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The survivor tales from a layoff wreck

March 16, 2009

Layoffs are painful not only for those directly impacted by the layoff exercise but also for those who happen to survive the layoff and continue to work in the organisation. These survivors go through a series of emotional statessurvivor3thatcould last as long as six months or even more after the exercise. This initially starts with a feeling of guilt for having been spared when some of your best friends have lost their jobs. Then there is a feeling of sorrow for those who have lost their jobs. Then comes this strong feeling of insecurity and anxiety about their own jobs and what may happen to it. All these states effect the productivity of the person by pulling down employee morale.

Additionally there could be increased work stress because of a leaner workforce or even reduction in work load because of the slow business if the layoff is because of a larger economic gloom as is the case currently. These things compound the problem. Higher work stress with lower morale will lead to higher errors and drop in indivifdual performance. Lack of work will in turn lead to lack of self worth and more worries about the gloomy future. In both cases this is a downward spiral that can severely impact confidence of people.
Companies try to address the survivor syndrome with employee assistance programs, large scale communication sessions, individual sessions with leadership and HR among other engagement activities. These accelerate the healing process, however, the aftermath of a layoff is best healed with time and action.
If you are a survivor and the feelings mentoined above continue to bother you, you might want to try the following:
  1. Find a social support to talk to or use the employee assistance program available with your company. Yes, mere talking helps.
  2. Avoid getting into financial liabilities. Figure out ways to keep the overheads low. This will give you a sense of freedom by giving you a feeling of being prepared for the worst.
  3. If there is a lack of work, keep yourself engaged by reading or taking up learning programs inside or outside the company. Where possible create work for yourself by trying to make things better.
  4. If the workload has gone up seek help from colleagues & try prioritising things. The good part of this is that it keeps your mind engaged and its certain that the organisation needs you.
  5. Constantly seek information about the company and how it is doing. This may quell thoughts of insecurity in your mind arising out of rumours.
  6. Focus on building your network and become aware of whats happening in other companies. Keeping a track of the job market outside is not a bad idea anytime but will be particularly useful in times of layoff.
  7. Periodically revisit the past accomplishments in the company. More often than not, post layoff work will center around control and maintenance with little opportunities for new projects. Budgets will be shoestring. Dont let the feeling of lack of accomplishments or resources in the present kill your confidence and self worth.

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