• Exiting gracefully – outplacement lessons

    by  • October 13, 2014 • Career Transition and Management, Outplacement • 2 Comments

    Years of outplacement coaching have taught me that it very important to know how to exit gracefully. Here are top tips.

    Years of outplacement coaching have taught me that it very important to know how to exit gracefully. Here are top tips.

    Are you being made redundant? That’s tough. There is never a good time to be made redundant. As someone who’s been through it enough times and as someone who has worked with plenty of redundees as an outplacement coach, please believe me when I say – from to bottom of my heart – I feel your angst, frustration, anger, sadness.

    There are, however, a few things you should know about being in your position. Things about how you feel, how you behave, what people perceive. Some of it will be a bit harsh, but will hopefully snap you out of it, because there is a life beyond redundancy.

    1. It’s not personal

    Many of us go to that dark place where everything is our own fault. We have the tendency to start nit-picking at what we had done, what went wrong, what went right. It’s an all-consuming state of mind, and it’s bad for you. So stop.

    Being made redundant rarely has much to do with what you did or didn’t do. People often refer to it as a market force, which natural equivalent is a hurricane, earthquake or a tsunami. They are violent and unpleasant, but you can rebuild afterwards.

    Just accept that the redundancy is what it is, and start moving past it. It may sound simplistic and you may think it’s easier said than done, but everything else becomes a lot easier once you do. So please work on it.

    2. Get realistic

    This will help you reaffirm moving past it: start taking stock of what you know, what you have, who you know, where they are and what the general (yet realistic) state of play is.

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to remain realistic. On one hand, resist the urge to wallow in the doom and gloom, especially since the news tends to push us in that space. Take the unemployment rates with a pinch of salt, because there are opportunities out there, and they are not as hard to find as you may think.

    On the other hand, overly optimistic tendencies to romanticise options does equal damage: owning your own business does not mean you will be getting rich or going on holidays more frequently; staying where you are doesn’t guarantee you will be able to rely on old favours; and so on.

    Do your ground work so you know where you are, what your options are, and where your red lines are (for example, how long you can remain out of work, or what is the rock bottom salary you can afford, etc.)

    3. Up is not the only way

    Sorry, Yazz, but when it comes for careers there are more ways to go. Although we talk about careers ladders a lot, ladders are no longer an apt way to describe careers. Ladders are two-directional: you either go up or down. Careers are multidirectional, multidimensional.

    The ladder was an accurate analogy for careers of up-to-mid-20th-century-capitalism, but that is no longer the case. Careers can be linear progressions, but can also be squiggly lines that meander and branch in all directions – up and down and sideways.

    Today’s working world allows for career breaks, lateral moves, careers changes. Being made redundant could be the best thing that ever happened to you, because you have the opportunity to press pause and see what you would like to do next, rather than fall into the next step a particular ladder has. Change the ladder, if you fancy!

    4. Staying put is actually getting a new job

    There are many good reasons to want to stay with your current employer: you may have a good pension to carry on with, you know the perks, convenient location, you know the people, you know how to company works, etc. However, if the redundancies are large scale (anything around 10% and up) or a result of a merger/acquisition, I will bet my bottom dollar that what will become of you current workplace will wind up being very different to what you currently know. In many cases, working in what your current workplace will become will be as if you started a new job in a new company.

    Yet, because the surroundings are familiar and there will be reminders of “how things used to be”, the change is much harder. This “same but not” is a huge shock to the system. You need to be ready for it.

    5. Be honest with yourself and enlist the help of others

    A branch off of being realistic, with a practical twist: have occasional check-ins with people to make sure you are on the money with your observations. Check in about your options, about how you come across in meetings. Practice interview answers with friends and colleagues. When you investigate options and get overly (or underly) excited, talk to other people, collect more information.

    The worst thing you can do to yourself is isolation. You need to have as many people around and with you who will be honest to call you on your mistakes when you make them.

    6. At work: be honest, be helpful

    I cannot tell you how many coachees I’ve worked with let their anger get the better of them. I’m not saying the anger isn’t due – it is. A relationship based on some level of trust has been violated. You should be angry. But don’t forget that just because you’re parting ways now, you will never see any of these people again.

    It’s funny how the world works, especially in the days of social media inter-connectedness. It’s even more likely if you work in a highly specialised area or are a technical guru. You will bump into all these people again, first hand or by proxy, whether you like it or not.

    You do not want to leave a bad impression just because you were pissed off. This means – don’t do a bad job or leave something unfinished because you can’t be asked. Be as helpful as you can, do the best job you can possibly do. Don’t leave your colleague handing – some of them could be in as bad a place as you are and you not giving a hoot will push them over the edge. It’s not only good workmanship, it’s being a decent human being.

    Same goes for the next stage of your Kubler-Ross change curve – even if you are in the depression phase, use your friends and family, use your network to come out of it. If it is too overwhelming, seek medical advice and deal with the situation rather than pretend it is not there.

    A quick note about legal rights: UK and EU employees have a legal right to use work time to seek other employment when they are at risk of redundancy, and certainly when they are under notice of redundancy.

    You have the right and you should use it. But have a good long and honest think (you may want to use your tip #5 network for this) about your commitment to the people you are working with, existing projects and responsibilities (such as handovers).

    Just be open an honest about where you are and what you do. You can (and should) bow down or negotiate responsibilities if you will struggle to fulfil them as you are looking for work.

    7. Take a deep breath

    Last, but not least, and designed to compliment all the above tips. Before you say anything, before you do anything, before you react – take a deep breath. Consider all these tips, consider how you would like to be remembered, plan a graceful exit and think whether you really want to say or do what you were going to.

    Remember – you’re not alone.

    Good luck.


    Got some tips to add? Think some of these are untrue or unfair? Comment below!

    Got a redundancy situation? We provide free consultations. Just say hi.


    Photo credit to walker_M on sxc.hu.


    2 Responses to Exiting gracefully – outplacement lessons

    1. November 1, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      Aw, thus was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a good article… but
      what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t seem tto gget nearly anything

      • December 1, 2015 at 10:41 am

        Ah… I suppose, that so long as you are happy with (or can live with) the results, there is no reason to berate yourself.
        But this is usually more complex than a conversation over WordPress… Do email me, though!

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