If you lose your job, you live in a state of fear. If you remain in your job during a recession, you live in fear. Survivors of restructuring often report the same fear, anxiety and upset as those who had to go.
Imagine a family of two parens and four children. The kids have been raised in a loving home. The parents care for the children very well. But one morning at breakfast, the father announces that the family budget has been cut to the point that they don't have enough to make ends meet. As much as we want to keep you all, we have been forced to make the decision to let two of you go.
It's nothing personal, interjects the mother, just an economic decision. We've always been a caring family and hope you realise what a difficult time we've had to arrive at this decision.
At breakfast the next morning, the two remaining kids are greeted by a table with two chairs missing. All physical evidence of their siblings has been removed, no references are made about them by the parents. Mum and Dad make it clear that the two kids should be grateful for being allowed to stay, and must accept that they will have to help out more, whilst being 'reassured' that their efforts will be appreciated and will bring them closer as a family in these turbulent times..
This scenario obviously illustrates the folly of expecting commitment from survivors.
It also shows that management have a tough time having to choose who to let go.
But if management ignore the emotional impact of downsizing on survivors and acknowledge the distastefulness of the situation, by facilitating survivors to confront their anger, guilt and fear for their future in the organisation, there is a chance of regaining their commitment.
But how many companies think that 'survivor syndrome' is a malaise with the potential to turn into a pandemic? Too few, unfortunately.