SOCIETY TALK

Employees fearing axe, future is in your hands

Lessons learnt the hard way from life after redundancy

In Summary

• Your employer is not your family. They cannot protect you when the going gets tough

Retrenchment
Retrenchment
Image: COURTESY

Earlier this week as I scrolled through Twitter trends, I came across a heated discussion among Kenyans on Twitter. One of the top media houses in Kenya had just declared multitudes of their personnel redundant. Without initial notice or severance payout.

While Kenyans might have been shocked at the news, my initial reaction was nonchalant. My reaction might appear heartless, but I am most empathetic to the people who lost their jobs, for I was once one of them.

Eight years ago, as a fresh graduate, I got my first full time job at one of the top media houses in Kenya. As my probation period expired and I was about to transition to a full-time employee with benefits, the company hit a rough patch. The main objective as always was to save the company money.

 

Since the official directive was cost-cutting measures, the company chose to fire people. It was the first redundancy of its kind in a Kenyan media house setting.  Other media houses relished the news and reported insatiably on the incident. Little did they know it was the beginning of a cost-cutting trend for all media houses.

I was one of those people affected. Instead of getting my medical insurance forms, I got a termination letter. Since it was the first of its kind, protocol was followed. The Human Resource department handled individual cases with utmost sobriety, and our severance pay-out was handled as per our respective contracts. To be honest, one might think that an honourable dismissal with pay might sting less, but it is painful all the same.

This is perhaps why I laughed when the Human Resource department re-offered me my old position ‘with negotiation’ a few weeks later. It was not funny but for some bizarre reason, I laughed for a very long time. I followed up with a resounding ‘no’ and hung up. Simple. I did not need to think about it or ponder the consequences. I was not going to go back to a place that considered me expendable.

I have not held a full-time employment contract ever since. I cannot say it is completely because of the incident; I was already unsure of my career path in the industry. As time goes by, economies keep crashing and companies keep resorting to retrenching employees en masse, I am more assured of my decision never to return to full-time employment.

I detest the notion of working 6am to 6pm. I hate the feeling of having a helicopter supervisor always hovering over me. And I am terrified of leaving my fate in the hands of a CEO. Because to me, it does not matter how much time, hard work and sweat I put into a company; taking a full-time employment means that I let a stranger decide my fate. I have been fortunate enough to survive through the most turbulent times without a full-time job.

In line with my personal beliefs, I believe that The Provider is a more powerful being than a mere CEO of a company, who takes extreme measures to save his company money. My provider is the Divine that I lay my trust in.

My provider is the one who got me through the past seven years without full-time employment. Armed with this faith and my experience, I humbly speak to the recent victims of the mass redundancy by saying the sun will rise tomorrow. Losing a stable income is not easy to accept, but it is an obstacle that can be overcome. 

To all those who are employed or looking for employment, remember that your employer is not your family. They cannot protect you when the going gets tough. Even if you work your hardest at your job, you are still expendable.

A company’s fate rests on many factors: the market, the employees, the competency of management, the board and so on. However, a person’s fate resides in the palm of their hands. You can open your palm and embrace your troubles wholly, or you can clench your fists and fight back.