Some people have asked me whether I’m sure I want to do this. To be so public in the way I speak about redundancy.
“Isn’t that risky?”
“What about your reputation?”
“Do you really want that to be part of your personal brand?”
The simple fact is that redundancy is now a phase in my career, whether I wanted it to be or not. I believe it’s how I respond to it that will make more difference to my life than that one decision that was taken by someone else. I will come back to that shortly.
To be fair, the people who made remarks like the ones above were only trying to protect me and my career, but it really got me thinking about attitudes toward redundancy.
It’s an experience that’s shared by thousands of people in Australia every year and it happens through no fault of their own, so what’s the issue with talking about it?
Yet there is a bit of a taboo about redundancy – particularly in the corporate world – and the conversations that I’ve been having with people since my own retrenchment have only confirmed that.
As several people have told me, they felt invisible once news of their redundancy was announced within their companies. Some people stopped looking them in the eye, didn’t know how to talk to them, or started avoiding them altogether.
There’s also a culture, not only confined to the corporate sector, which seeks to avoid talking directly about difficult issues by speaking in jargon to make things sound better and less confronting than they really are.
I’m not claiming this as a new idea – there are people such as Don Watson (author of ‘Weasel Words’) who have written extensively on the subject of corporate speak.
Even when it’s well-intended, when public figures and organisations are not up-front about the bad as well as the good, it fuels the loss of trust that we are seeing right across the world according to major trust research. This trend is accelerating in a social media world where people rightly expect to be part of conversations that are open, direct and real.
I decided from the outset to be open about my redundancy in conversation and people seem to take their cue from me that I’m ok and happy to talk about it.
I understand this approach may not be for everyone, and there have been days when it hasn’t been right for me, however I’ve been grateful for the conversations this approach has prompted. They have enriched and informed me through people sharing common experiences or new perspectives.
So why have I decided to talk so openly about my experience?
• The redundancy is part of my story, but it doesn’t define me – just as my career is part of my life, but it isn’t my whole identity.
• It’s honest and real – and I’ve made a living from advising senior leaders among other things about the importance of being authentic, telling it like it is and ensuring that actions are congruent with words.
• I want to share stories from my experiences in the year ahead. My perspective is almost certainly going to be shaped by my redundancy and the resulting uncertainty. I don’t feel like I can tell one without being up-front about the other.
• It will help contribute to my sense of purpose this year and I hope that it may help others.
• To borrow from someone else’s saying, I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
As an artistic person I met on the weekend said to me: “An artist does not use their art to make their life better, they use it to share what they have learned from living.”
Her comment really resonated because that’s my aim for pinchmyself – to share what I learn from living this year.