Recession-hit firms face damage from survivor guilt after redundancies

The biggest challenge for HR professionals over the next 12 months will be dealing with survivor guilt, an expert has warned.

Robin Wood, managing director for HR service provider CMC, said survivors’ feelings of guilt after redundancies or restructuring moves can damage employee engagement and hit productivity.

“It will definitely be HR’s biggest concern, if it isn’t already,” Wood told Personnel Today.

“Other elements of survivor syndrome – like relief at keeping their job – can fade after a few days, but the guilt involved in seeing friends leave the company may haunt staff in some organisations throughout 2009 if it isn’t dealt with early on.”

Research shows that nearly two-thirds of change programmes don’t accomplish their stated objectives, Wood said, adding that HR staff would be judged on how they dealt with survivor guilt.

“Their reputation is on the line, because lower engagement and lower productivity can put the organisation’s future at risk, so this is very serious stuff.”

The number of UK business failures is predicted to increase by almost 50% next year, according to a report by accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward.

Previous studies show workers who keep their jobs following cuts are almost as likely to need treatment for stress as their colleagues who are made redundant.

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