Downsizing, Right Size, Wrong Size, Rollover! What’s going on? The last week of January 2009 began with bad news for the job market, as more than 71,400 more cuts were announced on Monday, January 26 alone. At least six companies in the manufacturing and service industries announced cost-cutting initiatives that included cutting thousands of jobs.

As reported by CNN, more than 200,000 job cuts have been announced so far this year, according to company reports. Nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost during 2008, the highest annual job loss total since 1945.

Concerned as we are for those who were laid off, employees who survive a downsizing feel anything but relief. Most of the time, they feel anxious and betrayed.

The painful feelings caused by downsizing—a sense of loss, fear, depression, mistrust, and betrayal—are not only experienced by downsized workers. These heartbreaking emotions are also felt by employees who survived the layoffs! I have experienced job elimination twice in my career and it was no fun! I also remember being around many other times when my friends and colleagues lost their jobs and how I felt in those dark days and in the months that followed.

Talk to anyone who has survived and they might say something like this: “Just when we started to think our jobs were safe, they changed the rules about us. We didn’t know who was in charge, who we could trust, or what we could do.” we were supposed to be doing. The more disturbing it became, the less productive we became.” Talk about a toxic work environment!

Many employers try to manage these powerful emotions by justifying managerial decisions and downplaying the challenges ahead. This type of response only fuels doubt, speculation, rumors, and cynicism instead of commitment and drive to keep going.

Many executives think that surviving employees are so relieved to have a job that they enthusiastically jump into it. Could not be farther from the truth! Often any relief employees feel is soon overwhelmed by a host of unpleasant emotions: grief, guilt, loneliness, depression, and job insecurity.

In general, the work of those who have left the company is distributed among those who remain: the survivors. Add this to the physical and mental exhaustion that already comes from the “do more with less” philosophy prevalent today, because companies are better at downsizing. people of what they are in Workload – and you have an organization in crisis. You have a work environment that is driving employees, and ultimately bottom line, in the wrong direction.

Why are the needs of survivors overlooked in the vast majority of organizations? “Because there’s very little recognition that survivors have any need,” says Harris Sussman, president of Workways, an organizational consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “But even if companies acknowledge that survivors have special needs, there’s a nasty Catch-22 involved: Companies downsize for monetary reasons, and programs to help remaining employees cost money.”

That may be a good excuse, but it’s a bad reason, in my opinion. Remember… who is really driving your business? People! If you don’t spend the money to salvage something from the rubble, your employees will resist any other organizational change efforts you attempt. Worse still, you will never get the results that the restructuring was intended to get in the first place. “P2P” (person to person connections) needs to be improved a bit!

Survivors need emotional support, extensive communication from management, clear job descriptions, and career management assistance for a downsizing to be successful. After all, the remaining employees are the the only ones who can make the company survive and prosper for years to come.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms or displays any of these behaviors, please seek help immediately!


  • job insecurity
  • fear of the unknown
  • Management mistrust
  • Uncertain/doubtful of skills and abilities
  • lack of loyalty
  • high stress levels
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling too dependent on the organization.


  • Narrow minded
  • Not open to healthy risk
  • Low productivity
  • Depressed
  • Increase in absenteeism
  • low morale
  • Loss of pride in the organization.
  • Greater resistance to change.
  • acts of sabotage

Again, it’s all about “P2P”: the person-to-person connections that create a positive work environment that engages employees and encourages productivity or creates a negative, toxic environment that does the opposite. It all comes down to recognizing that survivors have special needs. Giving them the emotional support they deserve and communicating with them as adults is the right thing to do, for them and for the organization as a whole.

A positive workplace means business! Just win a hundred dollars! ®

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