Emotional Fallout of Company Downsizing
By Lynn Lochbihler
Employees remaining (survivors) after a re-structuring do not necessarily work harder because they are thankful to still have a job – they often feel resentful, bitter and overwhelmed due to their increased workload, added to the stress of the fear that they might be the next to be cut. They feel concern for their work mates who have lost their jobs (casualties), and guilty that they were spared (this time!). The survivors don’t know what to say to the casualties and feel uncomfortable around them, so they ignore the casualties which causes the survivors more internal turmoil.
Being ignored by previous work friends often causes the casualties to feel even more unwanted and unsupported. Sometimes the casualties are happy with the turn of events – forces them to make a change. Sometimes the survivors wish they were casualties!
There’s no on-the-job employee training for how to deal with such situations. Everyone just does the best they can given their own past experiences, perceptions and personal comfort levels, which often leads to the remaining workforce being not only unmotivated, but de-motivated, and operating in negative attitude mode which has a similarity to a snowball rolling downhill – picking up speed and girth and hard to stop. People (casualties or survivors) can feel trapped or lost, which can cause them to behave uncharacteristically. The stress and uncertainty spills over onto family members and into communities. “Normal” no longer exists and the general nature of people is to resist change (more stress!).
Employers would be wise to provide training and counseling to their managers and employees, both survivors and casualties, on how to best deal with the variety of emotions people are experiencing. This is a social issue with health implications as well as an economic issue – everyone would benefit from understanding the magnitude of the implications.
- Listen to each other; be approachable
- Share your feelings with people going through the same issues
- Find a personal support system including family and friends
- Be considerate and patient of other people’s challenges
- Understand that other people may just need to vent – don’t take comments personally
- Learn to accept that change is inevitable
- Celebrate successes – be good to yourself
- COMMUNICATE … COMMUNICATE … COMMUNICATE!