Tag Archives: Survivor

The Other Side of Organizational Downsizing – What Survivors and Their Managers Can Do Going Forward

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Recently, a young friend of mine told me about an abrupt change in his company. He went in one morning to the usual – team meeting, work routine, cubicle life. Then in the early afternoon, without any prior notice or indication, the head of the company walked around the building with envelopes. By the end of the day, in this small tech support company, one-third of the employees had packed up and left the building.

Surprise lay-offs are the hardest to bear, but any kind of downsizing, no matter how necessary, is stressful and disorienting. When crisis precipitating a downsizing occurs, organizational leaders are wise to put together a transition team right away.

For those who were laid-off or who took the separation package in a carefully orchestrated downsizing, there is colossal adjustment. Hopefully, they will get the support they need to get that next job or to thrive in retirement.

For those who remain with the company, their adjustment can be great as well. Do an internet search for “surviving downsizing” and you will find hundreds of articles, and even several books on the subject.

Employees who survive the downsizing (whether because of their age, capabilities, or department) will still go through a period of post-traumatic stress. On that Monday, for instance, after their colleagues leave, they must re-orient to a new normal.

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Michael Sanders, author of 7 Critical Mistakes Employees Make in a Downsizing, wrote an empowering Linkedin article on how to take charge of one’s own survivors’ syndrome and move forward. First Sanders defines the elements of “sickness”; elements which include guilt, mistrust, sadness, anxiety, and disagreeability. Then he moves right to ten “power moves” that employees can make for a healthier, more substantive work situation. I list these, but don’t miss, in the article, what he says further on each.

  1. Practice instant alignment re-centering.
  2. Play by the new rules.
  3. Speed up.
  4. Practice intensive task management.
  5. Fall in love with your work, again.
  6. Take on new assignments.
  7. Expand your business affiliations.
  8. Continue your education.
  9. Become your own hero.
  10. Keep in touch with laid-off [or “downsized”] work friends.

Some of Sanders’ action items may seem more than you can handle as you adjust yourself to a work life very different than the previous one. His bottom line is  to refuse to be a victim. Whether your organization is proactive in retaining and retraining you, you can champion your own professional needs and career. It will benefit you and either your current employer or your next one.

Stress specialist Morton C. Orman, M.D. also wrote a prescriptive piece entitled 18 Ways to Survive Your Company’s Reorganization, Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change. Below are 8 of the points I believe are most helpful (again refer to his article for the rest of his wisdom).

  1. Be prepared for [more] change.
  2. Watch out for unrealistic expectations.
  3. Get creative.
  4. Expand your value to the company.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments.
  6. Seek appropriate compensation or “risk share” arrangements.
  7. Improve lines of communication.
  8. Become more efficient.

Again, these may seem obvious, on one hand, and annoyingly intrusive as well. You’re grieving the beloved colleague who was laid-off or that great boss who retired. In the process of that grief which may be with you for some time, you still have that job to do…with probably more responsibility added. Sadness and anxiety tend to affect our performance negatively. That’s why it’s imperative to set in place processes you may not have needed before but need now to recover and embrace what’s ahead.

Hopefully you have leaders and managers who are already astutely moving the company forward…with you in mind, as well as the  product/services. If not, you can’t risk waiting. Do your reading, evaluate your course of action, build your new work community, and demonstrate to yourself and those around you…you are a survivor! In the best sense of the word.

The Downsizing Jungle: 10 Power Moves by Mike Sanders

The Effects of Downsizing on Survivors: a Meta-analysis – Dissertation of Dr. Gladys West; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2000 – an excellent presentation of the issues of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, turnover intention, role conflict, job involvement, supervisor support, procedural and distributive fairness. [scholarly piece but worth wading through.]

Slideshare – Downsizing Best Practices – Survivors are Key – Don’t Neglect Them – Carol Beatty

Survivor Employees: What You Need to Know – description of 6 common profiles of employees dealing with “layoff survivor syndrome”

After Layoffs, Help Survivors Be More Effective – excellent article on what’s at stake for survivors of layoff and how, from a management standpoint, to turn things around.

18 Ways To Survive Your Company’s Reorganization, Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change

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