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How to: manage survivor guilt after redundancies

12 June 2009 by
How to: manage survivor guilt after redundancies

Redundancy, threatened or real, is everywhere today. And its impact in the workplace extends far beyond those unfortunate people who actually lose their jobs.

Employers must consider those left behind, who would have wondered if their jobs were on the line. They will have experienced that guilty sense of relief when they realised that it wasn't their turn - yet. They will have watched their colleagues be made redundant and leave. And then they may have had to go through the same process again.

So how can businesses manage this survivor guilt - and the sudden lack of confidence that afflicts employees in a company announcing redundancies? And how can you prevent the almost inevitable development of anxiety, stress and low motivation?

Don't underestimate the level of concern survivors will feel. Ensure staff know who to approach with their concerns. Some people will prefer to speak to their line manager, while others will opt for the anonymity of speaking to human resources. Either way, their questions will need to be answered and the company should be in a position to provide them with as much information as possible.

Managers should be briefed on the potential health implications, too. Living with both survivor's guilt and an ongoing fear of redundancy could cause stress-related health issues. Ensure line managers know how to recognise the signs of stress in their staff.

The most important message for survivors is that they shouldn't feel guilty. Those already suffering from poor self-esteem will find it further eroded by survivor guilt and the quality of their work will probably decline. A good manager will anticipate this.

While you may not be in a position to issue platitudes such as "your job is safe", do what you can to reassure staff. Tell them that you will always be open with them about the security - or otherwise - of their role. And ensure they know that you appreciate their dedication to their work and the organisation.

If you do only five things

  • Communicate
  • Be visible
  • Acknowledge people's feelings
  • Anticipate their questions
  • Know the legal background

Courtesy of Caterer sister title Personnel Today

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