by Kristin Burnham

How to Manage Layoff Survivor Syndrome

Aug 25, 20092 mins
IT Leadership

Three management tips for helping employees cope with worklife after layoffs.

Chances are, if you’ve survived a round of layoffs in your career, you’ve probably experienced a pang of longing for lost colleagues, a lack of motivation and a decrease in productivity. According to a report by The Conference Board, an independent membership organization, such reactions can be described as “survivor’s syndrome.”

Downsizing has a significant, negative impact on work attitudes and often results in low morale, reduced commitment and a lack of trust and loyalty among employees, according to the report. So how can you minimize the effects of survivor’s syndrome before, during and after a layoff? Follow these three tips from The Conference Board:

To read more on this topic, see: Why Layoffs Hit IT Professionals So Hard.

1. Communicate. Much of how employees perceive a layoff depends on how much information is shared, and from whom the information is coming. As a department head, provide written communication to your staff before, during and after the downsizing, highlighting the events leading up to the layoff and divulging any actions that were taken to prevent it. Survivors will then be less likely to perceive the layoffs as unfair or impulsive.

2. Lead by example. If you’ve performed a layoff, you’ve probably harbored feelings of regret for having to lose members of your department and feel anxious about the light in which survivors see you. But as a business executive, it’s important to set a positive tone. Kick your leadership skills into high gear and focus on transitioning your employees toward a brighter future.

3. Create opportunity. After the layoff, provide additional training to employees who have assumed new responsibilities. Motivate employees to seek out ways to improve their skills and contribute to the organization, such as getting training in communicating in times of uncertainty, crisis and change. Offer one-to-one career counseling to employees who are seeking advancement in the future, and encourage them to use outlets for stress management like yoga classes, flexible work schedules and vacation time.

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