Retrenchment may feel like the end of the world at the time. Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
It started as an ordinary day. You woke up, went about your routine as usual, and went to work. Then you were called into a conference room or an office and told that you were being retrenched.
Maybe you had heard whispers about the way the company was doing and was expecting it. Maybe it came as a complete surprise. Either way, you're probably feeling several emotions and wondering what to do.
It's important that you take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health throughout the process.
Finding a new job will be important after retrenchment, as well as figuring out a plan for the short run, but it's also important that you take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health throughout the process. We've written this retrenchment guide to give you a bit of a starting point, as well as rough guidelines of when you should carry out each task.
Right after retrenchment
Retrenchment means that a company has to cut back on its staff for a number of reasons - the project you're on might not be working out or the business may just need to cut back on costs. It's not the same as being fired or resigning. The point to remember, though, is that the decision comes from above. Retrenchment means that you are not the problem, and that's a good thing to keep in mind during your upcoming job search.
Figure out what needs to happen today.
Don't burn bridges. Keep in mind that there's a good chance you'll experience strong emotions in response to your retrenchment announcement, and a quick reaction may be to respond in anger. Try to remain professional. You'll probably need to ask this company for a recommendation or a referral at some point, and if you remain in the same industry, these people will remain in your network.
If you can, in the moment, you may ask what the company will say if a hiring manager comes to them for a referral to get an idea of where you stand.
Retrenchment may feel like your life is going up into flames, but resist the urge to spread the fire to your ex-colleagues. Photo credit: Pixabay
Ask questions. Figure out what needs to happen today. When is your last day of work? When will your last paycheck come, and how will you receive it? Will you receive severance? What will happen to your remaining leave days? Will you be able to retain access to your company email to do any kind of handover to clients or other employees?
If you have any company property (like a company laptop, for example) in your possession, when and how should you return it? Try to know the answers to these questions before you exit the room.
If you are too stunned to ask or think about everything you want to ask, that's perfectly understandable. Make sure you at least have a point of contact - your HR representative, for example - to ask anything that comes to you later. Or, you can ask for a termination letter, which will probably answer all of the above questions regarding your retrenchment.
Ask for a termination letter.
A termination letter will be able to tell you what exactly is happening to your tenure with the company. You can also take the letter home with you and compare it to your original employee contract to make sure everything's in order.
If you do get a termination letter, make sure to take time to read through it first - in private if you can. You're probably not thinking straight, and if they try to make you sign anything in the moment, point out that you have, after all, just been retrenched. You need a day or two to know what you're signing.
If you are asked to sign a resignation letter, ask why.
If you are asked to sign a resignation letter, ask why. The difference between retrenchment and resignation is that retrenchment has to do with a misstep or change in company operations. Resignation puts the responsibility of leaving entirely on you. It may be in your best interest to figure out why your company wants to shift accountability.
Taking care of your feelings post-retrenchment is not only important but also necessary for your mental health. Photo credit: Pixabay
And vent about your retrenchment to the right people. There is absolutely a place for emotion and self-care during your retrenchment, but it's not in the room with your boss and/or HR. Being sad is understandable, but try to save the lashing out later when you're with a trusted friend who is not a current employee of the company. Social media doesn't count (remember not to burn those bridges!).
The week after your retrenchment
If you have the resources to do so (especially if you're getting your severance and maybe a last paycheck on top of that), try not to jump into looking for jobs right away. If you can spare a week, spend one day doing nothing related to work or a job search.
What's something you've always wanted to do but haven't been able to because you were working?
Take care of yourself
After retrenchment, replacing your job and your income are things that will be on your mind, but keep your health front and center as well. Photo credit: Pixabay
Tick all your boxes - physical, mental, and emotional. Stress from a retrenchment may have your sleeping patterns out of whack for a little while. Try to make sure you're getting enough sleep - take naps if you need.
Make sure you're talking to people about how you feel. All the emotions you're feeling are valid and okay. Don't be afraid to reach out for the support you need.
If you can't spare a week, at least take a few days to take it slow, and don't make any big decisions during that time period. You're likely still feeling emotional.
Take advantage of the retrenchment
Retrenchment can be a nasty situation. Do something nice for yourself, even if it's just letting yourself have that extra hour of sleep you've always missed because you had to report to the office. Photo credit: Pixabay
What's something you've always wanted to do but haven't been able to because you were working? Go to the gym at 3pm when no one is there? Have an early coffee without worrying about hitting your next KPI? See that friend you've been playing message tag with for months? You can spare yourself a day or few - go do that. It'll help clear your head and bring you back to center.
Here's your chance to not only find employment again but also upgrade your professional life.
A few days later - or however long you think you need - you can come back to the drawing board and begin your job search with a clear head.
Two weeks to a month after your retrenchment
Whenever you feel like things have settled down, you can get to work updating your CV (if you haven't already) and finding a new job. (Here's our guide, if you need a boost.)
Turn the retrenchment around
If you have the time, resist the urge to jump right back into what you were doing already and take the time to figure out what you actually want, if you weren't able to do so while you were taking some time for self-care. Make a list of the things you liked and didn't like at your old job. Here's your chance to not only find employment again but also upgrade your professional life.
Establish a routine
Job loss is a big stressor. Continue to care for yourself while you look for a new job post-retrenchment, and don't be shy to ask for help. Photo credit: Pixabay
Just because you're actively searching for jobs again doesn't mean that you should stop taking care of yourself. Because you don't have to report for work, job searching can be a full time job, but don't let it take over your life. Make sure that you're eating enough and nutritiously, that you're getting enough sleep, and that you're exercising your body. Keep talking to your support system as well. They're important throughout the process.
Take breaks - not just to tap your network but also to continue to take advantage of the time that you don't have to be in an office. A good rule of thumb would be to spend six to eight hours job searching (the amount of hours one usually spends doing productive work per day) and spending the rest of the time on self-care.
Don't forget to take breaks, too! Looking all all those job board screens can strain your eyes.
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