When a last minute meeting gets put into my calendar an hour before I have to attend, I know something serious is happening at work.
When I see a HR representative in the meeting room, I know things are DEFINITELY serious.
My mind races through a million thoughts. Am I going to get a bollocking for hoarding stationery? Have they cottoned on I've been sneaking Diet Cokes from the meeting rooms when no one is around?'
Then I get delivered the R word. Yep, redundancy.
I've always thought of redundancy in the context of The Office. But this time my boss wasn't making funny Brentisms, there was no incorporating the Swindon office and there was no sign of Keith's Ali G outfit.
Post Meeting Stress Disorder
The next 30 minutes feel like an out of body experience. I'm reeled off my legal rights, how long the process takes and what happens as a 'displaced person'. I'm not a colleague, a friend, that person you smile at in the lift. I'm part of a HR repertoire of language that essentially makes me feel like I am nothing more than part of a headcount they are so urgently are trying to bring down.
As I am told this, I try and hold back the tears. The last time I cried at work was when I was severely hungover and no one on my team was willing to do the valiant thing of going out and getting a round of Sausage and Egg McMuffins. After that I vowed never to show such a weak display again.
I come out of the meeting and feel overwhelmed with emotion, armed with a pack of redundancy docs, now known as 'the white envelope of doom'. My face is puffy from all the crying and the fact my HR colleague has been plying me with cheap kitchen roll. Word of advice to any HR advisors- invest in Kleenex. I know cut backs are happening but you're likely to rile people even more if they then develop a post-meeting dry skin condition, in addition to the looming prospect of unemployment.
Like a wild fire igniting across the office, whispers and hush tones emerge. Who's safe? Who isn't? Has anyone seen the missing kitchen roll from the kitchen?
I'm told I can take the rest of the day off. As a millennial cliché I seek instant gratification by 'buying stuff'. Shall I buy this necklace? Will I always remember it as my redundancy necklace? Is there even such a thing as redundancy necklace?
Strength in numbers
A friend calls. Her and others are in the same boat and have been delivered the 'white envelope of doom (WEOD)' as well.
What then proceeds is a surreal afternoon. The five off us sit with our WEODs. We ride a sea of emotions together. We laugh, we cry, we get angry, we weigh up the pros and cons of redundancy accessories. It was in these moments I realise, these are not just my colleagues, these wonderful people are my friends that I see more than my loved ones. They are the ones I can rely on to make a slow day go quicker, they're the ones I message when I'm in need of industrial strength slap to cover up a rogue spot, they're the ones I turn to when I need them the most.
You can choose your friends, but not your redundancy outcome...
In the next four weeks, some of us will go, some of us will stay. It makes it ten times harder when you love your job and your colleagues and you feel like your choice is being taken away from you.
Our jobs allow us the freedom to support ourselves, have financial stability, independence and ambition. While I understand businesses will always need to make cut backs, it feels like a deeply emotional experience for those affected.
I think of my other colleagues affected. One has a wedding in just two weeks, some have young families, some have a really shit time at home and work is solace. There's never a good time to be given this news, but it feels awful when you realise the world you are so accustomed will soon look very different.
There's no guarantee you'll become friends with a random mix of people thrown together through a HR process, but when you do it feels like a blessing. Especially when you've worked with some right shits in the past.
While the five of us might not be in the same office in the coming weeks, I'll treasure our stolen afternoon. We may not see each other every day, but we'll always have that afternoon and the promise of Sausage and Egg McMuffins after the drunken weekends we already have planned.
If you are being made redundant, remember it's not personal, it's no reflection on who you are and while this may seem like a black cloud, it has the potential to have the biggest silver lining.
If your work colleague is also one of your best mates, tell them today how much you rate them. Or perhaps take it one step further, make them a brew because, of course, you know exactly how they take it.
Advice if you are being made redundant:
- Give yourself time to grieve: Allow yourself an allocated time to wallow and don't go over it. There's only so many episodes of Jezza you can watch until you realize you've got the same top on as one of the participants. That **definitely** didn't happen to me.
- Know your rights. Your WEOD or equivalent will equip you with your armory; including redundancy pay, notice, and timeline for consultation meetings.
- Be proactive: It's far better to have options at your disposal. Reach out to recruiters, figure out what you want to do with your career and most importantly get a kickass piece of bling (wait, no - ignore that last one).