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a mood of redundancy…

April 8, 2014

Upset man on stairs with his head in his handsThere seems to be a lot of it around at the moment. Redundancy that is. Some close friends and colleagues have come face to face with it in recent times. For some it came quickly and for others it has longer time frame attached. Regardless of the timing, I imagine it can feel a bit like you’ve been kicked in the stomach and had your world turned upside down.

Admittedly those approaching retirement might be pleased with their “package” but for many income security is the most immediate concern. Career progression (assuming there continues to be a career!) is often the next thing on the mind of those who now face the prospect of finding a new role in a different organisation. Then there is the underlying impact on self-esteem and self-confidence of being “redundant”, of being considered surplus to requirements.

It is not surprising that anxiety, distress, fear, anger and shame are common responses. The emotional ripples spread far and wide and they change the mood of all the people that they touch. While redundancy (and the associated “package”) is the domain of the permanent employee, for every employee announced as redundant there is usually at least one contractor that will not have their contract renewed, a consultant who is no longer needed and a supplier who will lose a big client and a big chunk of their cash flow.

It creates a mood of redundancy and that is dangerous because if you are not careful it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Moods, your mood and the mood of the organisation, opens up and closes down futures in ways that few people understand. And I guess that is what I wanted to share in this post. If you have been made redundant recently your mood matters.

I don’t mean to say that in a “Don’t worry, everything will turn out ok. You just need to stay positive… [smiles encouragingly]” sort of way. But I will say that if you can look at what is underneath any negative moods you are experiencing I am confident you will achieve more positive outcomes. (Don’t take my word for it though. I am making that assertion based on a fusion of the work of two great thinkers – Silvan Tomkins and his Affect Script Psychology and Fernando Flores’ ontological discourse.)

In essence, our moods are self-sustaining emotional states driven by how we are thinking about the future. The only way that we can think about the future is to take what we think we know about the past (perhaps adding some other information we have gained from various sources outside our direct experience) and creating futures that we think are possible. Then we act based on those possible futures.

Take for example a mood commonly associated with redundancy – resignation. I think you would agree a mood of resignation comes from having accepted something unpleasant or negative that you cannot do anything about. Because there is nothing that you can do, that is the future that will be created.

I know what you are thinking. I have been made redundant. The company I work for is closing down – there is nothing I can do about that.

That may well be true. Saving the company may be beyond your capabilities. But moods are sneaky. They can colour all of your thinking in the same way the proverbial grey coloured glasses colour everything you see.

If you believe there is nothing you can do to change the future then you will not be able to see the opportunities that are available to you. Your body will register the distress or anger and your mind, bathed in a mood of resignation and so believing in the inevitability of that negative future, will confirm there is nothing you can do to avoid it and then in response magnify your fear and your distress. That reinforces your resignation and round and round you go.

This is the realm of the statement “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you are right”.

So I do want to say “You need to stay positive”. (I can’t guarantee it will all be OK and I think worry is useful because it helps us to see what it is we care about.)

It might seem like it is too simplistic to be helpful, but asking yourself what opinions about the future sit underneath your moods is a powerful way of creating new, and possibly better, futures for yourself. No future is guaranteed so the best we can do is guess at what it might be like. So if you find yourself feeling resigned to a particularly negative future, ask yourself is it really true that nothing you do matters because nothing you could do would change the future?

What if there was something? Can you allow for the possibility that there might be something you could do to create a different, more positive future? Would you be interested in that? Could you spend some time wondering what that something might be?

Try it right now. Take one minute to wonder about what you could do to create a better future. Then check on your mood.

I bet you noticed a change. Perhaps you found yourself in a mood of curiosity? And you feel different,  a little better? Because now it is possible to do something to create a better future. Now you are able to start to see the opportunities around you that allow that to happen.

Your body will register your curiosity and interest and your lower levels of distress and anger. Your mind, open now to the possibility of a more positive future, can  confirm the mood of curiosity as appropriate and will magnify your interest in finding the action that will bring that possible future into reality. That reinforces your mood of curiosity and round and round you go.

If  you are not convinced that your mood is tangled up in your assessments of the future then just cast your mind back to last Friday lunch time or the day before you went on annual leave. Your mood will have been linked to what was going to happen in the days that followed. Perhaps your mood could be described as resolute – “I can get through what ever they throw at me today because after 5 pm I am on holidays”.  Perhaps it was anxious – “I have so many things to do at home before we can leave for our family holiday tomorrow, I don’t know how I am going to get through them all.”

Try it. If you can find a mood that is not tied to how you are thinking about the future tell me about it in a comment. There might even be a prize.  I have a mood of confidence though – I see a future in which you cannot do anything to prove me wrong!


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