In which I get an unheralded email from HR …

‘Hello, what’s this?’ I asked myself as the email alert told me I had mail. In my twilight days at work emails have become few and far between. Mostly they break down into three categories: stuff I won’t read; stuff I should read; and, stuff I want to read.

The subject line said: ‘Leaving arrangements’. Definitely in the ‘stuff I should read’ category.

It was from someone I have never met introducing themselves as my HR point of contact for my departure arrangements. In essence my spirit guide on my journey out of here. I am sure the person meant well but no where in the lengthy email did they once talk about anything other than the mundane aspects of my departure. It was all leave records and IT kit and surrendering ID and all sorts of other minutiae that will occupy me from here on in.

I couldn’t help but think would it really have hurt to have said somewhere at the start something like:

We have not met and I am sorry that our first contact should be about your leaving arrangements. It must be a difficult time for you and I will do all that I can to make things as straightforward as possible. The rest of this email deals with some of the administrative tasks we will need to complete. Take your time to read it through and let me know if there’s anything you would like to talk about. I am here to help.

I will be in touch next week to catch up with you. In the meantime don’t hesitate to call if there’s anything I can do to help.

Would that have been so hard? Instead the email dived straight in with, ‘I understand that you are under notice of redundancy …’ For anyone in my position that feels pretty gratuitous. It felt a little bit like the scene in The Life of Brian where the condemned prisoners are queuing in the prison on the day of execution.

‘Crucifixion or stoning?’ asks Michael Palin’s probation officer-like Roman officer. He is absolutely bamboozled when Eric Idle’s character claims that it’s neither in his case as he’s been banished to a tropical island. ‘No, just kidding,’ he says. ‘Crucifixation really.’ The Roman relaxes as the world resumes its proper shape: ‘Just pick up your cross on the way out …’

I was strongly tempted to write back and say, ‘You are mistaken I am not being made redundant. Rather I am being sent on a fact-finding mission to Hawaii. I’ll be back in 2 years, could you book my flights?’

I didn’t.

But I wished I had when I later got an email concerning one of the team I manage who is also joining me in employment oblivion. It was from another colleague detailing a whole load of procedural requisites surrounding a request my team member had made. A request whose simplicity had masked a vast unsuspected hinterland of complexity for which correspondent is clearly the enthusiastic tour guide.

I felt like saying sometimes you really only do need, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And not a NASA flight manual of process that produces ‘maybe’.

What the arrival of the email clearly means though is that I am about to begin rolling down the slope towards the exit gathering speed along the way.

Time to really get that plan together.

About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
This entry was posted in HR departments, Redundancy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to In which I get an unheralded email from HR …

  1. ‘The horror, the horror’….. where is the humanity in this process?

    We are all just following orders I guess…… ‘a crowd flowed over London bridge, I had not thought earth had undone so many……’

    Or less literary….. ‘just another brick in the wall’.

  2. Mean Mr Mustard says:

    Strange. When I left, Human Remains gave me a Good Stiff Ignoring, only requiring a copy of the Official Secrets Act on which I faithfully promised to remain schtum on all the stuff wot I knew, and requiring confirmation from my line manager that my annual leave was neither in credit nor debit. I found my own site clearance chit on the intranet, and met lots of fun new people, just the once, on my way out.

    “You don’t know me, even though I’ve been here for the past eleven years, but I’m now departing this place to become an Idle Benefit Scrounger, and this piece of paper says I need your autograph on it. Sign by ‘ere, please.”

    Once the pass is handed in, should you ever return to your office, eg, for occasional social purposes or outplacement consultations, you will probably have to be accompanied around the building by a minder. Not to be trusted now, you see.

    Suggest you do send your HR folks your very sensible introductory form of words, that they don’t anger or upset other less hardy redundees in future.



  3. thehrd says:

    My I take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of my profession, the vast majority of whom are witless bureaucratic idiots.

  4. Deborah Parr says:

    Probably either a temp or a 19 year old. Or possibly a just-left Uni person with a gadzillion certificates and no brain, lifeskills or common sense.

    Never forget – Human Resources/Personnel etc etc are never there for the benefit of the employee.

  5. citizenr says:

    Reminds of the time my father passed away and I kept getting letters from his solicitors that said in big, bold letters, re: Mr. J, your late father. I wanted to shout, ‘I know he is, don’t rub it in!’ a little bit of humanaity goes a long way.

    • Dear citizenr,

      That’s awful isn’t it? The day my mother died I was in her home when the post was delivered. On top was a letter from a funeral plan company with a standard letter urging her to buy a plan and save her family pain. After some trial and error I got the company’s MD on the ‘phone and vented my spleen. Of course I didn’t feel any better and it only made a poor businessman unhappy too.

      Best wishes

  6. Pingback: Redundancy ritual « Janet's Jottings

  7. ex public servant colleague says:

    I took voluntary early severance and left a government agency in Sept this year. The process for my departure involved the application to leave, notification from the department of their offer of financial settlement and I then confirmed acceptance of the terms by email. I heard nothing from them. I had to phone and ask if they had even received my confirmation (a necessary step given that they had lost my first application in the system and that the deadlines were so tight I would be required to depart within 2 weeks). They had received it but would not be sending me anything in writing. I asked what else I was required to do. Nothing, apparently, except finish on the day I had promised to leave. I received no advice, no acknowledgment, no support. I understand that those dealing with a large number of redundancies must have been under pressure to process so many applications. However, the lack of guidance about how to move into a wider world (future careers advice / CV writing/ obligations regarding signing on/ national insurance / handling an amount of severance money?) was poor in the extreme. My experience was that HR were badly equipped to handle individuals and I became a number to be processed through the severance machinery.
    Disappointed? Certainly. Unfortunately it has been symptomatic of the last few years where experience and commitment has been seriously under valued.
    But onwards and upwards. I chose to leave as the prospects seemed bleak within and I value my skills and abilities. I know I will be able to put them to good use elsewhere.
    I only discovered your blog a couple of days ago and many of your comments resonate. I wish you all the best for the future.

    • Dear ex public servant colleague,

      What a terrible set of experiences. Colleagues on the Guardian Q&A panel had lots of useful advice well worth looking at.

      I worry about the capacity of HR departments to manage the volume of reductions coming humanely.

      I hope things turn out well for you and thank you for visiting the blog.

      Best wishes


  8. HR Introvert says:

    This perspective, exactly as you recorded it here, should be included in training for HR generalists everywhere. Those that don’t get it will still forget they are dealing with real people, and their “redundancy karma” will eventually come back to them.
    My best wishes to you on this path.

  9. In some areas I suppose being in HR is a bit like the poor settlers, surrounded by the Apache who are closing in. Count the bullets, despatch the family and then use the last one on yourself……..
    Never actually saw this on film of course but imagined it done in a very sympathetic and caring manner – on the film anyway.

    • Dear Roger,

      Thanks for this comment it made me chortle out loud. And it put me in mind of the meat main course at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe that wants to be eaten and even slaughters itself, ‘Don’t worry sir, I’ll be ever so humane.’

      Best wishes


  10. Badger says:

    Hmmm ive been gone for at least 3 months now and I received this classy email today… made me laugh a lot…


    How are things with you and what are you doing now?

    When you left back in August I was away on annual leave, so was unable to request from you personally any ZSL property to be returned. Obviously, we do not have your keys, ID card, uniform or any other property you may have had. Is it possible, therefore, to arrange with you the return of this property?

    Look forward to hearing from you.


    Ive taken the names out as I’m still a little bit scared of the HR posse… but surely they noticed the pile of stuff on my desk by now…

    • Dear Badger,

      I have heard similar stories from others where organisations have so mismanaged the whole departure process that they then have to ring folks up and ask them to pop back in for this or that.

      In all your places I would be sticking the telescope to my blind eye.

      Hope things are going well wherever you now find yourself.


  11. HR Gal says:

    Thankfully I am not in the public sector, but even in my tiny corner of the HR universe I can sadly confirm the the 30-second rule on CVs is actually an ‘up to’ 30 seconds you get to grab attention.

    From trawling through CVs (ie actively looking to employ someone!) on job sites it is horrifying as to how many are visually unattractive, therefore making yours a little different to grab attention will go a long way. A great first paragraph should draw a recruiter in, and remember to not say everything in a CV – enough to intrigue but not enough for an excuse to reject. Generally speaking recruiters are looking for reasons to reject at CV stage and reasons to hire at interview stage.

    Wishing you all the best with your ongoing search…

    • Dear HR Gal,

      Great tips that I am applying this weekend. CV excellence here I come!

      Thanks for commenting and best wishes,


    • Adam Blackie says:

      Dear HR Gal,

      That is the most succinct piece of advice about CV writing I have seen in my many years of writing CV’s. As near to a perfect communication as is possible.

      Can I suggest that you repeat this on as many recruitment blogs as you can. Everyone jobseeker should see this.

      PS I am a professional Interim Manager, so I have a lot of experience looking for jobs. If you are in between jobs right now, my advice is to try to enjoy the freedom, I know that sounds hard, but before too long you will be in another role.

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