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Surviving redundancy

Being made redundant can knock you sideways and it’s natural to need a period of readjustment. To help you move on quicker it’s important to understand the psychological challenges you’ll be facing. Keeping control of your emotions will ensure you take something positive from the experience – whether that’s using a redundancy payout for a well-deserved holiday or reassessing your skill set.

According to Professor John Arnold, an occupational psychologist at Loughborough University Business School, the key emotions a person who has recently been made redundant is likely to experience are:

Shock
Anger
Depression
Guilt
Relief


Shock


Even if the writing was on the wall, the actual moment you are made redundant will come as a shock. You might even feel disbelief and expect your employer to change their mind or admit they have made a mistake.

But as Arnold points out, “that feeling is soon shown to be ill-founded because people are very rarely called back.”


Anger


After shock comes anger. This could be anger towards your company for letting you go or anger at colleagues you feel should have gone instead.

It’s important not to let these feelings consume you as they may stop you addressing any issues that led to your dismissal. “Make sure that anger and blaming others for your redundancy doesn’t blind you to your own limitations. Perhaps there are things you could have done (for example, training, gaining new qualifications or expanding the range of tasks you can perform) that might have helped you avoid the chop”, warns Arnold.

“Remember that limitations in what you can offer to potential employers right now aren’t necessarily limitations of you as a person – you can usually do something about them.”


Depression


“It’s common for people who are unemployed for any length of time to experience negative moods and possibly depression once the worst of any anger has subsided.”

Arnold explains depression can be one of the most difficult emotions to overcome because it can easily lead to a downward spiral.

“Depression goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem and a lack of energy. You feel bad about yourself and low in energy, so you don’t put much effort into job applications, so you aren’t successful, which makes you feel worse about yourself, and so on.

“It’s really important to try to remember that you are not worthless, that you do have something to offer. And, while you may not be successful immediately, in the end you will be able to convince an employer of that”.

Depression is a serious condition and you should seek medical help if you feel it is becoming too much to handle.


Guilt

Many people experience guilt after being made redundant. Often it’s a result of feeling people have been let down, such as a partner or children. But it’s important not to blame yourself as guilt can create distance between you and the people you need the most. If you can assess the situation objectively it’s likely you’ll find factors out of your control, like a sluggish economy, were the cause, and it will be easier to accept the support of loved ones.


Relief


Yes, sometimes, you may feel relief that the uncertainty about being made redundant is over. Often the atmosphere in a company where redundancies are planned is unpleasant. For months morale could have been low and managers may have been taking their stress out on employees. In these situations, regardless of how unfortunate a redundancy may be, you’ll probably feel glad to be out.


How to help a loved one who has been made redundant

It can be difficult to know how to comfort someone who has been made redundant: come across too downbeat and you could sap any optimism or positive thinking that person has left; come across too cheerful and you risk trivialising the situation or showing a lack of empathy.

“It’s usually no good telling a person who has just been made redundant that this may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them, even if it’s true.”

What Arnold advises is to just be there:

“It is important to just be around them as they experience these emotions; try not to counter them with rationality or cheerful ‘chin up’ messages – at least not at first,” he says. “Instead, help them in practical things like job searching and CV updating”.


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