Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Guilt of the Survivor

“I've never actually survived one of these,” Fred confided towards the end of the day. “So I have no idea what's the appropriate thing to do. At least when it's you getting laid off you can go to the pub and get drunk.”

I nodded in very emphatic agreement. In the end I went home, had a little cry, and then wondered exactly why I'd done that.


The reason for my recent silence has been, basically, shellshock at a frankly horrifying round of austerity measures at work, and having absolutely no way to respond to them. Fred and I are the only administrative staff to survive in the office, and I am also now responsible for cleaning the office (cleaners have gone too), the work of several people as well as myself, and a cracking bout of survivor's guilt.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear – I, personally, was never in the running to lose my job. I was the only person in my pay grade who had been there more than a year, and frankly I was (am?) the better member of staff due to aforesaid experience and general awesome. I would have fought tooth and nail for my job if it looked shaky. I knew we'd been quiet for a few weeks now (seasonal nature of the business I'm in) but I thought we were possibly in for a round of hour and day reductions, not the bloodbath it's been. We all only found out the first day back after the Christmas holiday, and one staff member sat and sobbed at her desk when she was told she was laid off.

I am aware that this story, to those in the public sector or indeed in a lot of industries, will make you want to shout “CRY MORE, N00B!” because I am aware this is a story that trails throughout employment around the world. I am also a monster, because I've been working out how on earth I can make this blog-relevant, as it were, because I feel without mentioning it I couldn't keep on blogging about my working life without feeling fraudulent. I have my priorities straight, you see.

Graduates are uniquely vulnerable to this kind of event as it takes a long time to get the kind of seniority and experience that gives you better odds of surviving these sorts of things. You get more legal protection after a year of service, and after two you get compulsory redundancy pay (read more here). This means employers, I have discovered, are more willing to consider keeping you on when there are more vulnerable staff still there. When you're just out of uni, or still 'job hopping' as you try and find the right career path for you, it's difficult to get the service years. Which, in turn, means you have to continue job hopping. It's a fairly vicious cycle.

I will miss some of my colleagues dreadfully. (Some, not so much, but that's the nature of these things. The office isn't such a good mix now, either. Apart from anything else, I am now the only full-time woman in the company which is... odd.

And on top of everything else, my survivor's guilt is still rampant. If anyone knows how to deal with that, I'd love to hear your advice.

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