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Reframing HR's Redundancy Guilt

Reframing HR's Redundancy Guilt

Feedback from HR professionals in Dynami’s recent research is that they commonly feel overwhelming guilt about people losing their jobs through redundancy. This is a natural reaction. Guilt is what is psychologists might call a “pro-social” emotion that helps us to maintain good relationships with others. This means it’s difficult to switch guilt off particularly for people that have strong empathy (sweeping assumption that this is true of a lot of HR professionals!). 

Guilt studies suggest that, although guilt is often a fleeting feeling, in total we experience five hours of guilt per week on average. That’s without the added burden of communicating and implementing redundancy programmes. So what impact is this having on your ability to do your job effectively and sensitively?

Having unresolved guilt makes it difficult to think straight. Studies have found that productivity, creativity, concentration and efficiency are all negatively impacted. It also impedes your ability to enjoy life. At the extreme, guilt can make you self-punish. When we’re talking about the implementation of major organisational change, this will seriously hamper your ability to perform calmly under pressure.

Guilt will also make you avoid the person you have “wronged” ie the people that are leaving. It could also make you resent that person. This is not an easy thing to manage when you need to support these people to the best of your ability at this difficult time.

I’ve written before about my own experiences of redundancy having been badly handled. I can see that these HR professionals and line managers were very likely blundering through, trying to manage their own guilt. However, it didn’t help them and it certainly didn’t help me.

So, what can you do to manage guilt in a way that will benefit all those involved in a redundancy programme?

  • Reframe your guilt: understand that your feelings are natural and strongly linked to empathy. Empathy is your friend.
  • Use your empathy: really put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If this were you at risk of redundancy, what would be the best support the organisation could give you? 
  • Get practical: manage your own emotions, focus on facts and give practical advice to those who are leaving. Even with little or no budget for outplacement support, you can make a difference.
  • Self-care: you are still going to feel an emotional drain during this period. Make sure you have your own self-care techniques in place to see you through.

Dynami supports organisations that are implementing redundancy programmes. We support HR, those leaving and those staying. If you’d like our blog delivered fortnightly to your inbox, sign up HERE

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