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On Being Made Redundant

I have a confession to make. Almost eleven years ago I left the large media owner that I had worked for for 14 years. At the time I talked about it as though it was a proactive decision that I had made to leave the business. But the truth was that I had been made redundant.

The company had suggested to me at the time that it might be a good idea to say that it had been my decision but if I'm honest, I think the reason I did it was because I was worried about the stigma of losing your job.  I know now of-course what nonsense that is. 

In truth, I'd been thinking for a good while about leaving. I'd been feeling the limitations of being boxed in to a defined role for a long time, and I felt as though I wasn't really learning as much as I would like to from my position. I was frustrated and felt like I needed to do something different. And there was a bunch of other stuff going on as well which was all adding to my general restlessness. But the action that the company took was still a big surprise and it really forced my hand. 

When it happened I remember feeling a curious mix of emotions. Shock that I was no longer a part of something that had been pretty central to my life for so long. I've often thought back to that final meeting with a CEO whom I respected and had worked with for years. I can remember the words that she used, and how she delivered them. Bizarrely, I can even remember what I was wearing. I remember how choreographed it all was. I remember the walk to the station loaded down with ridiculous amounts of crap that I'd cleared out of my office. One morning I was there like any other day drinking my Pret latte and thinking ahead to the meetings I had in the diary, and by the afternoon I was home telling my wife about it and it was all over. In hindsight I guess I should have seen it coming. The signs were all there. But you never think that it will happen to you and it was still really unexpected.

Yet at the same time I also felt a sense of relief that I was now outside of a situation that had caused me considerable stress and anxiety. And when I announced to the world the fact that I was leaving I just didn't feel like I was ready to publicly admit that the decision hadn't been mine. In spite of all those words about how it's the role that is being made redundant and not the person, it's still hard not to take it personally. At the same time as feeling energised and liberated by my new situation, somehow I also felt a measure of shame at the way in which it had happened.

Why am I admitting this now? Well, in part because I feel a bit silly for never having properly acknowledging this before. And in part because I've been inspired by Rob Campbell's recent example which of-course is exactly the reaction everyone should take when they're made redundant. But also because, as Rob says, the stigma of redundancy is something that we simply don't talk enough about. Particularly now when so many are losing their jobs. It's so wrong that the burden of shame falls on the individual. It's wrong that it's typically so carefully choreographed to minimise impact on the company, and not on the individual. It's so wrong that there's any stigma at all about something that can so easily happen to anyone. 

Being made redundant was the catalyst for me finally getting off my arse and starting my own thing. Over a decade later I'm still here, still learning, and still in charge of my own destiny. In many ways it was the best (work) thing that ever happened to me. My work now is more diverse than it's ever been and I've learned more in the past decade than I ever did in corporate world. I know that that is not everyone's experience, and I know how fortunate I am. But it's important to say that redundancy really can be a chance to set a new course and that we should never feel shame for things that are beyond our control. 

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