2 Session will cover What is ‘survivor syndrome’? What impact does it have?How can it best be tackled?What is HR’s role?
3 What is it and what impact does it have? Survivor SyndromeWhat is it and what impact does it have?
4 History of the termW.G.Niederland’s study of survivors of the Holocaust (1968):fear of persecutioninner tensiondiminished self-esteemlack of initiative‘paradoxical sense of guilt at having survived’no sense of closureThree themes dominate survivor literature:self-preservationguiltanger and hatredDavid Noer’s early studies of layoffs and cutbacks in organisations (1993):survivors of downsizings display a similar range of emotions and behaviours, though less intense and severe
5 Linked with psychological contract Features of the psychological contract:mutuality, reciprocity & exchangeunwritten expectations, beliefs, promises & obligationsbased on trustreflects organisational cultureeveryone has onebreaking it has the biggest impact on the most highly engaged individuals, causing them to disengage
6 Impact of survivor syndrome: individuals sense of lossself-preservation behavioursguiltenvyfrustrationsense of inequity and unfairnessexhaustionfear, insecurity and anxietyneglectdistrust and resentmentperceptions of betrayalangerdepression
7 Impact of survivor syndrome: business Decreased morale, motivation, engagementRisk avoidance and aversion to changeDecreased productivityLoss of trust and cynicismDissatisfaction with jobLoss of discretionary effort and citizenship behaviours – safer to stick to the job description‘Burying babies’ ie unwillingness to innovate/be creativeExitIncreased absenteeismSabotage/revenge/retaliation eg petty theft, strike action
8 How can survivor syndrome be tackled, to minimise the negative impact?
9 Recognise the waves of change: it takes time ‘run-up’‘transition…’‘integration’‘closure’Anxiety levelAnnouncementJob lossesRelocationPay & conditionsAppointmentsNew structureWorking in new teamsDevine, Hirsh, Garrow & Holbeche (1998)Devine, Hirsh, Garrow, Holbeche & Lake, 1998
10 Recognise that downsizing is a social issue ‘Most often, downsizing is an economic decision; too often, it is communicated in economic terms, further fuelling growing unrest in the workplace.’ There is a need for ‘approaching downsizing as a social issue as well as an economic one.’John E. Guiniven, 2001Don’t expect people to put the action behind them and get back to business quicklyFocus on the process of transition, rather than expecting specific results by specific dates
11 Effective communication Psychological communications: ‘interventions that provide clear and accurate information to employees about … progress … including clear and accurate information about the consequences for the employees, and should also incorporate messages from top management indicating an understanding and compassion about what the employees are going through.’A Denisi & S Jae Shin (2005)Explain the reasoning behind decisions - over communicateApply the rules fairlyShare informationIf possible, involve employees in the downsizing processCare for redundant workersShow those left behind that you care
12 Honest communication‘All organisations say routinely, “People are our greatest asset.” Yet few practise what they preach, let alone truly believe it.’Peter Drucker, 1999In reality, it appears that transaction cost economics rules (Guiniven, 2001):managers must constantly strive to reduce costsemployees are considered assets, to be deployed and divested accordinglythis could be demoralising for employees, but could also be liberating
13 Communication: high concern/low trust Mental noise — people who are upset have difficulty hearing & processing informationNegative dominance — people who are upset tend to think negativelyRisk perception — what is perceived as real, is real in its consequencesTrust determination — when people are upset they want to know that you care(from work by Dr Vincent Covello)
14 Trust determination factors in high concern situations Assessed in first 30 seconds(from work by Dr Vincent Covello)
15 Trust determination factors in low concern situations Competence/ Expertise 80-85%All Others 20%(from work by Dr Vincent Covello)
16 Leadership‘M&As are at the core, human events. They topple long-standing relationships and, along with the new organisational charts, they bring new ways of doing things.Where are the business leaders as this new mix of cultures and customer and employee relationships are being defined? Always crunching the numbers.’(Wilfred Meyer, Siemens Power Generation)
17 New leadership competencies Demonstrates an understanding of the impact of change on the organisation, team & individualIs able to set, monitor & re-adjust goals appropriate to the current business environmentAdopts clear communication strategies to regularly inform & receive feedback from teams & individualsMaintains a visible profile which role models a consistent, responsive & professional approachEngages with staff, is accessible, and displays empathy
18 Line managers: the forgotten key players Filling the leadership vacuumHaving psychological contract conversationsSetting immediate targets over suitable timeframesFeedback & performance management (often while formal system has lapsed)Building new relationships & sharing know-howDealing with personal & practical issues for staffKey source of upward feedback – progress, issues, ideasBut - line managers may also feel battered, bruised and under intense pressure
20 In theory, it’s easy Influence top management Support Planning to deliver appropriate messages to staffto be visible and empatheticto involve staff in planning changesSupportto the line, so they can support their teams more effectivelyto those made redundantto those left behindPlanningget involved with heads of services to plan for sustainable downsizingto retain key skillsto ensure the future workforce supplyto help them consider alternative delivery models and different skill mixes
21 In practice… It’s all happening too fast Politics/public opinion rather than service imperatives are influencing where the axe fallsTop management is not receptiveShort term focus among service headsCorporate services budgets are being drastically cutLeadership/management development lagging behind – or not happening at allLine is dazed and confusedWhere is HR?reactive rather than taking the lead?left to pick up the pieces again?or is this too gloomy a picture?