Tag Archives: Survivors Guilt

Survival Tips For Layoff Survivors

17 Apr

Excellent post by Susan M. Heathfield at About.Com if you are one of the so-called “survivors” of a layoff. Please read carefully and share with those who may find themselves in this situation. We often worry (as we should) about those who lose their jobs, but should also consider what can be done to assist those who may have more work on their desk because of the reduction and are wondering when the pink slip will hit their desk:

  • Recognize that your emotions are legitimate and that time passing is necessary for the intensity of your current emotional response to die down. In organizations where managers recognize and acknowledge this emotional component in a downsizing, employees return to productivity much sooner.
  • Recognize that you may need to experience each of the stages of loss described in Kubler-Ross’s groundbreaking studies about grief.
  • Seek access to your supervisor; assuming your supervisor is readily available and perceived by you as concerned about employees, and honest, reliable and competent, your time with your supervisor should help you feel reassured.
  • Attempt to recreate the daily patterns you experienced prior to the layoffs. While much time in an office is invested by employees in talking about the situation after layoffs, the sooner you can recreate your prior patterns, the better for your mental health.
  • Treat yourself with kindness. Now is the time to eat a portion of your favorite comfort food. Got chocolate? Share with coworkers. Bring in a casserole or cookies that coworkers can share. Small gestures mean a lot in the post layoffs workplace.
  • Talk out your feelings with coworkers who are likely experiencing loss just as you are. You can comfort one another. Your significant others outside of your workplace make good sounding boards, too.
  • Pay attention to the needs of the coworkers who were laid off. These are your friends and they are experiencing serious issues with self-worth and loss, too. So many people tie up so much of their identity and self esteem in what they do for a living that a layoff is a major blow to their sense of themselves, their competence and self worth. You do them a kindness, and you will feel better, too, if you continue your weekly lunch date with your laid off coworker. Let your laid off former coworker vent and listen to see how you can lend support. Sometimes, active listening is all they need.
  • You will feel as if you have a proactive mission and purpose when you connect your laid off coworkers to your connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, and the other online social networks. Anything you can do to help them expand their networks and effectively job search will be valued by your friends.
  • Communication is critical following a layoff. But, remember that the middle managers who would generally communicate are also experiencing loss and concern about their own jobs. (Often managers are the first to be laid off.) If you are not receiving the communication you need from your manager, seek it out by asking questions and spending time with him or her. Go after what you need; don’t wait for communication to flow downwards.
  • Hopefully, your organization has recognized the importance of valuing the remaining employees. But, if the opportunities for reward, recognition and valuing seem slim, volunteer to head up an employee morale committee. The committee can do much to bring fun and motivation back into the workplace following layoffs. Think ice cream socials, popcorn machines, and potluck lunches; the activities don’t need to be expensive.
  • If you are taking these steps but you are feeling increasingly worried and depressed, seek professional assistance through your Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) or use your private insurance to cover counseling.

“Survivors Guilt”– Impacting Engagement & Productivity

7 Feb

There’s a very sobering article in Time Magazine about so-called “Survivors Guilt”, the feelings of those working at a company that just went through a layoff and are still working– they survived the RIF. The article describes this syndrome:

Losing your paycheck in a recession is certainly awful, and those who hold on to their jobs are no doubt better off than their fallen colleagues. But watching colleagues pack their things and go — and dealing with guilt that it wasn’t you, anxiety that you might be next, exhaustion from the extra work you must take on and even envy of those who get to leave such a sullen environment — that’s not much cause for celebration. “Companies use the word affected with people who lose their jobs — the implication being that the people who remain aren’t,” says Joel Brockner, a social psychologist and professor of management at Columbia Business School. “They’re very much affected.”

Here’s how it feels to be one of the lucky ones: “It’s depressing,” says a market researcher in New York City who recently watched an entire division of her company be jettisoned. “You walk into the office and it’s quiet, the entire atmosphere is different. When someone gets promoted you want to say, ‘That’s great,’ but then you realize they got the job because the two other people in that group got laid off; this person was cheaper. You start feeling evil. People say at least you have a job, you should be grateful. Well, I’m not sure how happy I am. And then I feel selfish about that.”

The terms psychologists toss around to describe these feelings include survivor’s guilt (why him and not me?), survivor’s envy (thinking you might be better off gone too) and emotional contagion (the tendency to pick up your laid-off colleagues’ feelings of gloom and desperation). These feelings are with us in every recession, but as layoffs spread to more industries, people in all walks of life are increasingly experiencing them.

Fellow blogger Robin Tucker at The Proper Angle offers excellent advice to assist survivors. Her counsel is similar to what Leigh Branham and I have seen in our work in Beating the Bear Market with Engaged Employees.

Consider:

  • What can we do to make sure that departed employees are treated with dignity, so that their transition is as smooth as possible?
  • How can we work to allow “surviving” employees the communication channels they need to deal with their own feelings about this event?
  • Can we train our managers to more effectively spot employees who are not dealing well with this change?