When the axe is about to fall, an open-minded reaction, planning, and staying engaged could lead to a new role, or keeping your existing job.

There's nothing like a corporate restructure for upping the anxiety stakes. Life's tough when the axe is about to fall.

Restructures and downsizing mean in plain English that a portion of the workforce is going to be made redundant and you may well be one of them.

Some will be replaced by automation. Other positions are simply no longer needed. The restructure is a time most people go through in their working lives and it's littered with euphemisms.

News that there's a restructure in the offing can be hugely stressful. That's when career and life coach Allison Fisher often hears from clients for the first time. They're anxious and sometimes angry. And the longer the restructure takes, the more stressful it can be for them.


Life can be very difficult indeed in the short term. Many of those people whose roles are no longer needed are a pay cheque or two away from financial disaster and wonder how on earth they're going to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Fisher sees it week in, week out.

With every restructure, some staff members want to stay and some have had enough and want to go, or at least would if there was a redundancy payment on offer.

If this is you, says Fisher, read these tips:

1. Be open to possibility's be dismissive too early on of the changes.

"Fear may take over when a restructuring is announced (but) stay engaged and open to what the changes might mean. It might not all be bad."

Sometimes the employer has decided already who is going to go. If not, your reaction to the news could be what saves the day for you and leads to a new role, or keeping your existing job.

2. Notice your thoughts

Stress during change can be created by what you think about the change, says Fisher. Stop thoughts such as "I know it will be me that will be let go" or "I hate change, I want things to stay the same" in their tracks. "It's normal to have these thoughts during this time so notice these and understand where these come from," she says. If you can turn scared into: "I'm going to stay focused on a good outcome for me" you may have a better chance of coming out the other end unscathed.

3. Choose how you will act

You can choose if you're the one being negative in the background and stirring, or the person who will stay positive and encourage others. Guess which type is more likely to be offered a new role?

4. Plan and prepare

Decide what role you would like in the restructure and where you think you fit in. Then create a plan to make this happen. This involves many steps such as writing a fantastic new CV, brushing up on interview skills and targeting key influencers in the organisation.

5. Stay engaged with managers

Talk to those who are making the changes, says Fisher.

Contribute ideas to the proposed restructure and suggest good ideas.

"Volunteer to assist with the restructure as this can be a very busy time for managers with extra workload," she says.

If you are seen as providing a useful contribution your name might come up when roles are being discussed by those making the decisions.

Grieving for your job

The effect of redundancy can be similar to losing a loved one or a relationship break-up.

There is a cycle of grief that many people go through when they lose their jobs. This cycle often starts with feelings akin to physical shock. Other emotions can include disbelief, denial and anger.

None of these are helpful for finding the next job, but they are natural, says Fisher. It's not uncommon for someone who has been made redundant to lose confidence and wonder "why me" or become withdrawn. Seeking help really can pay off in this stage.

"Because I deal with [restructures] so much I can reassure them," says Fisher.

Despite clients' fears, being made redundant doesn't mean they'll never be employed again. Most bounce back quite quickly, says Fisher. She finds empathy and understanding can be very helpful. So can practical help such as updating their CVs and practising interview skills.

Surviving the axe

If you survive the axe it's really natural to think "thank goodness it wasn't me" says Fisher.

But don't think you've got off scot-free.

"There is something called survivor guilt. This is actually a syndrome where those who survive something difficult [such as redundancy] feel quite guilty that they managed to survive while others were let go."

If this is you, then seek help and don't let it weigh you down and get in the way of contributing to the new workplace.

If you survive, says Fisher, be supportive of colleagues and get stuck in again to assist in making the changes happen. That can help ensure the changes are good for you and your role. "Often the detail of the changes [isn't] made until the roles are appointed, so it can be a good opportunity to fine-tune the role you are appointed to."

Be professional come what mayWhether you stay or go and however you feel about the organisation, it's really good for your long-term career to be professional. If you can't be positive and chirpy, at least be neutral, says Fisher.

Even if your head has rolled, you never quite know when you might need a reference from your former employer. If you've left with two fingers up and a "stuff you", it might be harder to get that reference than if you'd expressed your disappointment at losing your job in a professional manner.

Remember those parting words may well be the way you're remembered for years or even decades by that person. You don't want to be haunted by deeds done many years ago.