The first email arrived at the end of January. Please attend an important meeting tomorrow at 3pm.
There had been murmurings about restructuring for some time, with a not insignificant chunk of the workforce being shed. But my team were safe, we'd just won a big new project that would see us through the summer, so we were rather more concerned about the fate of some of our colleagues. We mulled over what the briefing might be about, having been to a number of such 'important meetings' in the past, then asked a colleague in an adjacent team what they thought. "No, I haven't got an email about an important meeting," they said, "not at 3pm or any other time." We twigged.
A motley collection of staff assembled in the meeting room at 3pm, the entirety of some teams, but mostly individuals from here and there. The boss's boss was there, and the boss's boss's boss, plus some woman from Human Resources who seemed keen to take a register of all those present. "We're entering a period of consultation," she said, "and you're the at risk group. We don't expect more than a handful of you to leave the company, it's mostly about reshuffling and rejigging lines of management. But we need to kickstart an official process so that all of this is above board." The clock was ticking.
We thought the big new project would see us through, but no. Management told us they couldn't commit to the big new project because our team was at risk, and our team was at risk because they couldn't commit to the big new project. There was no point arguing. Instead we entered a consultation period based rigidly on national employment guidelines, and management went through the charade of exploring all options and mitigating outcomes.
Confirmation came in an email at the end of February. Please come to an individual meeting on Monday at 2pm.
The conversation was polite but stilted, and followed a set script to ensure all legal boxes were ticked. Reference was made to proposed dates for further individual meetings, and first mention was made of redundancy terms. I had quite interesting redundancy terms, having been in my role for years, and having been transferred from the public to the private sector partway through. The lady from HR bristled on discovering this, and went away to do some research, and so did I.
Being in the office was somewhat awkward at this time. We had a few loose projects to tie up, but not many, whereas all the teams around us continued with their normal workload at full pelt. It felt odd staying at our desks while everyone else trooped off to meetings about restructuring to discover the latest buzz phrases and organisational goals going forward. What was particularly enjoyable was ignoring all the automated emails about my annual appraisal, especially as the "You haven't done this yet" messages rose to fever pitch.
Redundancy was finalised in a meeting at the end of March. Please pop down and see me as soon as you can.
Terms were agreed and documents signed, no turning back. I think the lady from HR was glad to see the back of me, and I was glad to see the back of her.
Office life then mainly involved tying up loose ends, and sorting through years of paperwork. A lot of stuff that had formerly been essential, or stashed away 'just in case', went in the bin. A lot of contractually important stuff was carted away in archive boxes, where it may now linger permanently because nobody left in the office knows what it was. I tidied out my desk. I added my stapler to the stapler graveyard.
My final day, they decided, would be the last Friday in April. Please hand in your ID badge when you go.
Some of the other redundant staff left earlier, but my small team all hung on to leave together, precisely three months after the initial email arrived. If you're ever going to be made redundant, surely the end of April just before the summer kicks off has got to be the best time.
It's only my fourth job in thirty years, but also the one I've spent the longest doing. It's also the first time I've ever been asked to leave a job rather than choosing to go. Given the transient nature of much of modern employment, I recognise how rare my former stability has been. But here I am without a fifth job to go to, nor immediate prospects, and an uncertain future stretched out ahead.
Don't worry, I've come to terms with it, and I'll be fine.