Friday, February 06, 2009

Survivor Guilt in the Workplace because of Layoffs

"While it is true that some business schools around the country are now incorporating emotional intelligence (EQ) skill development into their curriculum, millions of managers still have never been taught how to deal with the emotional elements of management. Even though most managers are enlightened enough to reject the outdated notion that emotions are to be avoided, they may lack the skills to provide adequate emotional support."

Nick Tasler, Overcoming Survivors' Guilt with EQ

Tasler has written a good white paper about the emotional climate in organizations today, framing it as "survivors' guilt". Tasler postulates that those who remain in an organization after many have been terminated, feel guilty rather than lucky. Which is understandable.

Tasler states that "A recent Accenture study found that 66 percent of managers believe that economic concerns are distracting employees and hampering productivity."

But guilty or lucky, there is still a lingering anxiety ... if they were fired will I be next? Who can be sure in today's workforce?

We don't leave our "emotions" at home when we come to work. And many of us, workers as well as managers, have not had good emotional intelligence training. If you'd like to learn more, take The EQ COurse(tm) online, with email support, or sign up for the course + coaching. Email me at for more information.

Another emotion that is afloat in the workplace today is missing the people who are gone. What was once a team, is now missing members.

I remember years ago working for an ailing agency. It began with a workforce that included two of the best work-friends I've ever had. As the agency got worse (poor management), they left, and then for me, "it wasn't the same." Was I distracted and less productive? Certainly at first. I lost a lot of my enthusiasm. We were raising funds, and that always takes a supportive environment. I got the same work done, but it required a lot more energy. That amounts to "stress."

Layoffs also mean that there is more work for those left behind, and longer hours, and more stress. I've never seen it otherwise. I remember another job where I made the cut and even got a title change, and I was thrilled. Then it dawned on me. With XXX gone, who was going to do their work? Me. And for no extra pay.

It's for sure that workers today need emotional support in the workplace. If you're a manager, you can't afford to miss 'the elephant in the living room.' CHANGE is the watchword, and change is always an emotional thing. The typical worker today may be juggling the following:
  • Anxiety about his or her own job
  • A spouse who has been laid off
  • Having to change mode of transportation - carpooling or taking mass transit
  • Problems affording childcare
  • Having to eat differenyly, i.e., bring lunch instead of eating out
  • Missing team members and the camaderie and expertise they provided
  • Dealing with others who are stressed, including their managers and CEOs
  • Having to move because of foreclosure or rising cost of apartment
The list could go on an on. There are also the continuing emotional things to deal with. I consulted with a manager this morning whose employee's husband is dying.

How do you deal with the important undercurrents that our emotional lives bring to the workplace? Learn more. Learn how to turn the tide and make the emotions work for you. Take The EQ Course and learn more about emotional intelligence - handling your emotions and those of others.

Think it doesn't belong in the workplace? Think again. "Emotion" and "motivation" come from the same root word, meaning "move." As we say, Motivation is not a THINKING word.

Learn more! Email me at and visit The EQ Course.

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