Embracing Unwanted Change

We all need to deal with unwanted change during times in our life - relationship breakdowns and health crises are but two. But today's article focuses in particular, on those people who have been made, or fear being made, redundant.

It's an awful word, isn't it? You could be forgiven for thinking it means that you have passed your 'used by' date and are of no further use. We know this isn't true, of course. But there are extraordinarily powerful feelings of loss and uncertainty that go with being made redundant.

Change is part of life. No doubt about it. And many of these changes are unwanted. I remember once being made redundant from a middle-management role I had. The community organisation I worked for was having financial difficulties and were looking for ways to save money. A number of staff were moved on over a period of time. I was one of them.

For a time, I felt deeply betrayed and that all of my efforts on behalf of that organisation were totally unappreciated.

I look back on it now with a different perspective - thinking that they did me a favour in giving me the push I needed to go into private practice - which was a good move for me. This move also prompted me to grow in lots of different ways - writing a regular column for the newspaper, specialising in relationship counselling, and also developing the speaking part of my business.

It's easy for me to say now, of course. But if you are currently dealing with a major unwanted change, it can be very hard going.

If you are currently dealing with an unwanted change like redundancy, here are five things you can do to help you to adjust and feel more in control of your life.

  1. Express the pain. Redundancy or the threat of redundancy triggers profound feelings of loss for many. While some might be jumping for joy at the prospect of a pay-out or early retirement, others will be deeply feeling the loss of certainty with their income, the loss of identity associated with the role they had, and anxiety about the future. We are right to feel these emotions and we are better off when we express them.

    But individuals often express loss in different ways. I was recently party to a conversation between two men who had just been made redundant. Let's just say a lot of colourful language was used when they were speaking about their experience. At a later time, I joked with one of the men, referring to the colourful language as 'concisely expressed empathy'.

    Emotinal pain is better out than in. Pain that is not expressed tends to come out through depression, anxiety, health problems, or out-of-character behaviour. It is better expressed through talking to support people, exercise, activity of some sort, or writing. 
  2. Put a time limit on the negative emotions. On the one hand, we are only healed from suffering by experiencing it to the full. But on the other hand, we also need to put a time limit on these emotions so we do not stay in that place forever.

    Perhaps we might say to ourselves that it is time to focus our energy elsewhere. Or we might balance both of these needs by spending part of the day allowing ourselves to be miserable and the remainder exploring our options for the future.
  3. Find a helpful mindset. If you are like most people, your initial reaction to a redundancy might be fearing major financial loss - perhaps losing your home or never being employed again. These are very real concerns.

    But try to keep in mind that the vast majority of things we worry about never happen. And although it is very human to think this way, you probably won't be thinking this way in 3 months time. If a further major loss is likely, here you need to take action to minimise the loss or adjust to this reality.

    Other people find it helpful to think that this is an opportunity to explore doing something altogether different. Some people feel awful about what has happened, but accept the situation and endeavour to make the best of it. Others keep some perspective, reminding themselves that there are others in far more worse situations. 

    If you feel personally offended by the decision or how it was handled, try not to take it personally if you can. Realise instead that it was most likely driven by financial circumstances or strategic or political decisions taken at a much higher level.  
  4. Take action. We always feel better and more in control when we are taking action of some sort. In regard to redundancy, such actions could be exploring whether early retirement is an option. Or considering how your strengths and interests can be applied elsewhere.

    The general rule is that activity helps to produce clarity. Certainly, the financial uncertainty you may be feeling can also be a powerful motivator to get busy exploring options or taking steps in the direction you want to go. 
  5. Surround yourself with supportive people. For me, allowing myself to seek out and access support was one of the most helpful things I did. When family told me they weren't worried for my future, this made me think they could see something in me that I couldn't see myself. Their belief in me helped me to believe in myself.

    I also remember gaining good advice from my accountant, other self-employed people, and a business mentor. I was also active in two associations which supported the development of my business. Good people for you may well be your loved ones. But they could also be your financial advisor, counsellor, business mentor, or careers guidance professional.

If you are currently dealing with a major, unwanted change in your life, I certainly send good thoughts your way. And my wish for you that you will be able to speedily adjust and regain certainty over your life.

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