What redundancy taught me about cultivating an 'uncomfortable growth' mindset

What redundancy taught me about cultivating an ‘uncomfortable growth’ mindset


Redundancy in the corporate world is now very commonplace. Many companies have an annual restructure where various roles are made redundant. In most cases, it is driven by financial considerations, whereby headcount or remuneration savings are required to achieve a cost reduction target. It is a business decision, and not personal. Except that it is personal – when it happens to you. 

In my situation, I had been with Johnson and Johnson for 16 years. I loved the brands, the culture, and the opportunities they gave me.  Over 16 years I had 8 different roles, moved to 2 different countries (the US and Singapore) and had both local and global roles. I worked long hours in challenging roles, but I felt so connected and committed to the company, the people and the work that I was energised and loved my job. It wasn’t always perfect (no job is) but there were many things I loved about the company.  I was happy.

Then one day my role as Vice President of Marketing, Asia Pacific was made redundant.  I was based in Australia, but my role was required to move to Singapore. In addition, the same role was being “banded down” from Vice President to Senior Director.  I had the option of staying with the company, if I was willing to accept the demotion and move to Singapore. 

As they reiterated:  it was a financial decision and not personal.

It felt very personal to me though.  This was a company I had worked for in excess of 16 years.  It was a huge ask to accept a demotion (whereby the role was still the same) and disrupt my whole family by moving back to Singapore.

So, I took the redundancy.  The significant redundancy payment after 16 years of service was a silver lining but did nothing to change the emotion.  Leaving the company I loved felt more like a divorce, or a loss.  After being such a big part of my life, it was over.  Despite having managed redundancies of others over the years, going through it myself was a completely different experience.  I went through a roller coaster of emotions.  Some days I was positive and optimistic about new opportunities.  Some days I felt angry and sad.  Other day I felt fearful – about where to next.  I suddenly had time and choice, but I’d been so busy juggling a demanding international job with family that I hadn’t put any thought into what I really wanted.  I felt fear creeping in:  what if I couldn’t get a job as good as the one I’d had?  What if my 16 years at one company would be seen as a negative?  As if redundancy wasn’t enough, Imposter Syndrome started to rear its head as well.

Of course, things turned out in ways better than I could have imagined.  I had four wonderful months off, to recharge, and think about what I really wanted.  I ended up starting a consulting and training business, working with clients across all fields.  Most recently, I have become a best-selling author.  My redundancy was a key experience in writing my book “Uncomfortable Growth – Own Your Reinvention”. So, what did redundancy teach me – about myself and letting go?

There are 3 key insights that I’m grateful for:

  1. A job is what you do, not who you are:  Because I had been with the one company for so long, what I did and who I was, started to merge in my head.  After my redundancy I had time to explore what was important to me outside of that job, and new, different ways I could apply my talents.  I rediscovered I was more than any job!
  2. When a door slams shut, new windows open:  When its unexpected, a door slam can feel like the end of everything, as we can’t see what is next.  But it creates a new context for windows to open.  Don’t let fear focus you on loss, rather explore and think about what exciting new windows are now ready to open.
  3. Don’t just wait for opportunities, create them:  In many cases we “wait” for opportunities to happen.  However, you can activate your own possibilities, which become opportunities.  Reach out to people for coffee, try something new, explore new paths.  By taking action, new possibilities and opportunities will emerge.

Life always has unexpected curveballs and cross-roads.  Cultivating an “uncomfortable growth” mindset allows us to embrace uncertainty and change as a source of growth, not overwhelm, and realise that letting go lets new possibilities emerge. 

As Dr Seuss famously said “Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”  That’s when you are ready to embrace your next chapter.

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox