In which I remember what it’s all about …

I had a bit of a shock last night. I found out our youngest daughter was to have a major test in French today. I’d been so wrapped up in fretting about the things that I’m worried about that I’d taken the eye of what is going on in my family’s lives.

I made penance by listening to the story she had written in French and needed to memorize. Sitting in the living room floor leaning against the radiator together. Realising that I had missed this dreaded impending event in my daughter’s life made me wonder what else might have slipped past me. So this evening I did a quick reality check.

I discovered that –

  • the French test was pants;
  • Mrs RPS still thinks there’s not enough communication in her workplace about what is going on;
  • our older daughter remains loved up to the max and is revising for her exams; and,
  • our son is loving his work placement but is short of cash.

I’m blessed with a wonderful family and great friends. So much so that I know I take too much for granted. What can seem permanent can, without warning, collapse. The last months have tested our family reliance and, of course, there are even greater tests to come.

A wonderful post last week by citizenR on their I was a public sector worker blog got me thinking about some of the behavioural responses I’ve seen to the mayhem all around. CitizenR makes the excellent point that, with the fulness of time, taking one thing with another and on balance getting fired may eventually turn out to be a good thing. But in the meantime they reserve the right to be fed up and angry. Quite right.

I’ve had so many emotional states it’s sometimes been hard to stop and work out what I’m feeling. What was hardest at first was the feeling of rejection. Silly, I know given many of our fates have been determined by remote authorities who know nothing of us except that it’s time for us to leave. But redundancy felt to me like a very personal judgement about me and my work.

I was angry too. A lot. Still am now and again. But being angry gave me brief relief while achieving absolutely nothing for the people I love. So I’m keeping my angry feelings shut up in the stable with plenty to eat and drink with an infrequent canter when I’m particularly exercised by some new piece of state or management sponsored idiocy.

Thinking now about what I have learned and experienced over the past months is pretty sobering. A lot of my early feelings came straight back to me this evening reading a story about Greater Manchester Police in The Guardian. The piece had comments, sometimes anonymous, from the staff affected. Some talked about that sense of rejection and loss particularly after long service.

Over the years I have often got the balance between career and family badly wrong. I thought that serving the career, the employer, served the family because it guaranteed the money we needed for the things we needed and wanted. It did. But I was wrong to personalise it.

I fell into the trap some make in the animal kingdom of anthropomorphizing creatures that will eat from your hand and then rip your head off. When you have been with an employer for sometime it’s easy to turn that organisation into a favourite uncle. Almost part of your family. My experience has certainly changed that for me and I doubt if I will ever feel quite as secure again.

There’s an old truth in diplomacy about nations not having friends only interests. I wonder if this is how to think about employment. A coalescence of interests rather than familial affection?

Perhaps that’s as it should be.


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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10 Responses to In which I remember what it’s all about …

  1. Another beautifully eloquent piece, thank you!

    I think you are right that the situation changes the way we think of the employing organisation, but we should also consider that the organisation’s behaviour is often determined by its most senior staff – or, with public sector services, by the politicians. Although no government will ever be a lovable uncle, the rhetoric does not need to be the language of major conflict as it has sometimes seemed these past few months, nor should the most senior staff think that because the redundancy process is a result of central government policy, they can wash their hands of its effects on the staff. They have a duty of care to you and your colleagues and they should take care to exercise it appropriately and with sensitivity.

    You sound like someone who deserves a happy family, so if one of the side effects is that you realise the need to rebalance your life/work balance in their favour, then that is something positive from the cloud?

    • Dear Publicsectorman,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment in such a thoughtful way. I think the relish in the way some are approaching what is going on is one of the most distasteful things I’ve seen for a long time. The hooting and back-slapping at the CSR2010 announcements was as dispicable as it was disgusting. There’s clearly a lot of folks who are enjoying taking this ‘unavoidable’ action far too much.

      Best wishes


  2. citizenr says:

    Thanks, RPS! I’ve decide that 2011 will be the year of me! it’s time to stop worrying about work and situations I can’t change and get on with things and that includes putting family and friends before work. Oh help, I think that positivity stuff has got hold of me.

    • Dear citizenr,

      I find getting spammed by overactive american life coaches on twitter a fantastic way of seeing the world through a positive lens.

      I’m with you on worrying about the things you can change rather than the things you can’t.

      Good luck,


  3. Whose Shoes? says:

    A very thoughtful post RPS and this struck huge chords with me – and I suspect many others. It seems very healthy that you – a man! – are able to share these feelings so openly. I know this is a sexist remark, but hey ho!

    One piece of advice. A paid job is almost by definition an easier way to draw lines between work and home. I find running my own small business very exciting (and free of all that “stuff”) – but you will never again have the “cheque at the end of the month” – same amount whether it is the best work you’ve done EVER – or not.

    But CHOICE is a great thing in life. . You will be able to weigh up all the pros and cons, carefully considering how all this will affect the RPS family. A big part of what I am trying to do is to make sure that everyone in our society, including the most vulnerable, can make these life-changing choices and find a way forward that suits them and their individual aspirations and preferences – including staying up half the night watching the Ashes (YO!!)

    Lovely to be able to picture the scene in the RPS household….it all sounds extremely healthy to me … yes I remember the pants french test , the joys of revision, the balance between nagging and letting them get on with it – not to mention the “loved up” daughter!

    My children are older now but just wait until they become students and drive cars – impecuniousness and requests for cash tend to get larger….. Sorry!

  4. Vince Lammas says:

    Dear RPS,

    It is certainly more realistic to view the employment relationship as an economic tie rather than a familial one ….. but it’s understandable that people can lose sight of this after many years of “faithful service”. I know many people who are fantastically loyal to their employers and very reluctant to consider moving.

    Having worked in HR for a long time, I have seen too many cases where business change had dramatic and shocking impacts for people who might have seen things coming if they viewed their employment through a more “dispationate lens”. Dont forget though, managers can be equally stressed when they experience “losing” their most valued team members.

    On the other hand some people have suffered multiple redundancies in their working lives and yet rebounded and started afresh each time, in part because while enjoying their work and the company of their colleagues, work was “only” a means to an end – their life outside work.

    With the positive attitude, I am sure you will find an opportunity which provides you the right measures of job security, stability, work and home life. Running your own business is certainly an option to consider ….. it changed my relationship with work completely ….. certainly blurring the lines as Whose Shoes suggests but creating space for far greater choice and control I have never regretted it!

    Keep up your habit of sharing regular reflections – they will help you and many others!

    • Dear Vince,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such an interesting comment.

      Your point about managers is well made. Talking to colleagues from other organisations it’s clear that many of the managers who are surviving the cull view the months and years ahead with a lot of trepidation. Greater demand, less money and experience lost (probably forever).

      Best wishes


  5. HR Gal says:

    Interesting point about redundancy – it happened to me 3 times in 7 years, and with _hindsight_ has always been a positive thing – given me a kick up the bum or opened doors that I hadn’t thought of.

    However the word hindsight is very significant – in the moment it is horrible, scary and never pleasant, as you and so many others are currently experiencing. When I have had to be involved in making redundancies (the least pleasant part of my job) the focus has to be the human beings that we are dealing with – we are dealing with peoples’ livelihoods and this should never be done lightly or without much soul searching. The HR bod or manager who loses sight of that is in the wrong job.

    • Dear HR Gal,

      Thanks for the comment. I have a lot of sympathy for HR folks right now. Delivering mass redundancies was not what my HR friends got into that line of work to do. Moreover many of them are equally worried about their jobs once the carnage is over. I’m told that many HR functions in the public sector are being temporarily boosted by HR agency people to cope with the workload. It’s an odd thing that redundancy and unemployment for some means relevance and employment for others.

      best wishes


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