October 31, 2008

Ombuds Can Help Minimize Effects of Layoffs

When companies are forced to downsize, the effects are not limited to the employees laid off. David Noer, professor of leadership and business administration at Elon University, coined the term “layoff-survivor sickness” and has extensively studied the affliction and its effects. Noer says the sickness is a pervasive sense of personal violation manifest as “a toxic set of feelings and emotions.” Recent research indicates that attrition among layoff survivors can lead to greater than the cuts achieved through the layoffs. University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School Associate Professor Charlie O. Trevor recommends employers institute programs to give employees a sense that the company is just and fair, and cites Ombuds as an example. In addition, researchers recommend the following strategies:
  • Over-communicate, tell the truth and seek advice;
  • Ensure a perception of fairness in restructuring decisions;
  • Adopt a “helping” relationship, rather than one of “command-and-control management”;
  • Facilitate “grieving” and “venting”;
  • Consider the family;
  • Involve top managers;
  • Do something very visible; and
  • Give survivors a reason to stay.
(HR Magazine, subscription required.)

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