Much has been written and offered by way of support for the hundreds of people affected by the Target Corp. lay offs. This highly publicized event sent a shock wave not only through each and every employee but also through the community at large. The limelight is being brightly shone as these former Target employees embark on their transition. But what about the employees left behind? The ‘lucky” folks who kept their jobs? Not much is heard, read or offered to these individuals. I want to know who is addressing the “Survivor Angst”?
Survivor angst is the complexity of emotions experienced by those left behind after a lay off. It includes a combination of the following:
1. An underlying fear of when the next “shoe will drop”. Lay offs historically happen in waves. The initial event sends a shock wave through the entire organization. And instead of creating a sense of relief to the remaining workforce, it creates an underlying paranoia of when the next wave will come. Survivors often will say “safe – for now”.
2.Guilt is also a common emotion that lay off survivors grapple with. Often wondering why did some people lose their jobs while others got to stay. They become overwhelmed by trying to make sense of a situation that doesn’t make sense to those outside of the decision makers circle.
3. Grief and loss. Survivors had to stand by helplessly while their colleagues, peers and friends walked out with boxes packed. They just lost the person they shared projects, coffee breaks and juicy gossip with. Their sadness comes from knowing that their friends will have some tough times ahead.
4. Being overwhelmed is another feeling survivors deal with. The work still needs to get done, now with fewer people. Survivors often hear, “congratulations, you kept your job, you now get to do the work the of 2-3 other people as well.
5. And finally there is a feeling of uncertainty and disconnectedness. It takes time for an organization to hammer out a new direction. And until it does it is difficult for survivors to know exactly what their role is and how it will tie in to that overall direction.
So when the public looks at the number of people affected by a mass lay off, it is important not to forget about the survivors.