Survivor’s Prison

As a survivor of a lay off you are supposed to be happy, grateful.  After all, you have a job.  But the opposite is true.  Most survivors feel guilty at best and at worst they wished they had been laid off.  Many survivors want to leave their organizations, but are afraid too.  Work environments after a lay off are depressing; employees are overloaded, and underappreciated. Survivors are generally not aloud voice their concerns or supported emotionally in any way. They are afraid to speak up and feel very much alone.  Mix all of these ingredients together and you have your own personal and emotional prison cell that just breeds stress and resentment.

What kind of impact does this have on Employee Engagement and a business?

A recent study (2008) 4,172 layoff survivors by Leadership IQ here is what survivors said:

·         75% of survivors concede their own job performance has deteriorated

·         69% think the quality of their organization’s products and/or services has waned because the layoffs

·         61% of survivors feel their organization’s future prospects have worsened

·         77% of survivors observe an increase of errors and mistakes

·         81% of survivors say that customer service has dropped

This reality is not a nicety that should go unnoticed.  This reality is a necessity with which we must deal.  Our competitiveness is at risk.   Helping survivors work through these challenges will help our businesses thrive again.

Help survivors move forward by:

  • Being honest with survivors about the business and health of the organization
  • Working the human side of a lay off as much as the business side:  Demonstrate respect and fairness in the process
  • Talk through concerns and fears with your employees
  • Discuss job security concerns with your employees
  • Now is the time to focus on career development with those who are sticking around
  • Clearly share the turnaround strategy and take time to gain their buy-in
  • Recognize the new workload and demonstrate appreciation for their commitment
  • Celebrate any milestone or success that you can  
  • Create peer support groups or other means for supporting survivors emotionally
  • Develop engagement skills that promote a survivor’s ability to cope and deal with transitions 

One thought on “Survivor’s Prison

  1. Excellent article. I am always surprised when employers go silent after a lay-off. Doing so may leave survivors with the impression that the company’s most valuable assets are not valued at all. As you pointed out, the risk of performance degradation for survivors is significant, and leaders would do well to be open and supportive with survivors.

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