Surviving workers carry extra burden

Fears for small business after new employment laws

By Genevieve Curtis

As mass retrenchments become commonplace in Australian workplaces, bosses should spare a thought for those left behind.

Sympathy is rightly reserved for those who are retrenched but workers who survive job cuts often suffer a loss of morale and an increase in their workload.

This “survivor syndrome” mentality has crept into workplaces in the wake of financial doom and gloom.

Usually used to describe war veterans or trauma victims, the term has been adapted to the labour market.

Organisational psychologists warn that clumsy and mismanaged retrenchments are causing anxiety and guilt among remaining workers.

“New responsibilities are assigned to workers after job cuts and management does not offer adequate training,” Melbourne Business School program director Carol Gill said.

“People who survive redundancies often feel guilty for their survival and are hostile towards management.”

JSA International Communications organisational psychologist Jasmine Sliger said there was an unwritten emotional contract between employers and workers that was vital to workplace stability.

“It is harder to remain loyal if redundancies are not dealt with in a dignified manner,” Dr Sliger said.

Job losses had the potential to disrupt intra-office relationships that are pivotal to a smooth workplace.

“Often employers don’t realise the disruption that retrenchments have on informal communication networks in the office,” Ms Gill said.

“Bosses need to be politically savvy of office politics. The three golden rules for employers: communicate, communicate, communicate.”

Dr Sliger said they should look for signs of stress in workers-poor concentration, agitation and forgetfulness. Learning to combat these signs early was essential for workplace productivity.

“Set a communication plan and continually communicate with employees,” she said.

“Never discuss changes or announce redundancies via email or paper. People have the right to ask questions.

“Be realistic with employees, review their training needs and set realistic short-term goals to increase their productivity. Employers must ensure adequate training for employees with new responsibilities or higher workloads.”

The Daily Telegraph

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