Layoff survivors: The other victims

While some corporate executives pay careful attention to the needs of employees victimized by layoffs, they rarely give as much thought to another group of workers that can be profoundly affected: the survivors.

When a layoff occurs, many survivors picture themselves as future layoff targets, says Batia Wiesenfeld, an associate professor at New York University's Stern School of Management. They might be onto something. Research has shown that more than two-thirds of organizations that go through a downsizing will conduct another layoff within five years, says Wiesenfeld.

Layoffs generate all sorts of negative consequences for survivors and the companies in which they work, says Wiesenfeld. For instance, layoff survivors frequently question their relationship with the organization and are more likely to disengage from their work and to leave their employers. They're less likely to take risks in the workplace, to innovate or to pursue leadership roles within the company, she says.

"Their reaction is to hunker down and hide under their desks," says Wiesenfeld, whose research is focused on layoff survivors. "An organization can't treat layoff victims poorly and expect the survivors to feel strongly about their own future. Organizations and people everywhere are losers in that process."

Do you have a layoff story to share? Are you a manager wondering how to conduct staff reductions in the least hurtful way? Experts will answer select reader questions in our Career Forum blog.

See the main feature story, Life After Layoffs: Discarded and Demoralized.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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