Staff who remain after a restructure are often impacted, even when their job is deemed safe. How can you support staff after redundancies?
‘Survivors’ of job cuts typically suffer from feelings normally experienced by those who survive major disasters or traumas. These emotions can have long-term implications on staff morale, motivation, productivity and stress levels. It can be difficult for individuals to move forward and remain happy and productive at work.
A key part of your strategic redundancy process should be considering the impact of retrenchments on staff who remain in employment. ‘Survivor syndrome’ describes the physical and psychological impact of redundancies on the remaining staff who didn’t lose their jobs.
A lot depends on the individual, but those who remain often encounter one – or several – of the following emotions.
The immediate feeling of relief may not last long and can soon dissolve into other feelings. It can be hard to understand the decisions that have been made, and staff may not agree with them. Transparent and ongoing communication throughout the redundancy process can help to tackle these issues.
You might think that people who’ve kept their jobs would be grateful. But they are more likely to be feeling guilty that they ‘survived’ in the workplace at the expense of others.
Guilt during such difficult times is normal. It’s a natural defence against the deeper fear that it could have been us who lost our jobs. It’s also a way to defend against sadness at losing friends and colleagues who were part of our lives.
3. Loss of confidence
Redundancies can affect confidence and lower self-esteem. Remaining staff may question why they’ve kept your job, especially if they feel there are others more worthy than them.
Some people develop envy at a missed opportunity that a redundancy payment offers, for example about their colleagues’ severance packages or even their new jobs or life situations.
Picking up the workload and responsibility left by those made redundant, and no clearly revised job description, can lead to increased levels of stress. There may also be fears that if they fail to deliver, the company may get into trouble again. This rationale can become self-fulfilling, if stress affects performance and health.
Staff may be fearing for their own future: are there more redundancies in the pipeline and will they be next? If the redundancy process lacked honesty and transparency it can be hard to trust management when told there is no risk of further redundancies. If people don’t feel secure in their job with current employers, they may decide to apply for more stable positions elsewhere.
Redundancies can lead to a lack of loyalty and loss of pride in an organisation. When people feel demoralised, it’s hard to display commitment, enthusiasm or initiative.
Ways to support staff after redundancies
Implement a communication strategy
Communicate with all staff during and after the redundancy process. This will help ease fears and reduce workplace gossip.
Provide training for managers
Train line managers to look for signs of stress. Provide them with the skills to support remaining employees and encourage them to have regular discussions about new roles or reporting structures.
Assess organisational health
Carry out organisational health assessments to minimise the risk of staff developing stress-related illnesses.
Monitor staff behaviour
Monitor absences closely and take action quickly if there is a significant upwards trend.
Equip employees with the right skills
Recommend retraining for employees who will be doing a new job.
Offer specialist support
Use outplacement services to help manage the redundancy process.