Middle age redundancy is a tough thing to go through. You don’t quite have the same energy or enthusiasm as when you were younger. You know finding a new job won’t be easy, especially in the current climate, and you don’t even know that you want one.
My story isn’t that different to many others. A reorganisation announced that the business needed to take out a “level of overhead” in order to hit the stretching growth targets we had all signed up to. I was the victim of middle age redundancy. Two life crises crashing together.
It was partly due to Brexit. In a post-EU world having a group of people based in the UK looking after other European countries suddenly didn’t seem so appealing. All those hard-earned titles “EMEIA xxx…” suddenly became nooses around people’s necks. The business wasn’t performing well, and so cost reductions were announced.
It wasn’t long before my boss left the business. In a sign of how brutal the organisation was becoming, he received no acknowledgement for his 32 years of work. No leaving card, drinks or speech. Just a sad amble out with a couple of mates to the pub.
He departed disgruntled, but passed on the cheery message of “you’ll be next” to us all . Sure enough one by one his team were tapped on the shoulder and started to disappear. Some went with a show of anger or resentment. Others sidled quietly away, It all depended on personalities, age and their likelihood of future work. Those of us who believed there might be other roles available, or were in denial decided, to stay to the end to see how it played out. This meant taking part in a consultation process that seemed to tick somebody’s boxes other than those impacted.
My skills were evaluated to see if they could be re-used elsewhere. I was actually offered other roles that mysteriously disappeared. As it turned out there was also a big cost target to be hit, and so alongside my fantastic skills was the far juicier cost reduction number. This reduction target was also linked to people’s bonuses, so at the end of the day what choice did they have?
Drifting apart…the bitterness begins
Over time people divided into two camps – those who knew they were staying and those who in their hearts knew they would be going. Some were plucked from the latter group at the last minute, but for most it was a process of death by a thousand cuts. Each attempt to find a new role was stymied by the £££ sign above your head.
It was also a time when you noticed if things were going wrong more generally too. Three punctures in three days in my car, the need to have my hip replaced and a diminishing social life as the relationships with work colleagues began to change.
Towards the end bitterness crept in. Many of the stayers started to get uncomfortable with leavers hanging around like a nasty smell. They were seen as a drain on time and energy. Everyone was getting bored of the whole process and just wanted the emotional goodbyes over with.
The attendees on the consultation calls got fewer and angrier. Those people managing were doing their best, but the machine was grinding on and the cost targets were looming larger. It was no fun listening to people who had spent years building their relationship and lives with the business having to contemplate life without it. I had been through it before , and this time at least was in a financially better place.
A few stood shoulder to shoulder with the leavers, and some even exposed their heads above the parapet to try to keep colleagues in the business, but they were the few.
The hard part was that those people who only months ago you had been trying to pull their fingers out and to get some work done, suddenly reaped the benefits of their position or politics. They stood waving people off with a crocodile tears in their eyes.
For my last day it was rainy and cold. I spent the morning deleting anything personal from my laptop and phone before them being reclaimed by my manager. When I handed in my slightly chewed access card and exited the building, it was a strange feeling to know I couldn’t now get back in without ringing the corporate doorbell. I got in my car and drove away, taking one last look at an office where I’d sweated and slaved but where I was no longer welcome.
That was my experience of middle age redundancy. Some fared better, quickly running into new roles. For me, the sad thing was leaving behind the office banter and friendships, and the increasing awkwardness as people no longer knew how to talk to me without starting off “Sorry to hear….”
Middle age redundancy – the fun begins
It lasted four months end to end. There were some upsides. The numerous well wishing emails I received from people who obviously liked and respected to me. The excuse for leaving drinks and being forced to leave somewhere to start a new challenge. However middle age and redundancy are not good bedfellows, as I experienced with tumbleweed responses to my applications.
There are some key things though I have learnt from the process around keeping sane, which can be found here.