In which I indulge in some nostalgia …

One of the sad and sweet duties I have just now is to oversee the mechanics of some of my colleagues who have been successful in their own Operation OASIS (see yesterday’s blog).

There is a strange ritualistic feel to the working through of the inevitable checklist as you strip from the individual any physical connection between then and our employer.

IT kit? Check. ID cards? Check. Keys and door fobs? Check. Manuals and technical documentation (where relevant)? Check.

The most recent colleague I ‘processed’ through this rigmarole asked me part way through when we would get to the ceremonial breaking of his pencil over my knee. The image stirred some faint memories but I must have looked bemused.

‘You know. Like the programme that used to be on.’

‘What programme?’

‘It always used to start with a chap being drummed out of his regiment for some crime or other. And they broke his sword.’

It was coming back to me now. I could see quite clearly the mass ranks of troops, the insistent beat of the drums and the impassive soldier standing before his peers as his symbols of office were torn from him.

Given the bad odour public servants are held in just now it’s a wonder this sort of process hasn’t been introduced into the public sector redundancy process. So the masses that we have been oppressing through providing care and support to the vulnerable or ensuring good governance or providing a 1001 other services soon to disappear can witness our disgrace.

The drums roll and there go all those slackers in the back office rightly shoved out of the shelter of the public sector fort. Off to fend for themselves in the unforgiving badlands of the private sector. Of course if you stretch the analogy the troopers freed from the burden of carrying their non-productive pals now have to spend their time doing the logistical work they never noticed until it just stopped.

In my case however I would be loath to let myself just be defined by the geegaws of my professional life. Cathy Aitchison, a visitor to the blog over the weekend, posted this in an excellent longer comment about finding the elements of a new life:

Think unpaid as well as paid: why should only the paid work count? why are we happy when someone has an unexpected piece of artistic, creative or business success to hear them defined in the media as ‘dustman’ , ‘pensioner’, ‘unemployed’ or ‘housewife’ etc. If you were to save someone in the street the day after you finish at your job and the local media wanted to do a write-up on you, how would you give your occupation, ie. without stopping to think?

I have been meditating on her words over the weekend. After 20 odd years of service with a single bit of the public sector far too much of my identity – how I think of me – is bound up with the employer who has decided it no longer needs me. Achieving that mental separation will be part of the programme from here on in.

It’s a necessary part of the personal resilience building I need to do. To get to the stage where I think and say ‘them’ not ‘we’ when talking about my employer.

Perhaps a formal ceremony of separation would help with that? Let’s indulge the nostalgia and imagination ourselves as Chuck Connors. Redundant public servants branded for a crime they didn’t commit.


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
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8 Responses to In which I indulge in some nostalgia …

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention In which I indulge in some nostalgia … | A redundant public servant's blog --

  2. A says:

    Another insightful post as to how it feels. I’m not yet walking my personal plank from HMS Public Sector, but your blog helps me prepare mentally for what’s ahead, as another apparently disgraced and discredited person who’s spent 25 years in public service with “them”.

  3. I’ve clocked up over 35 years now, and my exit is likely – though nowhere near as traumatic as those of you on here – I am close enough to a retirement age to not have a lot of the huge concerns you all have.
    Whilst not seeking to diminish these huge concerns at all there are two aspects which I think apply whatever position you are in in life’s little adventure:
    1. We might really really like what we are doing and we might really really not like being stopped from doing it – ok that’s not a reason to allow us to continue, but at least people ought to realise that its not a reason for happiness. There is an emotional aspect to this which is seldom acknowledged.
    2. We define ourselves so much by what we do, there is a real and significant issue that crops up when we lose that definition of ourself. Do we redefine ourselves, can we redefine ourselves? How much of our self esteem is bound up with what we do as an employment? How much is this removed when we are shown the door – and how do we cope with that?
    Neither of these have anything like the scale of not having a pay check coming in etc etc, but they are other aspects that can contribute hugely to issues for anyone in this position.

    • Mean Mr Mustard says:


      Over my 30 year illustrious career, I can honestly say I have never had any self esteem connected to being a Civil Servant. Therefore there’s no status / identity loss for me. Defining yourself largely around your career is delusional, if not rather dangerous, as it will surely end some day – imagine the inner turmoil of the aimless suddenly disempowered Group Captain (Retd) on the golf course, with all sorts of appearances to maintain…

      • I take your point, the issue is in teaching (my own area) its pretty unavoidable if you want to be any good at it that it becomes your identity – hence the number of horror stories of teachers going as long as they can and then cashing in their chip very soon after retirement. Not healthy, but a real occupational hazard when doing stand up for 30 adolescents………
        So we have to realise the issue and come to terms with it.
        You can’t teach if you don’t have a large dollop of self esteem about how well you do it – so there is a danger that the carpet is suddenly whipped out from under you.

      • Dear Roger and Mean Mr Mustard,

        Thank you for the comments. Getting some sort of balance between earning a crust and being fulfilled can be difficult.

        I suppose I have been spoilt in that I really loved my job and the people I worked with. Looking for that again is maybe being too optimistic.

        We’ll see,


  4. Linda McLean says:

    Gosh, I know how you feel – but watch the video in this!

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