The HR Juggler

The Other Side of The Table

Posted on: December 8, 2014

Advent Art

 

This beautiful, apt illustration was created by Simon Heath, who encouraged me to write and share this story and my journey over the last few months.

We don’t talk much about the impact of redundancy in HR. It’s true that everyone’s experience is different…this is mine, shared with you this Advent.

From the other side of the table, I await my inevitable fate, knowing already what you will say. I hear your words; that you’re sorry, that you wish it were different, that it’s the hardest thing you’ve done. I blink back the tears, grit my teeth, will myself to remain strong. Observe the bonds of friendship, of respect, of mutual trust irrevocably shatter, through circumstance, through choice. And, as the conversation ends, I leave.

I leave, avoiding the concerned eyes of colleagues, knowing that the tears will come if I let down my guard, even for a moment. Grateful for a trusted colleague taking me for a coffee and a chat, hugging me as a friend and making the transition into becoming one. Travelling home, adrenaline occupies my day as I answer calls and chat with family, colleagues, friends, lawyer. I am coping, I am OK, it will be fine, it is all fine.

Next morning it doesn’t feel fine, as I wake at 4.30am, unable to sleep. There’s little adrenaline left, only sadness and an aching emptiness, irrational sense of failure and of fear. I find myself in Tesco’s at 5am, trying to buy a mop and realise that I am in shock, pathetic, ridiculous, not myself. Even just one day on, it already seems like old news to others, to everyone, except me. I get lost in streets I have walked along for a decade, I try to leave a cafe without paying…I’m disoriented, discombobulated, disjointed, disrupted.

It’s tough. So much tougher than I realised from my usual side of the table. The well-meaning friends and relatives who ask what your next role will be, before you’ve even managed to extricate yourself from the one you’ve got. Explaining, finding the words for something that still hurts, that still and perhaps always will feel unfair. Knowing that future success depends on confidence, but finding it temporarily bruised and battered. However much it shouldn’t be personal, it damn well feels it. Fighting for self-belief, for fairness, for navigating a positive, constructive way forward.

And yet, life continues. The pieces settle and l start to make sense of them again, start to see a future and the opportunities ahead. Start to plan for a summer of adventure and for an autumn of opportunity. Start to feel that time is a gift and one that I have been given to fully enjoy and make the most of. The sun shines on my summer, the kids and I make a list of things we want to do, the simple pleasures of spending time together, playing with friends, swimming and parks, seeing shows, visiting new places. Time stretches endlessly and starts to heal. I become glad that I left when I did, that new things await, that I have the power to choose. I start to believe in the future, to plan for it, to want it, to understand that the best is still to come.

The sadness still comes from time to time, often unexpected, uninvited and is allowed to take its course, in the understanding that there is a process of bereavement and change at work. It doesn’t last long and comes ever more rarely. Sometimes I’m surprised at how little time has passed since it happened and how far things have moved forward. The sense of disruption continues from time to time too, the discovery that seasonal norms are experienced differently from a place of perceived job security than they are from a less certain landscape. I mind the underlying sense of disruption far less when it affects only me, far more acutely when it impacts those I love. From working patterns, flexibility that has enabled me to be far more physically present for my children than many others who hold similar jobs, to simply having the spare energy and focus to dedicate to peripheral but important tasks that I have clearly taken for granted in the past…!

I’ve never been more grateful for the strong HR network of friends and colleagues. Many of whom will smile and shake their heads and think that their contribution was minimal, but I’ve learnt that the contribution is measured by the true value to the person who receives it, not by what it costs to give. So, for those I spoke to in the immediate aftermath, for the wise and thoughtful advice that has remained with me, for the offers of help that I took up and those that I didn’t, for time spent together and sharing of their own experiences, for the invaluable contacts, for the timely interim opportunity, for asking how I am, for friendship and support…thank you. It means more than I can properly say and has made the world of difference.

So now, I’m building again. I have an interim role that I love doing, I have some great options for new permanent opportunities that I’m exploring and I know that things will be more than OK. So, this Advent, as the daily posts take place over at Kate GL’s blog, my story is one of honesty, of optimism, of letting the light in, of taking each day as it comes and moving forward with integrity and positivity, of thankfulness for the good things and acknowledgement of what is truly important. I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas, strength, peace, happiness, health and joy as we head into the New Year.

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19 Responses to "The Other Side of The Table"

Alison, I think this is probably the best post you have ever written. And I am extremely glad you wrote it. You have captured perfectly the range of feelings that redundancy engenders.

I’ve been made redundant twice over the years. Redundancy is something you wouldn’t wish on anyone. But, as bizarre as it might sound, it’s also something that almost everyone might ultimately benefit from, were they to go through it. Both times it happened to me, the immediate reaction was just as you described it (I particularly love your line: “However much it shouldn’t be personal, it damn well feels it.”).

But both times, with the passage of time, and with the new directions and embracing of new opportunities that the processes opens up, redundancy ultimately had a positive and transformative effect.

Thank you so much for writing this. And as always, if there is anything I can do to help, please do say.

Thank you so very much Michael. I totally agree that whilst a painful experience, it can be positive and transformative over time. As ever, your support means a huge amount to me – thank you.

Great post and I’m sure it will resonate with lots of people. I’m so pleased to hear you’re coming out of the other side and that there were some positives (more time with family) to compensate for what sounds like a very tough time for you. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Thanks Sarah, really appreciate your comment and support. There were definitely positives and it’s been a really formative process to go through.

Dear Alison,
I felt like crying and laughing with you. Yes. Our emotions are personal to us and things definitely feel different when we’re sitting on the other side of the table. Your courage has brought you through to happier times.

Thank you for sharing such a personal post with us but then having come to know you over the past few years, I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
I am always indebted to you for including me and welcoming me into the Twitter community.
Wishing you and your beautiful family joyous festive season and a fantastic future ahead. Xx

Lovely Bina, thank you so much. You’re such a humble and wonderful person, it’s a pleasure to know you and be part of the same community.

Beautifully written – honest, painful, hopeful, perceptive, strong and so much more. The above post should be compulsory reading for anyone making people redundant or for anyone who is made redundant. Both sides can benefit from your words, as indeed can others who need to understand and see it as it is (e.g. friends, family, colleagues…). It’s not just you who needs to let the light in. Thank you for being brave.

I trust that 2015 will be full of smiles, achievements and the continued creation of happy memories.

Thank you Kate. I’ve been so touched by the response to this post and the way it has resonated with people. I’m very very glad I posted it and hope that it provides some insight and understanding. Wishing you wonderful times in 2015 too and thanks for all your support.

Great suggestion there, Kate – you’re right, this post would be very useful reading for everyone with any level of involvement in the redundancy process, or who might know someone going through it.

Hi

What an authentic, properly real and ultimately forward looking post.

It made me think of the time I was on the wrong side of the table a while ago when things got a little weird. I knew it was happening and had other plans so it was less traumatic than it might have been. That turned out to be a good thing, the HR person on the other side of the table had given the news to a few people before me that day and couldn’t deal with it any more. I ended up dishing out the tea and sympathy from the wrong side of the table. I am sure I said something along the lines of, “Life will go on, I will look back and be grateful.” and otherwise filled in the intended script to a tearful colleague.

While that was more than a little odd, it goes to show it is pretty grim on both sides of the desk.

Anthony

Hi Alison,
Thanks for such a touching post, I can relate having been let go nearly 4 years ago. It takes courage and strength to share the personal feelings one goes through at this time in life, and you have shown both.

I am pleased the journey is turning towards the possibility of the future, and I know your future will be bright and sparkily!
Hugs
Sara

A lovely post Alison. Hoping that 2015 brings you light.

Thank you so much for your honesty Alison. I have been there too. I once returned from sick following an accident while on holiday, and found myself in the street, with more than I could carry, less than 3 hours later – in central London. I still remember my husband’s reaction when I rang him from Victoria – “Bxxxxxxs”. They (a then big player in the entertainment biz) had simply been awaiting my return.

I also had a weird experience in my very first HR job where I was placed at risk along with many colleagues and ‘reprieved’ 3 months later. I left by choice 9 months on, partly because I felt I’d been marked dispensable.

You don’t mention anger. I had plenty of it. It helped me more recently, when I had to deal with a furious, combative group of L+D people who were losing their jobs.

At the start of my career my very wise manager said to expect to made redundant at least once in my career. With 20 years under my belt at my last company I thought I had escaped, that I was the exception. But when it did happen it helped me to be authentic in my offerings of sympathy when I was the one handling redundancies. For the first time in a long career which sadly involved me handling many redundancies I found true empathy.

Dear Alison Chisnell I don’t know you at all, I don’t know your background and I certainly don’t know how hard it has been for you – but I do know one thing – I also am redundant – albeit mine was voluntary.

It was time – time to say good bye. Nonetheless voluntary or not, the feelings expressed are still the same – I still wake up thinking that I am just on long term leave and going back tomorrow. I still have to refrain from setting the alarm clock to 7 am every night. I do sometimes think, as some of my other colleagues also do, did I do the right thing? But like the above comment – I think if I did not jump I may have been pushed – so I went out on my terms – proud and passionate.

I know deep down I did the right thing – always go with your heart I say and my heart said yes.

Emotions I have had all of them and more recently one of confusion as to why someone with so much experience is not yet picked up by an organisation. Is it the grey hair? Is it the resume? Confused because no one offers any clues but yet I don’t give up.

Reading your blog I am even more determined to succeed in 2015 – it is not a matter of will I, but one of I will.

Good luck Alison – here is to a great 2015 !

Great article, Alison, I am editor of TeamPlayer360, and would love to interview you for the newspaper, using this as a starter. Can you email me info@dragonflycommunications.co.uk
you can see the newspaper (we a printed paper, not online) 50,000 printed distribution around London and now Scotland next issue. The paper is careers, jobs, HR and recruitment, an independent voice. Would love to tell your story, thanks
Ness x

This is an achingly beautiful, refreshing and honest post. I’ve been made redundant 2 times, and another not made it past my probation period. Each was deeply humiliating and earth shattering. But had I not, I wouldn’t have started http://www.thehrtc.com and not reading this post. Which I’d like to reblog and share via our social channels with your permission.

So much of what you’ve written matches my own experience, although I went through it about a year ahead of you and didn’t have your “other side of the table” experience.

It was tough, but it’s inspired me to lead differently, and to write about all the things that helped – some little, some large. (http://101goodthings.org/)

From a year ahead of you I can say it does get better, here’s hoping some good opportunities are on the way to you.

I eventually got round to reading this post. It’s great. It totally resonates with how I have been finding things.
I hear you are in Oz. I hope you are having an amazing time. Cx

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