Secret Hotelier: How to deal with redundancies in the hospitality industry

This month's anonymous contributor says it's important to reach out to colleagues

If you work in the hospitality industry right now, chances are you have friends and colleagues who’ve been made redundant. If you haven’t been made redundant yourself, that is.

Redundancy is a terrible thing. It’s terrible for the managers who have to tell their employees that they’re losing their jobs, for the employees who see their careers come to a crashing halt, for the families who see their loved ones go through such a traumatic experience, and for those left behind struggling with survivor’s guilt. But sometimes it just has to happen for a company to survive.

I too am a “Covid Career Casualty”, my career with my most recent hotel company coming to an end after 14 years. But I’ve seen other friends and colleagues lose their jobs in previous rounds of redundancies. And with hindsight, I didn’t always handle it as well as I could have. So I hope to share a few words about how you can help your friends, family and colleagues who may be struggling.

In most cases, the role has been made redundant, not the person. But even knowing that, when you lose a job the grief cycle is very real. The runaway train of emotions took me from numb disbelief through confusion, pain, anger, defiance, fear, sadness, optimism and excitement. And just as I thought I’d got through it all, it all started again, from the very bottom. But with time comes acceptance. That’s not to say it necessarily gets easier, but the fog starts to lift and you start to see a way forward again.

What helped me through the early days were the kind words from friends, from colleagues, and from the people I least expected. There is nothing more important than kindness right now. When I saw friends lose their jobs in the past, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to call them, to email them, to send them a Whatsapp. I didn’t know what I’d say if I did. Whether I’d upset them more. How I’d react to their anger or their tears. Would I be insensitive reaching out when I was the one who still had a job and they didn’t?

I wish I could go back and tell that person who was afraid of all those things not to worry. Pick up the phone. Write the email. Send the WhatsApp, even if you say nothing more than “I’m thinking of you”. These words are much more impactful than “you’ll land on your feet”, “I know you’ll be fine”, “you’ll be snapped up in no time”, etc. These phrases can add unnecessary pressure to someone coming to terms with what is a major life trauma.

If you know someone whose company has been hit by redundancies, please don’t send them an email saying “Oh my gosh, is it true?”. Think before you hit send. Do you know if they were affected or not? How might they be feeling seeing their colleagues lose their jobs around them? Would it be better to let them know you’re thinking of them, and assume they’ll tell you in their own time? Now, for the remainers, those asking “why am I still here?”, please try not to get bogged down in survivor’s guilt. We’ve never seen times like these. As the survivor, even though you’re most likely dealing with a lot of emotion yourself, you can still be a great support. But also understand if your former colleagues distance themselves from you for a while as they deal with the torrent of emotions.

I’ve had four months to get used to my situation, and while it does get easier, the fact that there is still no brightly shining light at the end of the tunnel for our industry means that there are good days and bad days.

If your role was recently made redundant, remember that you were always more than the job you did. One of the hardest things people deal with is that they feel they’re no longer relevant, professionally and personally. But you’re much more than a job. You are the years of experience you bring, the skills you’ve developed over time, the stories you have to tell. Losing a job is painful, it stops you in your tracks, it can throw you into economic turmoil, you might have to drastically change your lifestyle, you might struggle to pay your rent. There’s a long way to go until our devastated industry recovers. But for now, remember you are much more than any job you’ll ever do.

If you want to help your unemployed friends, colleagues and industry connections, be kind, but also be helpful. And whatever your current situation also be kind to yourself.

To share your opinion anonymously, contact paul.clifford@itp.com.

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