Hitting the pause button

by FM Media
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Redundancies have been an unwelcome trend in 2020. Here, Dr Kaushik Sridhar shares about his recent experience and how a positive outlook helped him find opportunity in uncertainty.

Just the word itself, ‘redundant’, is harsh when you look at the definition: “no longer needed or useful; superfluous”.

The loss of confidence that comes with the notion of being made redundant can be debilitating, especially if it was a role in which you spent years working. Regardless of whether you loved it or not, you were invested and now you don’t have a choice.

In an age of endless restructuring and instant communication, employers need to learn the advantages of a more transparent approach to redundancies. Organisations risk creating enormous ill will and harm to their business if they don’t handle the process properly.

It’s an emotive topic and many people have stories to tell of their own experience. Redundancy tends to have an emotional toll because it erodes two of the things many of us cling to for our well-being: a sense of certainty and control of our destiny.

It’s a fact of life these days that redundancies happen, in both good times and in bad. It is largely out of anyone’s control and can come as a shock, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disaster. It’s still important that you get the right job, not just any job, and if you are well organised, open minded and persistent, it should help you achieve your goal.

Part of the human condition is to wrestle with this beautiful, fragile dance between our ego and our internal sense of self-worth. So intricate is the web that tells us that we need to be externally validated to feel useful, to feel worthy, capable and confident, that even such a thing as losing our job is enough for it to fall apart. But, when made redundant, you are not just losing your job. You are losing your role in society, your ability to contribute meaningfully and your day-to-day purpose. Therefore, we grieve when we are made redundant.

Redundancy was definitely not in my game plan. In April 2020, however, I heard those dreaded words: ‘business restructure’ and ‘staff streamlining’. Up until this point, my previous role was my life and, until now, the best job in my professional career. And the timing could not be worse with COVID-19 and the lack of opportunities in the external marketplace.

I felt a lot of things – shock, grief, anger, panic – so in the immediate aftermath, taking some time to sift through those feelings and talking to loved ones was therapeutic. I was not ashamed that I had been made redundant, as I knew it was not a reflection of my capabilities. It’s one of those life events that can blindside anyone and I did not feel the need to bounce back in a day. I took a little time to grieve the loss of security the job had provided me, the friendships I had built, and the map I had made for my future with that company in mind. This was an essential part of the recovery process for me, as it had been my life for the last two years and I had poured my heart and soul into it.

An opportunity rather than an ending

As Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Redundancy can be a shock, particularly to those experiencing it for the first time. Remember you are not alone, and it should not reflect badly on you, as many companies have cut staffing numbers in recent months. So first things first:

  • don’t panic
  • give yourself a day or two to take stock
  • think, and
  • plan your next steps.

It’s easy to be angry when made redundant, but I recommend looking forward to a brighter future rather than holding onto one negative experience. In every experience, there is an opportunity to learn something. Even the worst setbacks can empower you. For me, being made redundant has been a catalyst for something that can be truly wonderful.

For those of us lucky enough not to be experiencing immediate financial hardship, losing a job allows us to look into our own lives reflectively, to ask, ‘am I genuinely living the way I want to?’

Current circumstances have pushed me outside my comfort zone, encouraged me to chase my next dream, reconnect with old contacts and friends and take on new frontiers – things I didn’t do in a routine- based environment.

Charting your own course

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Most people need guarantees because they fear the unknown and uncertainties. Some people perceive going down an unexpected or different career path as a failure. People assert that their fate is predetermined and that they can do little to change their unfortunate circumstances.

Change requires courage; not everyone can take this leap of faith. Changing your career requires an optimistic attitude. Results require patience and, along the way, you may doubt yourself and your decisions. This is normal.

By adopting a ‘woe is me’ attitude, however, many people remain in the unhealthy state of mind that makes them unhappy. Their self-doubt and fear prevail over their good intentions. I adhere to the following mantra to facilitate the change process in my thinking and behaviour: ‘Reality plus response equals result.’

You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond. Have faith and confidence that you can rely on yourself to get through turbulent times. Life happens and everyone needs a break from time to time.

So, press pause today and get yourself back on track when you feel ready.

Dr Kaushik Sridhar is a sustainability leader, university lecturer and start-up mentor.

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