfam, University of Birmingham and The Royal Bank of Scotland.