Managing ‘survivor syndrome’

by 25 Jun 2009

As the downturn is forcing more firms to reduce personnel, global companies need to have plans in place to manage “survivor syndrome” in order to prepare for the eventual upturn, ac cording to a report from The Conference Board.

“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 behavioural responses. Those who actually carry out the downsizing are also “survivors”.

“The downsizing action itself pits a manage ment team’s interests against employees’ interests – essentially promoting an ‘us against them’ at mosphere,” said Stephanie Creary, research asso ciate in human capital at The Conference Board, and author of the report. “Survivors will perceive the lay-offs as either fair or unfair based on the ex tent to which they believe the decision to layoff employees was either strategic or impulsive.”

Ultimately, she said 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 re-engaging employees at all levels.

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