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Survivor Syndrome

Essay by   •  July 13, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  4,186 Words (17 Pages)  •  1,679 Views

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Executive Summary

Work atmosphere is an important aspect when analyzing working conditions of a company. Positive business culture can correlate with effective and efficient productivity, thus leading to an organizations' financial success. Unfortunately, there are times when management must lay off fellow employees due to economics and financial reasoning. These actions are faced with dire consequences. The following report includes expected reactions by employees who continue to work within an organization after a company downsizing. The report is further directed towards management efforts to repair the torn work atmosphere, as it includes cases that both convey ineffective downsizing practices and outline successful downsizing strategies.

The extent of the research was conducted through many secondary sources, with the main content heavily based on previous academic articles. Other secondary sources including textbooks, business tribunals and business articles may also be included in the content. The sources were retrieved using Simon Fraser University library journal databases, most notably Business Source Complete, Academic Search Premier, and Google Scholar.

The research focuses on short-term and long-term associations with workers' emotions and productivity, while displaying appropriate management responses to their employees' emotions. The research suggests that employees' trust and confidence, in management, becomes tarnished after an organizational downsizing, which accordingly defects productivity. The research further suggests that if these emotional symptoms continue in the long-term, management will continue to face these problematic downsizing issues. The final part of the report will focuses how to overcome these difficulties from a managerial perspective.

Based on the research conducted, the recommendations of the report focus on mitigating detrimental effects of downsizing on employees' emotions and productivity, by delivering managers proper steps on implementation of downsizing. The short-term recommendations focus on creating support programs for both surviving and non-sizing employees, while the long-term recommendations focus on creating a positive work environment. These factors will result in management's success in improving employees' productivity and emotional stability, while supporting the organizations financial performance.


With the financial burden of an unstable economy over the past several years, survivor syndrome has become a growing issue for organizations. Survivor syndrome can be defined as the emotional problems in remaining employees resulting from a major organizational reconstruction or downsizing (Levitt, Wilson, & Gilligan, 2008). These employees are referred to as "survivors," and often exhibit feelings of betrayal, anger, guilt, envy and uncertainty (Levitt et al., 2008). This issue needs to be taken very seriously by management, as it can have an adverse impact on a company's performance. This has ultimately led to employees being unhappy with the quality of their jobs resulting in a lower standard of work. However, companies have been successful in mitigating survivor sickness which can be attributed to a well-executed organizational strategy, involving a management emphasis on communication. Therefore, it's essential for management to take precaution in dealing with downsizing situations, and to implement a strategy that focuses on reducing the effects of survivor syndrome.

Purpose of the Report

The purpose of this paper is to determine the most effective post-downsizing managerial strategies that mitigate the effects of survivor sickness, both in the short-term and the long-term. This will be done by focusing on three main areas:

1. The emotional effects of survivor sickness on employees

2. The effects of employees' emotions on a company's performance

3. Case studies demonstrating effective and ineffective ways of treating employees throughout the process of organizational downsizing

Scope and Limitations

This report will outline two main cases that exemplify effective and ineffective downsizing strategies for organizations. The main objective of this report is to educate management about the effects of survivor syndrome, and allow them to formulate a plan to reduce them whenever organizational downsizing is necessary. This report is not providing alternatives or analyzing the ethical issues behind downsizing; rather we are giving insight on how to deal with the effects of downsizing from a managerial standpoint. However, when assessing this report, we must keep in mind that statistics vary by the industry, and the size of a company. Statistics also vary by an organization's business culture, which consists of employee norms for expected social behavior (Appelbaum & Close, 1999). Furthermore, it's difficult to adequately measure employee's perceived emotions from surveys, as often respondents of surveys only reveal what they want you to know.

Databases and Sources

This report's resources include academic articles written by Dr. Steven H. Appelbaum. Dr. Appelbaum is a professor at Concordia University, and has won numerous awards writing articles regarding organizational restructuring. Appelbaum's articles discussing survivor syndrome are well-known and commonly cited by researchers to support evidence in other articles. This report also integrates the organizational downsizing opinions of Dr. Shreekumar Nair, a professor at the National Institute of Industrial Engineering. His areas of expertise pertains human resource management and organizational behavior. In his 2008 article "Organization Downsizing: A study of survivors attitudes", he examines emotions by conducting a survey of over 70 workers based on specific questions related to survivors. The articles that are used in this report primarily focus on downsizing in organizations, and the effects of downsizing.

Employees' Emotions Associated with Survivor Syndrome

Organizational downsizing , the reduction of the size and costs of an organizations' work force (Travaglione & Cross, 2006), is ultimately an organization's attempt to become leaner and better positioned for growth. However, the process of terminating many employees sometimes leave remaining employees feeling betrayed and under the impression that the psychological



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