Redundancy and Survivor's Syndrome Investigating 'Literature Review' chapter

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 25
  • Subject: Careers
  • Type: 'Literature Review' chapter
  • Paper: #96236096

Excerpt from 'Literature Review' chapter :

Downsizing, upsizing, and restructuring have had an impact on the skill set of the employees. These changes meant employees must learn new routines, new skills, and take on greater responsibility (Littler and Innes, 2003). In some cases, this has meant that employees must deskill. For instance, they may have to perform the jobs that were once assigned to lower skilled, displaced workers. Deskilling can have a significant psychological impact on the surviving workforce as well. In certain sectors, such as the healthcare industry, or social work, restructuring and job shifting can have a significant impact on their ability to deliver quality care. Carey (2007) suggests that in countries where these public services have undergone privatization, a deskilling of the labour force has occurred and will continue to occur unless something is done to stop it.

Survivor's guilt results from traumatic events. Many times it is associated with an event such as a plane crash or natural disaster. However, survivor's guilt can also affect those who remain in a company after redundancy. Those whom are left behind are likely to experience a range of emotions. They might feel happy or relieved that they were not axed. They may feel uncertain or distrustful about their own job security. However, they may also feel guilty, particularly if they felt a sense of closeness with those whom were let go. They may ask the question most commonly associated with survivor's guilt, "Why them and not me?"

Workers who have been survivors in the downsizing of large corporations sometimes feel envious of those who do not have to survive the ordeal that they must endure. According to Kiviat (2009), life does not go on as usual on the day after. Workers report the atmosphere at work as depressing or sullen. They often have to take on additional work, and stress. The office is quiet if the reduction has been drastic. There are empty desks, familiar routines change. According to Kiviat, when someone gets a promotion, others want to congratulate them, but they realize that it was because two others lost their job. A feeling of gloom and desperation in this situation can be contagious. Workers who are distracted by the changes in the workforce often change, Innovation decreases because workers are afraid to take chances. Turnover rates increase. This the reality of what survives in that aftermath of redundancy. Survivor's guilt is dangerous to the company by creating a toxic work environment (Proudfoot, 2009). This can cause tempers to flare, as tension increases.

Longitudinal studies indicated that as time elapses, employees are more likely to suffer from stress related physical problems, depression and changes in eating, as compared to employees who had not experienced layoffs in their company (Grunberg, Moore, and Greenberg, 2001). Several studies also confirmed that alcohol use rose in the time elapsed among survivors of layoffs (Grunberg, Moore, Anderson-Connolly and Greenberg, 1999; Sikora, Moore, Greenberg and Grunberg, 2008). In workers who had experienced downsizing, not only once, but more than once, it was found that the first incidence still affected them and influenced their reactions to subsequent layoffs. (Moore, Grunberg, & Greenberg, 2006).

Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment is defined by what an employee is willing to do for their company. Organzational commitment can be divided into two categories. The first is interpersonally directed commitment. This is a person's willingness to help out or step up without being asked, when the need arises. Organizationally directed commitment refers to their willingness to do extra when asked.

Organizational commitment can be divided into three categories: affective, continuance, and normative. Affective commitment refers to the employee's positive emotional attachment to the company. Continuance commitment is the commitment based on the need to keep their job. They cannot afford to lose organizational membership, so they remain committed, whether they are emotionally attached or not. Normative commitment refers to feelings of obligation to the organization. When organizations invest resources in the employee, they might feel guilty if they do not return the obligatory gesture by doing their job. Understanding these types of organizational commitment is essential in understanding survivor's syndrome, as it makes type of commitment and important factor in the analysis.

Iverson and Buttigieg (1999) found that organizational commitment among firefighters was more closely tied affective commitment than organizational effectiveness. Firefighters were more likely to remain with the organization if they felt an affective commitment. The type of commitment involved in organizational loyalty has only recently begun to be studies. Many of the studies found considered organizational commitment as a single factor. They did not break the various types of commitment into their subsequent categories. One o the key gaps in the literature is the studies need to be conducted on survivors in terms of not only their overall organizational commitment, but the type of commitment that effects their decision to stay or to look elsewhere. This information would greatly help to improve retention levels after redundancy.

Organizational Justice and Redundancy

The previous section addressed some of the key issues surrounding the affects of redundancy on the organization and on the individual workers. Some of this literature briefly touched on the topic of feelings of breech of contract on a psychological and/or social level. Let us now examine redundancy from a survivors perception of justice. French (1964) described organizational justice as an individual's perception of fairness in and organization.

Literature indicates that one of the most common perceptions of displaced workers is that employers will use redundancy to disguise discrimination or unjust firing. Employers can be subject to lawsuits after layoffs, and must take precautions to protect themselves (Labate, 2002). It is not known how many of these cases are legitimate and how many are attempts of disgruntled employees to seek revenge or financial gain. However, this is a key concern in this topic area. Thus far, no academic studies have been undertaken, as they would be subjective and have many possible biases. In terms of survivor effect, this type of action would have and impact on the remaining employees as well. In addition, differences in laws regarding unjust firing would have to be taken into consideration.

Organizational justice has three key components: distributive justice, procedural justice, and interactional justice. Distributive justice considers the moral and ethical implications of the outcomes. It includes items such as equality, equity of decisions and the needs of the individual. Procedural justice refers to the methods that are in place to make certain that justice is served. This includes laws, policies and procedures for administering justice. Interactional justice is based on the perceptions of fairness. Studies discussed earlier about how feelings of unfairness affect the workplace are a prime examples of interactional justice.


An examination of literature on the survivors of redundancy provides clues that can help to reduce the negative affects of redundancy on employees. Through discovering the affects of various factors on the employees and the workplace, it is possible to derive a set of actions that can be taken to reduce the perceived level of unfairness among redundancy survivors. Reducing feelings of unfairness is a key to reducing the negative affects of survivor's syndrome and its pathological affects.

Research suggests that the worst thing a company can do is to hide the upcoming layoffs from their employees. This promotes stress and uncertainty. They are much more likely to react in a positive manner if they have fair warning and do not lose their sense of trust. Guilt and cognitive dissonance can affect those who have to carry out the decisions. These feelings can be contagious. Therefore, these persons need support to help them maintain a positive attitude both before and after the layoff occur. The ability of the manager to handle the changes that result from redundancy is dependent on whether they are company oriented, or employee oriented.

The final finding of the literature review is that redundancy affects every level of the organization. Recognition of these changes will help employers to reduce the negative impacts of redundancy on their remaining staff. Redundancy should be considered in terms of organizational change management. Companies must be able to anticipate the changes that will occur in their organization, both from a business and cultural standpoint. They must develop contingencies for preserving employee morale, helping employees to adjust to increased responsibility, and learning new skills. Managerial support will play the most vital role in whether employees are able to make the transition or whether they fall victim to survivor's syndrome.


Brandes, P., et al. 2008. 'The Interactive Effects of Job Insecurity and Organizational Cynicism on Work Effort Following a Layoff.' Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies

14 (3), pp. 233-247

Carey, M. 2007. 'White-Collar Proletariat? Braverman, the Deskilling/Upskilling of Social Work and the Paradoxical Life of the Agency Care Manager.' Journal of Social Work 7 (1), pp.


Cheung, C. 2005. 'Rational or demoralized responses to work restructuring in Hong Kong?'Human 58, pp. 223-247

Chirumbolo, A. And Areni, A. 2010. 'The Interactive Effects of Job Insecurity and Organizational Cynicism…

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