Layoff survivors also need attention

They go through a process experiencing anxiety, sadness and shock

In Summary

• Though grateful to still have income, survey found they feel stressed and overworked

Stressed worker
Stressed worker

Last December, we had an article on how employers and business owners should handle layoffs in ways that do not generate hostility.

As painful as it is, employee layoffs are sometimes necessary to cut costs in a business going through difficult times. Employees marked for layoffs get lots of attention in terms of counselling and compensation packages. Of course, small businesses cannot afford to be as generous. Employees laid off from small businesses are usually sent away with just that month's salary.

There's a group of employees that are often ignored amidst layoffs. These are the employees left behind, now referred to as "layoff survivors". A recent study shows that employees who were retained after a downsizing process experience anxiety, sadness and shock.

The findings have been published by BizReport, an e-commerce news agency, following a November 2022 survey of 2,162 people. The respondents consisted of layoff survivors, those who had been laid off and senior executives who make the decisions.

Some 63 per cent of layoff survivors reported anxiety, 61 per cent said they were sad and 45 per cent indicated frustration. Looking at the numbers, it is clear that many layoff survivors have a mix of all three emotions.

"Another sentiment that layoff survivors portrayed during the survey was feeling overworked," the report authors say in their findings. 65 per cent complained of excessive workloads since the layoff because they had to perform the tasks their former colleagues used to perform.

Further results show that a third of those who survived a layoff believe things will worsen for their employer. 61 per cent reported that they are less likely to recommend their employer as a great organisation to work for.

"Even though they are grateful to still have a source of income, 71 per cent of layoff survivors say their work motivation has declined since the layoff," the report reads in part. Survivors' guilt is a familiar feeling among those retained after a layoff. At least 52 per cent indicate feeling guilty because they kept their jobs but others didn't.

Three recommendations came out of the survey:

1. Two-way communication: Managers and business owners should avoid secrecy regarding the intended layoffs but should instead keep employees informed on the plan. Employee views should be sought to determine the best ways to calm them.

2. Be candid: Employees have a right to know the rationale behind the layoffs. If you are a decision maker in the business, explain to everybody the various options that were evaluated, whether there will be a send-off package or any other assistance to the employees leaving the organisation. If the intention is to suspend some employees rather than lay them off, and there are plans to recall them when things improve, this should be made clear to everybody.

3. Compensation plan: Organisations or businesses that can afford it should provide laid-off employees with a sufficient financial package to help them cope as they look for other jobs. Such aid is useful to survivors because it makes them feel a bit more valued by their employer.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star