‘It’s a Failure on the Company’s Behalf, Not Yours’: An HR Expert’s Guide to Redundancy

‘It’s a Failure on the Company’s Behalf, Not Yours’: An HR Expert’s Guide to Redundancy

About 10 years into a rather successful career in people operations and HR, Maggie Mannion found herself part of a large-scale round of layoffs at her New York-based job. The experience was one that she describes as “eye-opening”. And while, from a professional perspective, being told you’re being made redundant was unsurprisingly disorienting, one thing that Mannion didn’t quite expect was how lonely the whole thing felt.

So, about a month after she was hit with her redundancy news, she posted an update to LinkedIn, sharing that “layoffs don’t need to be lonely”. The response she was met with was pretty damn powerful. …But more on that later.

Seeing as news of redundancies across a number of industries, but particularly in tech and media, has been circulating with a concerning amount of regularity lately, I thought it might be useful to hear the thoughts of not only someone who has been through it themselves, but an HR professional who has been through it.

I chatted with Maggie Mannion (who is a dear friend, I should share), about how to navigate the experience of being made redundant and how community can make all the difference in such a challenging time.

Redundancy and the problems with the way we view it

redundancy redundant

One of the points Mannion stressed during our chat was that there is a need to shift the way we view and talk about being made redundant. There’s a lot of taboo that surrounds it, and necessarily so.

“There’s this big stigma and shame that comes out of being laid off because, whether it’s right or wrong – I think it’s definitely wrong – people take it as a failure on their behalf, whereas it’s a failure on the company’s behalf to have to conduct the layoffs,” she explained.

The way we look at redundancy presently, she continued, makes it a far more lonely experience than it needs to be. All that shame places people in a very cold silo at a time when that is precisely not what they need.

“Layoffs are sort of capitalism and rugged individualism at their worst, and community is the opposite of that, you know, it’s healing and supportive…”

This concept was the spark of something special for Mannion, as well as many others finding themselves at a career crossroads of sorts.

Community as a healing tool

community job

When Mannion posted that initial update to LinkedIn, she asked folks to share if they were interested in joining a community centred on networking, sharing inspirations, and cheering one another on. The initial idea was to bring other people within people operations together, but since then, the community – now named Springboard Community – has grown into something much broader.

“Within two days of me making that post, 500 people had signed up to join this community, which became a Springboard Community,” Mannion shared.

“Since then, so that was in February, it’s been a couple of months now, Springboard has evolved. We’re now close to 1,000 members.”

The community, which now sits under the umbrella brand Kindred Cohort, is a place for all kinds of professionals, whether you’re a job seeker, career changer, or just someone seeking inspiration.

The community meets every Monday (U.S. time) to start the week with some structure, and here they’ll sometimes “have like a networking community get together, [a] sort of informal session, but most of the time we actually have a structured kind of collaborative workshop”.

Mannion shared that the group (which varies in size each week – it’s not the full 1,000 members) will chat about topics like negotiation or setting goals and the like. The main intention, however, is to offer a safe space for people to come together to work towards whatever comes next.

“There’s an African proverb, right? ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ And that’s sort of what all of this is. We go further when we go together.”

“[Springboard Community is] a space to lift others up and be uplifted, too”.

Advice for folks who have been made redundant

I asked Mannion for her biggest pieces of advice for people dealing with redundancy, and she shared there are three things that stand out most for her. Give yourself time, try not to blame yourself and be with other people.

Give yourself time to process it all:

Mannion shared that, first of all, it’s important to “acknowledge it’s a shock and acknowledge you need time to process it [the redundancy]. And you might need a little more time than you think you do”. After all, being made redundant is a traumatic thing to go through.

“A lot of people’s first instinct is, ‘I need to find a job’,” Mannion shared.

“…when you think about this, like Hierarchy of Needs, being laid off hits every single one. It hits your sense of belonging, your identity, your sense of value, your sense of security and safety. It hits every single thing. And how can you get back? It’s to find a new job.”

She also shared that it’s incredibly common for people to “want to prove your prior employer wrong”.

You know, it’s like, ‘Well, guess what? Look how fast I can get a new job’. But the reality is all of that is a kind of trauma response, and I’m obviously not a psychologist, but all of that is coming from a place of fear and anxiety.”

“And if you’re approaching your jobs from a place of fear and anxiety, it’s going to show up in your interviews and it’s going to show in the way you approach decision making,” she said.

While some people do get lucky, Mannion shared that acting from this headspace often goes two ways. Either you don’t perform as well in your interviews, and you feel worse, or you land a “rebound job” that you don’t really want.

“…a rebound boyfriend is probably not the best boyfriend and a rebound job is probably not going to be the best job, either,” she shared.

Obviously, financial stressors are very real, Mannion highlighted, and people can’t always just sit comfortably without work, but “the piece of advice I’d say is just like, at minimum, take a week” to process all those feelings that are coming up.

There is always the option of doing something short-term like babysitting or dog-walking to pay the bills while you figure it out, too. That way, Mannion shared, you can “operate from a place of confidence and calm rather than fear and scarcity”.

Try not to blame yourself:

“Bad things happen to good people,” Mannion said.

It’s important to keep in mind that “it’s a failure on the company’s behalf, not your own. ..being made redundant is not a failure of you as a professional, and it’s certainly not a failure of you as a human being”.

She shared that the truth of it is that redundancy is (sadly) a pretty common experience. We just don’t talk about it as though it is.

Spend time with people:

The final tip Mannion had for people dealing with redundancy is to connect with others. Whether that’s joining a group like Springboard Community or just reaching out to other former colleagues.

“Obviously, this [tip] is like a Kindred plug, but I truly believe it, is just be with other human beings,” Mannion said.

“Because it’s really easy to tell yourself stories and get into a bad place. …Definitely connect with your other colleagues who were laid off. I recommend doing that as soon as you can. And then just being in community with other people who are in the same phase as you, you know, they may be job searching or career changing…”

Oh, and don’t trash-talk your former employer. Yes, it may be tempting. But don’t do it.

Finally, for anyone who survives a round of redundancies, Mannion stressed that it’s important to reach out to colleagues who haven’t.

“I’ve seen this because I’ve been in HR… I think a lot of people, when they stay at the company, they feel very awkward about interacting with the people who’ve been laid off. Don’t. Just reach out to them. Just send them the note that says… I care about you as a human being.”

If you’d like to read more about Kindred Cohort and the Springboard Community (it’s free for individuals), you can do so here.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, services like Beyond Blue and Lifeline (13 11 14) are available 24/7. If you’re in an emergency, please call 000. 

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