It’s a plain fact that it’s not viable for a business to employ a constant number of staff. When things are going well, hiring is a key strategy so that a business can keep up with its customers’ demands. But when a business is hit hard – for instance, with increased competition, falling profits, a takeover or an economic downturn – redundancies often need to be made. When talking about redundancy, one’s attention is generally drawn to ‘the state of the economy’ but what about the psychological impact it has on the individual?
Some individuals are able to cope surprisingly well with redundancy; they can rationalise it as a normal part of life and see it as an opening to explore new opportunities and experiences. Others, however, find themselves and their lives around them devastated. Reports show that many individuals manifest behaviour similar to that of bereavement: shock, disbelief, anger, denial, and depression. We spend so much of our time at work that our job becomes part of our identity, so it’s hardly surprising that individuals feel a loss when faced with redundancy. Given that many psychologists claim that we all have autistic tendencies, the change and instability that comes with redundancy is undoubtedly daunting. If put in this situation, the majority of us would worry about how to provide for ourselves and our family. Moreover, how difficult might it be to find a new job? This question is particularly pertinent for older individuals.
And what about ‘the survivors?’ The impact on those who manage to escape redundancy is often overlooked. Remaining employees often feel guilty, unmotivated, at a loss because they’ve lost valued work colleagues, or fearful for their own job. According to a survey carried out by the CIPD, 20% of workers are worried about losing their jobs. Conversely, the survivors sometimes feel envious of their ex-colleagues’ new-found freedom. Making staff redundant is the hardest element of managing staff but it would be a mistake to think that having made the redundancies, the job is done. The key to good management is to deal with the process more holistically, considering not only the victims of redundancy, but those left behind – if these members of staff aren’t well managed, a business may well see detrimental effects on its productivity and find itself in a catch 22 situation.
In my opinion, the psychological impact of redundancy is grossly underestimated. It’s the typical and deep-rooted British attitude of “one mustn’t grumble” that needs to be contended with here. We shouldn’t act like redundancy is easy, sweeping it under the carpet and feeling embarrassed about our emotion towards the situation. Instead, individuals need to be reassured and supported through the change. They need to be reminded that it’s the job that has been made redundant, and not the person. Moreover, they should remember that they’re as good as they were the month before the changes were announced. After all, redundancy is generally a cause of factors beyond an individual’s control. Most importantly, individuals affected by redundancy should focus on turning an apparent setback into a triumph; who knows what heady heights they may be able to reach, once they’ve overcome the hard bit – obtaining a new role…