New York City An investigation by The Conference Board has found that, as the downturn forces more firms to reduce personnel, companies need to have plans in place to “manage survivor syndrome” in order to prepare for the upturn.
“Survivor syndrome” refers to a marked decrease in motivation, engagement and productivity of employees that remain at the company as a result of downsizing and workforce reductions. It entails a series of complex psychological processes and subsequent behavioral responses.
Those who actually carry out the downsizing are also “survivors,” according to the board.
“The downsizing action itself pits a management team’s interests against employees’ interests – essentially promoting an ‘us against them’ atmosphere,” said Stephanie Creary, research associate in human capital at The Conference Board, and author of the report.
“Survivors will perceive the layoffs as either fair or unfair based on the extent to which they believe the decision to layoff employees was either strategic or impulsive.”
To return the workplace to a productive environment, employers need to motivate and engage associates, leveraging such strategies internal communications such as blogs, staff meetings and brown bag lunches, and provide learning opportunities such as additional training and staff development initiatives to facilitate job changes and career path transitions resulting from the downsizing.
“Ultimately, the ability of a company to survive downsizing will depend not only on the processes that are used in execution, but also on the level of commitment that the management team has to reengaging employees at all levels,” concluded Creary.