PROVIDING SUPPORT AFTER REDUNDANCY
Recently I was having lunch with a friend who works in human resources and I asked her a question. “Why are all my friends’ partners’ either losing their jobs or feeling uncertain in the ones they’ve got? And why is it happening now, when they’re such great people with tons of experience?”
My friend nodded and went on to explain that those in hierarchical businesses were arriving at the point where they either joined the few being promoted, or they were moved sideways or, worse, made redundant. It was, she said, the problem with being middle-aged. But then she offered some wisdom. Those that fared best, she’d observed, were well-supported by their partners and encouraged to see their job loss as an opportunity.
For many men, in particular, work is an identity and being robbed of that can be challenging. It’s important that those close to them listen attentively and acknowledge their loss but also gently point out that they are valuable in other capacities.
My good friend’s husband has only just got a new job after two years out of the workforce. As she says, she had to manage her panic in order to manage his. “I tried to take a long-term view and have hope that he would eventually find a job. In the meantime, he built the most elaborate treehouse for our sons which gave him a sense of purpose.”
Another friend sat down with her husband and together they worked out a new budget, which no longer allowed for expensive restaurant dinners, new clothes and gym memberships. For a year they followed “Operation Frugal” and, looking back, she believes both they and their kids learned to better appreciate simpler pleasures such as picnics and bushwalks. “When we did go out one night for an Indian meal, it was such a treat and everyone enjoyed it,” she said.
Others have supported their partner’s decision to pivot from their long-established career into something fulfilling: one banker friend is now a lecturer in finance at a university while another gave up the corporate life to work for a not-for-profit.
If your partner is searching for a job, you need to show enthusiasm but accept that, at times, it can feel as if nothing is happening. According to my HR friend, it’s best to ask: ‘How was your day today?’ rather than ‘What did you do today?’
Finally, monitor your expectations. It’s unreasonable to expect them to clean the skirting boards and have a job within six weeks!