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Ever Been Made Redundant

Have you ever been made redundant? It happened to me about twenty years ago and it still annoys me when I think about it. Even writing about it here makes me grit my teeth and see all those old feelings come rushing back in.

I know it’s petty. After all it was twenty years ago, so I just need to get over it.

James Pennebaker - Ever Been Made RedundantHowever I was just listening to a great interview with James Pennebaker.

Pennebaker’s ground-breaking experiment was published in 1986, where he showed that simply writing about one’s emotions can significantly improve one’s health. His work revolutionised how emotions are viewed within psychology.

More specifically to this article, he also did a study on people who had been made redundant.

He ran controlled experiments where he got one group to write about how they felt about being made redundant. He got a second group to write about more general issues.

His results quite clearly demonstrated that the first group had more success at getting job offers than the second group.

I think the only way I can describe being made redundant is “traumatic”. In terms of life traumas it’s in my top 3 life traumas so far; that’s pretty high.

Pennebaker’s earlier research was around trauma and if I glibly summarise his work he discovered that people who had suffered trauma as a teenager, were twice as likely to have illness all their adult life.

What to do if you have been made redundant

Well the first thing to accept is that being made redundant is traumatic. I didn’t even like my job or the people I worked for and I still found it traumatic.

Now you need to write about it. Don’t worry you can write about it privately. In fact I believe it is more useful if you intend to destroy your writing.

A note of caution – Pennebaker shows that if we simply describe some traumatic event in our past – even giving full rein to our emotions as we do so – we will probably derive no lasting benefit from the exercise.

Instead we must record not only how we felt about it at the time, but also how we feel about it now. This is key.

To obtain the maximum benefit we should write four fifteen-minute bursts over a period of four days.

How does this get you more job offers?

I coach on interview psychology. When you find yourself in a job interview scenario, there is a huge amount of psychology in play.

There is all the stuff we are aware of and then there is all the stuff that is happening at a sub-conscious level. This probably makes up the largest element of it.

When we are still angry about being made redundant it becomes impossible to talk about work or think about our previous work, without feeling angry (or some similar negative emotion).

If we were to read the transcript of the interview it would look fine. And even if I were to ask the interviewer afterwords what they experienced they may not say anything about you coming across as angry.

However at a sub-conscious level this is what the interviewer will be experiencing and it will ring an alarm bell. They may not be able to put their finger on it but it will affect their experience and their decision.

If you want to be able to talk about work in a positive way, then you need to deal with the trauma of having been made redundant. It’s very likely that you will have to talk about your previous work, so you need to move past the trauma and talk about it without any trace of anger or resentment.

Try the method James Pennebaker suggests and see if it helps.