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Redundancies And Survivor Syndrome

A redundancy exercise is traumatic for all those involved. The emotional reaction associated with those employees who remain at the company after a period of redundancy, has come to be known as survivor syndrome. Survivors may consider that the redundancy exercise has not been fair.

Survivors may feel guilty that they have kept their jobs while colleagues and friends have lost theirs. Survivors often develop a sense of injustice if they feel that those chosen for redundancy have not been treated well, resulting in a loss of trust in their employer and reduced motivation. Individuals suffering from this syndrome often perform much less effectively at work than in the past. Typically, the type of behaviours surviving employees experience includes:

  • lower morale and commitment;
  • reduced loyalty to the company;
  • lower productivity and performance;
  • increased stress levels;
  • slower decision making; and
  • Increased absence.

The period of time where their future was uncertain, and seeing friends and colleagues leave the company, can produce strong emotions. One of the trigger points is the employee’s perceptions of his employer’s conduct during the redundancy.

It’s important to follow a fair and objective redundancy procedure; it’s equally important to be as thoughtful and humane in these very difficult circumstances to those employees who are at risk and those who are not. Providing practical support for employees can help to reduce negative responses. Often this takes the form of regular discussions with employees on a one-to-one basis, and the organisation of extra training to enable survivors to perform effectively.

Counseling may be an option for those employees who are suffering from stress. The strong emotions that the survivor syndrome can arouse in employees often produce undesirable results. The individuals who are not chosen for redundancy are usually expected to ensure that the organisation continues to function effectively. If these individuals suffer from the survivor syndrome, they will not be effective. How to avoid the development of survivor syndrome.

You can prepare for redundancy so that the risk of survivor syndrome and its harmful consequences are limited. There are several steps you can take to prevent survivor syndrome becoming a problem when making staff redundant:

  • develop an effective communication strategy;
  • plan the redundancy process so that it is – and is seen to be - fair, objective and transparent;
  • treat those employees at risk of losing their jobs, are treated with compassion and respect;
  • make sure that the survivors know that you understand they may experience problems after the restructuring, and that they will be given practical assistance after the redundancies have taken place;
  • be as open and honest with employees as possible to foster trust;
  • develop success criteria - as well as identifying objectives linked to the redundancies, ensure that targets based on the remaining workforce are developed. One measure of a successful redundancy exercise lies in the number of survivors who subsequently remain (rather than resign) and who continue to be motivated and perform at their previous level of competence.

Need help with redundancies, including the limitation of the risk of survivor syndrome, get in touch.

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