By Anja van den Berg
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic layoffs are inevitable. Those who survive retrenchment share collective emotions of guilt, anger and anxiety. They will be wondering: Am I next?
The uncertainty comes with grave psychological costs. In a desperate attempt to stay employed, workers live the prelayoff months in bursts of frenetic and anxious energy.
They meet with colleagues, network with departments within their companies and hope that someone might help them keep their jobs.
They also spend more and more hours on delivering outputs. They know the improbability of surviving the upcoming layoff. Yet, they continue hoping for the best while straddling two realities: desperate to stay at a company that doesn’t quite want them anymore but not entirely in the world of the job seeker.
The adverse effects of insecurity can spill over to their home lives. Mulling incessantly about their uncertain employment futures, they are curt with their spouses and children. Family relationships suffer.
They will also start building a grudge against the company, says Lauren Herring, author of Take Control of Your Job Search! Helping a colleague pack up his belongings while fighting back the tears – just to be asked by another dear coworker to do the same soon after – is heart-rending.
“At that moment, the business doesn’t matter,” Herring adds. The company is the enemy.
Employees who survive a layoff also have the impulse for self-preservation. They will update their CVs, refresh their LinkedIn profile, and start looking for alternative employment options.
The other side of that coin is that employees will most likely be disgruntled about taking on more work, Herring warns. “Most employees feel they work at full capacity on any given week. During the weeks after a layoff, they are likely to feel panicked by the thought of taking on the workload of another employee – or even two.”
The Covid-19 crisis has left many a manager between a rock and a hard place. They must trim the personnel to help the company survive. Yet, the personnel who remain are scared, anxious and angry. If letting employees go is unavoidable, leadership needs to address the remaining employees’ negative feelings head-on. To reduce the long-term effect of those employees’ emotions, maintaining an open conversation with them is critical.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2021/01/when-you-know-layoffs-are-coming
Stats SA: http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=13690