Dealing with anger over redundancy

Shock and disbelief tend to be relatively short-lived, but anger can seriously affect your ability to get a new job. Anger can also affect the way you talk to yourself internally, making you unnecessarily negative about life and your hopes for getting back into work. During your job search, you will constantly need to ‘tell your story’ – introduce yourself and tell people how you came to be at this point in your career. The merest suggestion of anger or negativity – either directly expressed or through cynicism, frustration or sarcasm – is a major turn-off, and can seriously damage people’s initial perception of you. So, anger needs to be dealt with, quickly, before you start approaching recruiters and employers.

Where your anger is rooted

Anger about redundancy can be rooted in the shock of having had no warning. Anger is, after all, a natural response intended to trigger fight or flight and protect us from danger.

Even though you know that it’s the job and not you that’s been made redundant, it can also come from feelings of bewilderment or a sense of injustice at having been selected (‘Why me? What did I do? Is it because this person or that person didn’t like me?’).

Angry feelings can be magnified if the circumstances surrounding your dismissal hit emotional hot buttons from past experiences.

If you really feel that your redundancy was unfair, then you need to deal with this first, especially as there is a strict time limit on bringing a case at industrial tribunal. Take some positive action to explore this by making an appointment with a union rep, employment advisor, an employment lawyer or the CAB. Read our section on your legal rights in redundancy.

Ways of dealing with anger

People tend to deal with their anger in one of three ways: by expressing it, by pushing it down or by calming down naturally. Expression can be healthy provided it is done safely and doesn’t go over the top. It may be useful to talk through your angry feelings with a trusted friend or family member. Just make sure it’s someone who can cope with you ranting, or possibly even swearing copiously, until you’re through it. It may take several opportunities to talk before you are finally able to regain some perspective.

Some people find journaling their feelings for a few weeks acts like a lightening conductor, creating a safe and private space to express what they’re feeling. There’s also nothing at all wrong with having a good cry to let feelings out. One woman we know grabs a magazine and puts it on the floor in her kitchen, then spends a couple of minutes screaming and stamping out her feelings on her impromptu ‘stamping mat’!

Pushing angry feelings down is the riskiest strategy. Suppressed anger can be converted into something that may, on the surface, seem like constructive behavior, but can actually be even more destructive than an outright explosion of anger. Unexpressed anger often surfaces as passive-aggression, cynicism, excessive criticism and hostility, all of which can become visible when you talk to people. Pushing anger down can also create health risks, contributing towards high blood pressure and depression.

Calming down naturally is the safest strategy, but it can take some time. For this reason, it is not always a bad idea to take a holiday after being made redundant. It can help you draw a line under what’s happened, and put some distance between you and the experience. If this is not possible, then at least you need to find ways of allowing your heart rate to subside, allowing feelings of calm to return, and stepping away from the situation long enough to regain some perspective. Do what you need to do to make this happen, whether it’s yoga or boxing or weights at the gym, going running, meditating, taking long walks with the dog, going to the cinema or for a razz through the countryside in the car or on the motorbike. More excellent suggestions for managing anger can be found here.

Professional help to deal with anger

If none of this works, and you are still angry several weeks after leaving your job, you probably do need to consider some more formal support to get over what’s happened. Start by seeing your GP, or looking for a registered counsellor.