“I was forced to compete with a close colleague for the same job”

Could you tell me a bit about you and your life?

I’m 31 and single. I have a mortgage and my income is pretty stretched as it has gone up significantly recently. I’ve worked really hard for a large bank in order to buy the property by myself! I earn around £50k per annum, and am pretty ambitious, always looking to grow and upskill myself as much as possible.

How did this ‘head to head’ situation come about?

The company announced that there was going to be a large restructuring as we hadn’t been growing as quickly as expected, and the exec said it was due to the “changing needs of the business”, rather than cost-cutting. We were told that roles would be cut, and I soon had a meeting with the head of my team who told me my job was at risk, as well as several others in our team, and that we would be losing 4 out of 9 staff.

Turns out I was to compete head-to-head with a colleague of the same grade. We had worked very closely together and they had actually helped me to settle in and learn the ropes when I was promoted into the team 12 months prior. Since that point, I’d progressed a lot and my confidence had grown hugely. But, as much as I liked this colleague, I really didn’t want to lose my job. It has given me great experiences and an opportunity to grow in ways which are pretty unique. I also really appreciate the great benefits we receive, such as a generous pension scheme, death in service, private health care, full flexibility and the option to work from home.

We were placed into a selection pool for 3 weeks and had to wait to find out who they were keeping.

How did it make you feel?

Their criteria gave me a fair chance but I was also aware that my colleague had many extra years of experience on me, being much older. We did have an opportunity to highlight anything we felt relevant to the job that our manager might not have been aware of, but that felt like a lot of pressure to advocate for myself without also seeming desperate.

I found it very difficult to focus during those 3 weeks. I tried to be professional about it all, and continued to do a good job, be diplomatic and hope that the work I’d done would be recognised. I had a gut feeling I’d be ok as I’d had some fantastic feedback, but nothing was guaranteed and my opponent’s redundancy payout would be considerably higher than mine, so I wondered if that would be a factor in their decision.

What happened?

The process was stressful - and the 3 weeks were long! It felt horrible knowing either we were leaving, or would have good friends and colleagues leave. Other staff speculated to me discretely about who they thought would go, and I agreed with them. It turns out we were correct, and I was told I was keeping my job, which was a huge relief!

Understandably those who went were upset, but the blow was softened by 3 months of gardening leave and a 6-figure redundancy payout. My manager told me that my opponent was totally shocked and had expected to glide through it considering I was fairly new to the team and had much less experience in role.

Was there any tension between you and the colleague?

Overtly, things were fine between us, but I could sense a slight unease. They made a comment suggesting that there was something underhand at play and that the process had not been meritocratic, which I resented. I know ultimately what I had achieved was recognised by the people who matter! I feel positive that my potential, attitude and natural aptitude was valued over long term experience, as the latter doesn’t always equate to someone being a better employee.

Things felt a bit uncomfortable for a while as we adjusted to the news as a team, but I do believe what’s left of us has great potential and that we can really pull together. I know I would’ve been OK either way - I believe that when one door closes another door opens. That said, I’m really grateful to be continuing my role within the team.

How do you feel about it now?

I feel confident that I had delivered enough value and also that I have the right attitude towards my work. I try to embrace change and to crack on and be positive, and my feedback reflected this and saved me my job!