Down but not out — surviving redundancy

Rachel McConnell
Lead with Tempo
Published in
8 min readFeb 17, 2023


Gif of man falling over onto a carpet

Being laid off hurts, especially when it comes out of the blue. But it doesn’t have to mean the end. Here’s how to get through it emotionally.

People say you shouldn’t take redundancy personally but the first time I was made redundant I knew it was personal. The team leader had already unfairly given me a poor performance review (despite the protests of my own line manager who knew I had performed well). There was a consultation stage where I reapplied for other roles, two of which I was more than qualified for, but nevertheless was refused them. I stayed at the company only because a manager from another team offered me a role — it wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I was in survival mode at that point in my life and needed the income.

The second time I was made redundant, my role was merged with another and I was pitched against someone I’d just hired into the other role for it. It sucked. I’d spent a long time making the case for content and building a team, and a long time making the case for the other role and finding the right person for it. In doing so, I’d inadvertantly sealed my own fate. I felt done, so stepped aside to let the other person take it.

The third time I was made redundant, it came out of the blue. There was no time to take it all in — I’d had no idea on the Tuesday I started work, that by Friday I’d be out of a job.

I put a brave face on my last week, telling my shellshocked team that I lived by the motto ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight’. And it’s true, I am pretty resilient, but that doesn’t stop your brain from wondering what happens if this really is the eighth fall?

When you’re leading a team and suddenly your role is no longer there, the team feels rudderless, and confused…not to mention anxious for their own roles. And you want to reassure them they’ll be OK as your Slack pings for the hundredth time with another question — but really, once you’re out that door, it’s beyond your control. All you can really do is move yourself forwards. Easier said than done though, right?

In the early noughties, Crystal Palace football manager Ian Dowie coined the phrase ‘bouncebackability’ to describe how a team could recover quickly from setbacks. The word became so popular it was even added to the English dictionary. I love the word, because I do believe that resilience is a key life skill, especially in this ever-changing world with such a volatile economic climate — you just don’t know what’s waiting in the shadows to blindside you. But how do we bounce back from such setbacks?

I think we go through the stages of grief when we lose a job. We spend so much time working towards that next role and then so much time working bloody hard to keep it, that even if you don’t love our job, having it taken away leaves you spinning and questioning everything. Here’s how I got through the aftermath.

Stage one — WTF?

The first stage is shock and confusion — especially when we didn’t see it coming. At this point I usually fly into pragmatic mode, finding practical things to distract me from reality and telling everyone I’m fine. People begin asking you within minutes of finding out what you’re going to do next, but you haven’t even processed the information. It might take a while to really understand what’s happening.

How to get through this stage

First things first, take yourself away from your place of work for a while to process, because you won’t be helpful to anyone immediately. Go for a run, meditate, do some yoga — whatever it takes to find yourself some headspace.

If like me, you like to put on a brave face, you may find it hard to admit you’re hurt, confused or upset but it’s OK to show vulnerability. Try to find someone you trust outside of your immediate team to talk to about how you’re feeling. It might be hard, but keep any negative thoughts or feelings away from colleagues for a while especially if they aren’t going through the same thing. It’s easy to spiral and bring everyone down with you.

Keep a list of all the questions you have about what happens next, so that when you speak to your people team you’re prepared. This structure will help give more clarity to your thoughts over the next few days.

Stage two — Is it me?

Next comes the guilt and self-doubt. Why me? Did I not do enough to make myself indispensable? Did I not do enough to make my role valuable to the business? How can I have let my team down like this? Maybe I’m not so good at my job after all. This is normal — at least I hope it is. Anyone made redundant without questioning their own abilities has a stronger disposition than me!

How to get through this stage

Reflect on your successes and the positive feedback you’ve had. Make a list of your skills and strengths, and list out the things you feel grateful for from the time in your role.

Each job brings us new skills and new learnings, and most importantly new friends. You’re not leaving these skills and friends, and those are the things that will matter in time.

Stage three — But I’m angry

Then you’ll start to feel cross, with your company, and about the terrible inconvenience caused by being jobless. Now you have to go through the whole painful job-hunting process again, and any life plans you had get put on hold (because no one’s offering finance to someone without a job), and life goes into limbo. You’ll feel cross with anyone who tells you “it’s probably for the best,” or “you’ll be OK”. Because right now let’s face it, it really doesn’t feel like it. And you’ll especially feel cross with the people posting all over Linked In that they’ve just started their ‘great new role’.

How to get through this stage

You can’t changed what’s happened, but you can decide what you do about it. It’s natural and OK to feel angry but accept that anger isn’t going to serve you well going forwards. Acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself space to process these emotions. Feeling cross won’t last. Now isn’t the best time to bash out Glassdoor reviews or share your bitterness on social media but writing down how you feel does really help, just don’t share it with others!

Stage four — It’s lonely not working

Your first few days of unemployment feels weird and isolating — while everyone else goes off to work, there’s still a sense you should be doing something. You want to move forward and feel liberated, but you don’t yet. I felt like there was a lot I wanted to get done now I wasn’t chained to my desk on Zoom all day too but wasn’t yet out of a ‘doing work’ mindset. I filled my days with writing, and chatting to people in my community and mentees — I just couldn’t quit the Zoom!

Losing your job can feel like your purpose has been taken away, but your job is not your purpose trust me — that is something much bigger (more about that shortly).

How to get through this stage

Despite the pressure to keep moving forwards in your career and start applying for jobs, make this a time for reflection. When you’re so used to doing something every day, it takes a while to realise you’re allowed to take a break. And that break is vital. If it helps your mental health to keep to a similar routine you had for work…get up and make sure you have something to go out for, like coffee or exercise. If you need the validation of using your skills, see if you can use this time to mentor others, or think about what you can do to support your discipline community. Some people have used this time to collate lists of open roles, or organise meetups. Giving back is an ideal way to feel better about yourself.

It’s also a good time to do that course you’ve always fancied, or get some coaching, if you have the financial means to do so.

A community like Tempo will offer support and other people to speak to who understand what you’re going through, and you’ll also find new opportunities shared there, when you’re ready.

Whatever you do, give yourself permission to take a break during this time too — away from screens and socials!

Stage five — OK, I’m getting there

Next comes the rational thought and the working through. Sure, your company may have lost you, but you know you still have things to offer to the content and design community. And you still have much to offer another team somewhere. You start to ask yourself what you want to do next. You begin to wonder whether you were even happy in your last role. And you begin to consider a brighter future.

How to get through this stage

Take time to dust off the CV, and begin to think about your purpose. Jobs are such a small piece in the jigsaw of your career — I mean, I’ve had 14 of them in the last 25 years — but each one will fulfil you in different ways. There are plenty of exercises out there, like this exercise sheet from Amazing If, to help you figure out what you want to do next. Make sure your core skills are highlighted in your CV as much as your craft skills, as these are transferable to many roles.

Oh, and you know those demons on your shoulders telling you that you lost your job because you weren’t good at it? Flick them away. You won’t be needing those guys.

Stage six — This could be OK, you know

The final stage of the process is acceptance. Acceptance of who we are, and where we want to go next. Jobs do not define us (though we can sometimes feel like they do), and it’s even more important to remember they shouldn’t define our belief in ourselves.

Each time we leave a job, by our own or someone else’s accord, we move forwards with new knowledge about ourselves and what makes us happy. This invaluable knowledge will help us find our real purpose.

Redundancy’s a plot twist for sure, but you still get to write the rest of the story and decide how you can make an impact. Personally, nothing makes me more determined to get back up again and prove myself than a fall.

Now that you’ve worked on your bouncebackability, you’ll be ready for whatever challenge comes next — and with new knowledge and purpose, I’m pretty sure you’re going to smash it.



Rachel McConnell
Lead with Tempo

Content and design leader. Found of Tempo. Author of Leading Content Design and Why you Need a Content Team and How to Build One