Moving On – Beyond Retrenchment


Retrenchment is an easy way to boost the bottom line. Yet, it’s not just the fact that retrenchment is widespread that is disturbing – so too are the careless ways it is handled.

Rose worked hard for her company for a number of years. She was retrenched on the eve of a three week round-the-world trip, which combined work with a brief holiday. Even though her employer knew she was to be retrenched, they still allowed her to book appointments with colleagues in London and Geneva. It was only hours before Rose flew out she learned her services were no longer required. Ian lost his job in advertising to cut costs – the same day his boss received a new company-funded BMW.


Janette was retrenched at the end of the working day. A security officer accompanied her to her desk, and in a few moments she had to pack up fifteen years of her work life.


On the other side of the fence is Mark who was asked to retrench his entire department – people he’d worked with for over a decade. While he was appalled, Mark was a good corporate man – he believed this was for the wider good. Then just before he was about to hand out the envelopes, his services were terminated. So laden with guilt was Mark about his staff that he never dealt with his distress, until much later. Only then did he realise how much damage he’d done to his entire emotional system.Most of us are not surprised by these accounts, because they are so widespread. They leave us with an overwhelming sense of loss and helplessness.


Paul Stevens from The Centre for Worklife Counselling in Sydney has had twenty-four years assisting companies manage their human resource. One of the more disturbing trends he has observed is an increasing unwillingness to assist staff who are made redundant with counselling or career transition advice – “Now employers recruit staff as a contingency resource for today’s business needs,” he explains. “When redundancy occurs employers feel less obligation to help with re-employment.” 


Coping with Fear


How can we navigate our way through these dehumanising influences? First we have to take care we don’t become drawn into questionable work practices. We need also to be able to read the climate, so we can respond wisely, instead of becoming fearful and losing sight of the possibilities that remain. Sometimes our fear can trap us in work situations that are no longer helpful. Unless we can recognise this, we can end up somewhere we’re no longer meant to be. Sydney-based life empowerment and spiritual counsellor Roz Lawler observes that even {quotes}when people are miserable at work, instead of moving, they hang on to their jobs, not realising that they’re likely to draw to them the thing they fear most – job loss{/quotes}.Paul Stevens also cautions against staying too long in a single career. He urges us to look more closely at what we are capable of – so we can adapt to the changing needs of the workplace, and have stimulating jobs, rather than have a job for life. Asking ourselves what we’re good at is the wrong starting point when seeking fulfilment at work. ‘Finding our purpose rarely comes as an epiphany,’ Paul explains. ‘The answer is within the deep recesses of our many layered selves – it’s up to you to do the work – to connect with the answer.’ Often the answers to job fulfilment lie not only in our work, but in activities beyond work. Paul stresses the importance of a contingency plan that leads to the same objective, but by a different route.


How can we find our purpose at work? We can begin by asking ourselves why we work – is it purely to pay the bills – for prestige – or is there something more? If so – what is that something more – is it stimulation – being part of something larger than ourselves – or the exhilaration of being able to make a contribution? Most of us started work full of enthusiasm, only to lose our way. “So many of us have pinned so much of our lives on what we do at work, that we have no sense of who we are beyond this. Then when someone is retrenched their world collapses,” comments Roz Lawler. In her own healing work Roz has noticed how traumatic events, such as retrenchment, can magnify any deep-seated woundedness. “If as a child we lacked support or were betrayed, these emotions are stored in our bodies. Then when we lose our job – or fire people – this pain grows, frequently plunging us into physical, mental or emotional overload. Unless it is dealt with energetically, grief can remain within us for a long time, frequently creating depression,” Roz advises. 


Seizing the Day


If we are retrenched it’s important to know we are no longer at that job, because it is no longer delivering what we need at a soul level. Once we understand this, we can begin to shift our focus. One of the hardest aspects of being between jobs is in filling in the days. It’s easy to let go of our spiritual practices, yet when we can devote twenty minutes a day to meditation, we help our cause greatly. During meditation we might like to visualise ourselves being filled with Light as we breathe in, then consciously letting go of the past on our out-breath – breathing in Light, and letting go. At the end of our meditation, we can then welcome the new day. In between researching jobs, we help ease our transition when we can appreciate how continuing to walk the dog and make meals for the family can be healing, because these activities give our days shape. We then begin to see sacredness in the good moments and the more painful ones – and that in spite of everything taking place there is a deep sense of rightness. Sensing this sacredness, even though we might not be able to locate it exactly, helps spur us on. It’s important to take time out each day to do something purely for us. After all the busyness, we can now slow down and nurture ourselves. This might be as simple as taking a walk, or time for a cappuccino. Time in nature is uplifting also, because it reconnects us with the sacred web of being.


The more we reconnect with the natural world, the more we begin to tap into its great wisdom.

A wonderful affirmation is – ‘I open myself up to all that is for my highest good now’. This little statement is extremely powerful, because it not only covers our needs around work – it touches on our wider needs also.When we’ve been retrenched, often we feel shamed, yet it doesn’t help to shut ourselves away. Time around those who are uplifting will make all the difference. Seeing friends from our previous workplace is fine as long as we avoid negativity  – what is in the past is best left there – if we continue to focus on our hurt, that’s where our life energy will go. {quotes}Rarely can we make this transition without help from friends and family – from wider interests{/quotes}. It’s also a good idea to seek professional assistance to help rebalance us. While we await our new work, it’s an ideal time to reflect on our previous position – and to find ways to honour those from our recent workplace who made a real difference. It is easy to let simple acts of kindness slip past unnoticed, but it’s a pity to do so. By moving our attention beyond ourselves, we begin to expand our personal space and our vision. The beauty of the universe is that nothing is ever wasted. Each positive step you take – no matter how insignificant – will benefit you greatly. While you might not fully understand the reasons why you had to move on – in the future you will bless this moment. In the meantime here’s a mantra to bless your way forward – letting go, letting go, letting go – all is well, all is well, all is well. 



Contemplations on your new job


*         What qualities do I most need in my life to thrive?


*         What contributions can I make to my new workplace?


*         What kind of work environment would be most conducive?


*         Which personal qualities would I like to exercise in my new job?


*         What kind of working location would be most uplifting?


*         What positive qualities from the past will be helpful in the future?


*         What aspects of my work or approach to work do I need to fine-tune?


First published in Issue 65, 2004.

© of Conscious Living Co-creations Pty Ltd 2008. All rights reserved.