Anger around redundancy: how to cope
Therapist and transformational coach and therapist Rosalyn Palmer looks at feelings of anger around redundancy. She pinpoints why they happen and what we can do to try to calm them…
In my career, I’ve been made redundant three times. The first was when I’d moved away from my beloved London life to help with a new publishing company set up. I had endured lonely weeks in a bedsit in Headingly, Leeds, the sexist taunts of the guys on the print production floor. I’d worked hard to secure contracts only for the fledgling company to fail. A My reward was a one-month redundancy package. I felt let down. Angry. Resentful. And then, finally, relieved, as I drove down the MI to start again in London.
The second time I saw it coming. I was working for an Advertising Agency on Baker Street London. However, I was in the PR department which was viewed with high handed contempt. It was 1991, and 1990 had been a graveyard of agency layoffs and a deep recession. Three months previously, I’d contacted our clients and sounded them out about working with me.
I asked if I could take clients with their blessing as the whole division was to be closed. Yes, came the reply. A week later I launched my PR agency.
The third time was less pleasant. It was really down to being an entrepreneur in an employee position. I thought my challenging approach was valued. For nearly three years it was. Then the ominous “chat in the board room” was offered again. Yet this led to me working in Charity Marcomms: one of the most satisfying experiences of my career.
In my book Reset! I openly admit to being angry often in the past. I even broke things when I reached boiling point. At the time I didn’t really understand it. I just felt out of control.
Anger around redundancy
As a therapist, I am now able to tell my clients that anger is a secondary emotion. We use anger as a dynamic shield to protect us from primary emotions below the surface. You can learn to identify these primary emotions. Recognise what you felt immediately before the anger. Usually, these will include fear, or being hurt physically or emotionally (via harsh criticism for example). It could also be finding offense, or a feeling of being disrespected, trapped, or frustrated.
These trigger emotions will be at the root of your anger if made redundant. Perhaps it is the shock of it being unexpected? This could be blindsiding you. Your primitive protection mechanism, located in the Limbic Amygdala, will tip you into fight, flight, or freeze,. It does this to protect you from perceived danger.
For me the injustice of the first redundancy was uppermost. You may feel this too. This can be a trigger for old unexplored feelings of being treated unfairly (and let’s face it, who comes through their childhood without a degree of this either at home or at school, from our parents, teachers or peers?). Clearly, if being made redundant really is unfair you must act in whatever legal way you can to ensure that you gain redress and a proper severance package.
Anger is part of the human experience and you want to move on from it as quickly as possible in a way that leaves you emotionally robust for the future.
Time to Grieve
The main focus is to ensure that you grieve the loss of your job/status/rewards/perceived future just like you would a bereavement. Then, secure a new job or career without any rancour for what has happened. An an employer will be sympathetic to the Covid catastrophe that may have happened to you. Nevertheless, they will not want you on their team if you are still full of resentment.
So how can you deal effectively with your anger after being made redundant? What happens in practice is that people tend to either express it or suppress it or calm it.
Let it Out
You may want to express it at first.
Go for a drive and scream inside the car (not in traffic) or use a healthy way of expressing it like journaling and getting your feelings on paper. Do not suppress it. It won’t go away and this is like creating a pressure cooker that leads to dis-ease both mentally or physically. You can calm it through breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, a walk-in nature, more vigorous exercise, a long bath, or whatever works for you.
Here is an effective and simple exercise that helped me in the past and I know works for many clients.
Sit with your anger and say to yourself: “I am angry because I am feeling (insert underlying/trigger emotion here…. e.g. hurt). I am feeling hurt because I feel (dig a bit deeper and find the feeling e.g. let down) and I feel let down because……”.
This exercise allowed me to see that my anger was repeatedly part of an old pattern.
Another way to gain clarity in any situation where you become angry is to ask yourself: “What is it in me that becomes angry at this person/situation?” and also “What is it about this person/situation that makes me angry?”. This is because it is easier to change yourself and your reactions to people and situations than it is to change the external world. Tempting as it may seem to retire from the world and live on a desert island, I have actually tried this and the truth is that you always take yourself with you. Self-evidently it is a good idea to remove yourself as much as possible from trigger people and situations, but this may not always be entirely possible as we live in families and communities and work with others.
So, to help you, here is a useful exercise that you can do anytime you are angry.
Let’s take an example. Someone has made a derogatory remark about your appearance.
What is important in this exercise is to keep personal language about the other person or ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ out of the second column.
So, keep it to ‘I feel that I am not valued for who I am’ rather than “He/she should value me for who I am”. This pushes the problem onto them and stops you from looking at what you bring to this situation.
You can, if you want, notice that the third set of responses in the right-hand column could be drilled down even further as underneath it all is a primitive fear of being annihilated: either through rejection or fatal harm. As you will know, we are hardwired to avoid such situations and our bodies can easily kick into fight or flight mode. This is really unhelpful and unhealthy as it will flood your body with cortisol and cloud clear thinking.
An added tool in your toolkit to get you away from anger around redundancy is to then ask yourself: ‘What else could this mean?’.
Sticking with the example of the hurtful comments about your appearance then this could also mean (for example) that the other person:
- may have different values that govern how they think people should look.
- has your best interest at heart and wants you to realise that how you look sends certain signals which you may not want to send (again this is according to their values perhaps, or it may be useful feedback for you).
- did not think before they spoke and it was of no significance to them. It may have even been a poor attempt at humour.
- was simply being clumsy and did not intend to hurt you.
Just realising that your first response to the person/situation isn’t the only possible explanation or response.
You may, having thought about it for a while, concluded that the other person is out of line by making such personal comments and that this cannot be ignored. However, you will then take your power back as you can choose when and how to address this.
All of the ways to deal with your anger allow you to take your control back. In an uncertain world that is the best defence you can possibly give yourself.
Rosalyn Palmer is a Transformational Coach and Therapist, author, columnist and broadcaster. She is UK based and has an international teletherapy private practice as an Advanced Rapid Transformational Therapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and award-winning coach.
Rosalyn is the wellbeing expert on radio show Girls Around Town and for The Newark Advertiser newspaper. She features regularly on podcasts and in many publications for her easy to understand mental health advice.
As author of the award-winning self-help book: ‘Reset! A Blueprint for a Better Life’ she shares many of her own former challenges as a stressed-out MD of a leading London PR agency and then offers practical advice for readers to create more balanced lives. Rosalyn is now also a co-author of Amazon No.1 bestselling self-help books ‘Ignite Your Life for Women’, ‘Ignite Your Female Leadership’ and ‘Ignite for Female Changemakers’.
A member of the National Council of Psychotherapists; General Hypnotherapy Register & Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.
Formerly the MD/Founder of Award winning PR agency RPPR, Head of Marketing for an International charity and Head of Insight for a T&D company, and with an enviable CV from leading London agencies in the 80s and 90s, Rosalyn has grown from many challenging life experiences. This colours and tempers her writing, broadcasting and speaking.
If you’ve been made redundant and would like to talk over how we can best help you, please contact us to arrange a session.