You are to blame for your own redundancy

Ben Cousins
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Today I will break the code of the brotherhood of managers.

Suddenly there are many ‘experts’ on bouncing back from a redundancy etc all over the place. I am sick of the experts. I have been there and done that, so I will tell you how it really is. (This explanation does not relate to decisions where companies rightly or wrongly decide to close whole factories or outsource complete functions – however misguided that may be.

The scenario I describer below is a ‘general redundancy’ that takes place when an organisation trims staff numbers.)

These are just two of the lies that the ‘experts’ perpetuate:

  1. Redundancy is not your fault

  2. Don’t take it personally. (And they top that off with some really vague advice like ‘stay positive’).

Here is how it really works, if want to know. When organisations contemplate ways of reducing costs, a group of managers gather to discuss this.

Obviously they focus on the areas that they control, and that means that the cost-saving is always at a level below them. When it comes to staff cuts, it always excludes those doing the cutting.

Cutting personnel is a favoured option because:

  • It seems decisive (we are not afraid to make the tough calls)

  • It usually results in demonstrable cost savings (and no one knows how to calculate the true cost of cutting people out of your business so they simply look at the payroll

  • Cutting people means you are not only cutting positions, but also the ‘budgets; that those people may have had to do stuff. (Not doing the stuff that they were doing is never factored into the hidden cost of redundancies.)

  • It is an effective way of getting rid of many of your people problems. So, in the first instance redundancies are not only about saving money, there are other organisational imperatives that can be addressed using this opportunity.

And the weak managers get away with it because the cost of their actions is hidden in the long-term, and in the short-term it shows a saving. When they sit down with their list of people (subordinates) they have a review session to discuss the candidates for retrenchment.

Despite what they actually say in public, the factors that really come into play are:

  1. Who can I do without?

  2. Who are my biggest problems?

  3. Who is my biggest threat?

  4. Who is a poor performer?

  5. Who is the most expensive relative to what they produce

  6. What will the impact be on ME if X goes?

Look at this list again and contemplate whose ‘fault’ is it if you are retrenched? If you read it carefully and you are honest with yourself, then you will admit that ALL of these reasons are your fault.

If they apply to you, then you are to blame for your own redundancy.

  • Your job was dispensable and you should have known that and done something about it.

  • You are a high maintenance person – your own fault. The star in most teams is ‘high maintenance’ (Ben Cousins) –but it is till within your control.

  • You are a threat to the boss – shame on you for not playing the politics

  • Poor performer? Tut, tut. Why are you hanging around in a job that you hate, are not any good at?

  • Been loyal, good performer resulting in your pay being outside the ‘normal’ band? Your fault.

  • The boss will have it easier when you go? Who is to blame other than you? Except for you being a poor performer, none of the other reasons reflect badly on you as a person.

The important thing is to face up to it and admit that you got it wrong. You have to take it personally because the alternative is that the cycle will keep repeating itself.

Only once you have done that, are you able put in place a few things to prevent this from repeating:

  • Adjust your behaviours

  • Learn how to play politics

  • Pick your boss better (and when the good guy goes, follow him/her or find another)

  • Pick your job better (and move on to new jobs/ new projects regularly (learn to love change, not fear it)

  • Stop being under the illusion that you are indispensable (keep qualifying yourself).

And the best piece of advice I can give you; try and get to be the ‘cutter’ and not the ‘cuttee’.

The best way of doing that is to stqrt your own business of course...

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