Survivor syndrome: supporting employees that have avoided redundancy
Redundancies create a difficult climate for all employees. But while employers often think carefully about how to care for people facing redundancy, the survivors who keep their jobs can be forgotten. You might think that staff who keep their jobs in the midst of redundancies would be pleased and relieved, but there are other issues that employers should consider. By considering survivors when dealing with redundancies, employers can emerge from the redundancy process with a healthy, happy workforce.
Employees who survive redundancies may experience what is referred to as 'survivor syndrome'. Their initial relief can turn into guilt at having kept their jobs while their colleagues lost out. This can develop into envy over their colleagues' severance packages or even their new jobs or life situations. Eventually the survivors may feel resentment at the extra work they are expected to manage without the assistance of their departed peers. So instead of having a positive, motivated workforce employers can be left with a dispirited staff who feel distrust towards their employer and resentment towards the colleagues who have moved on.
It's likely - and perhaps natural - that some of the employees who survive redundancies will exhibit symptoms of survivor syndrome, which include reduced morale and motivation, lack of trust and a sense that their job is vulnerable. But while these feelings may be inevitable, employers can take steps to reduce their severity and improve the chances of success following redundancies.
By understanding that redundancies affect all employees, employers can make sure that all employees are treated with respect and consideration during the process. In particular, employers should strive to make the redundancy process open and fair, so staff understand the reasons for job losses. Clear communication with all employees can reduce speculation and reassure people during a stressful time. And while counselling is often provided to people facing redundancy, survivors may also benefit from the opportunity to reflect on their feelings and prepare for a positive future.