How Outplacement Can Minimise the Impact of “Survivor’s Guilt” in Remaining Employees

When we consider the impact of job losses – such as recent redundancies or retrenchment arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s natural to focus on those directly impacted by the cut-backs, i.e. those employees who have lost their jobs.

However, the effect of job losses on remaining employees can be particularly traumatic, especially if they experience what’s known as ‘survivor’s guilt’ or ‘survivor’s syndrome’ – a feeling of guilt over the fact that they kept their jobs, while colleagues and friends were not so lucky.

In this article, I’ll be looking at the effects of survivor’s guilt on remaining employees, and how employers can minimise the impact of this syndrome – in order to maintain engagement, motivation, and trust – using a solid outplacement strategy.

What is survivor’s guilt?

Survivor’s guilt can occur in relation to a traumatic event in which someone survived when others did not. As a result, the survivor may feel guilty that they escaped the effects of the event, question why they survived when others didn’t, and wonder whether there was something they could have done to prevent the event from happening.

On a more extreme level, survivor’s guilt is often associated with events involving major trauma, such as death arising from terminal illness, war, or an act of terrorism. However, any event which is traumatic – such as seeing those around you losing their jobs – can result in a degree of survivor’s guilt in those who escaped the direct impact of the event.

The symptoms of survivor’s guilt can include the following:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Fear and confusion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Obsessive thoughts about the situation
  • Feelings of helplessness and disconnection
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea

What is the impact of survivor’s guilt in the workplace?

Considering the symptoms of survivor’s guilt, it’s not hard to see why employees experiencing this syndrome would struggle to work productively and maintain focus in their jobs.

In fact, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) of more than 4000 workers who kept their jobs following organisational lay-offs, reported that over 75% had experienced a drop in their own productivity. The study also revealed that:

  • 87% were less likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work
  • 81% believed customer service has declined
  • 77% saw more errors being made in the workplace
  • 64% said their colleagues’ productivity has declined

As a result of survivor’s guilt in response to job losses, workplaces are likely to face problems ranging from reduced engagement and productivity, lower motivation, less trust between employees and their employer, and higher overall levels of anxiety, stress and fear.

In our current climate, the trauma of redundancies or retrenchment will be compounded by the fear and disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. More than ever, the feeling of uncertainty over what the future may hold – and the sudden nature of these changes in the workplace – is likely to add to the anxiety, confusion, and guilt experienced by surviving employees.

How can employers use outplacement to minimise the impact of survivor guilt in remaining employees?

Offering an outplacement program to departing employees can be extremely effective – not just in terms of supporting outgoing staff members, but also in the positive message it communicates to those remaining in employment.

Outplacement offers reassurance to surviving employees

For employees who have not suffered job losses, seeing their former colleagues being treated with fairness and respect during their departure period will provide reassurance that they too will be treated well and receive adequate support should they face the same circumstances.

An outplacement program shows employers are committed to upholding their values

Remaining staff members who witness outgoing employees receiving outplacement support will also have greater faith in the values of their employer. Offering outplacement sends a clear message that the employer is committed to upholding their values at every stage of the employee lifecycle, which will lead to employees feeling more trusting of their employer.

Seeing their colleagues receive outplacement provides peace of mind

Witnessing the level of support their departing employees have received via an outplacement program is likely to contribute towards greater peace of mind for remaining employees, leading to lower levels of fear and anxiety. By supporting the mental health of employees in this way, they will be able to work more effectively, have greater focus, and feel more engaged and connected with their employer.

Outplacement can result in higher levels of motivation and productivity in surviving employees

As a result of making surviving employees feel more reassured and confident, employers can help their staff members work more productively and feel motivated to continue performing their jobs as normal. By lessening the impact of survivor’s guilt, outplacement can help ensure surviving employees aren’t held back by anxiety, fear and confusion following redundancies or retrenchment.

Career365’s affordable online outplacement programs – delivered via online training modules and video-based coaching – can be accessed from any location, at any time, on any device, making them ideal for a COVID-19 environment.

If you need support or advice on outplacement services for retrenched employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.career365.com.au to find out more about our fully online outplacement programs.

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.

As an Outplacement Provider, Do You Have an Online Outplacement Program Ready to Deliver? Here’s Why You Need One Now…

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses across the globe, outplacement companies need to be in a position to support organisations who are having to quickly lay off staff in response to the crisis, as well as adapt to the challenges of a self-isolating world.

Having a comprehensive outplacement program that can be delivered entirely online is an ideal scenario – but not only is creating a program from scratch a time-consuming process, it also fails to offer a tried-and-tested methodology or proven results.

Career 365 offers our renowned outplacement training program as a turnkey, whitelabelled solution – called ONBOFF – allowing outplacement organisations in any location to provide top-quality outplacement support under their own brand. In this article, I’m outlining why this service is particularly relevant in the COVID-19 world, and how it can add value to outplacement providers during these challenging times.

Ready-to-go outplacement program content means rapid deployment

With workplace changes and staff retrenchments occurring at an incredibly fast pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to deploy outplacement services quickly means you can start supporting your clients sooner, not to mention having an edge over your competition.

With a ready-made outplacement program such as Career 365’s whitelabelled training modules, you can go live almost immediately (in our case, in as little as 48 business hours) and enjoy the benefits of a structured online outplacement program without the lengthy lead times.

A turnkey outplacement program leaves you free to focus on your business

Creating a high-performing outplacement program from scratch takes a lot of time and a great deal of effort. By taking advantage of our turnkey program, outplacement companies don’t need to invest these precious resources in content development, as the ‘hard yards’ have been done for you.

Amidst the current crisis, this means you can focus on maintaining your business rather than spending weeks and months creating an outplacement program. With a structured program ready to deliver, you can instead place your attention on maximising program sales and leveraging new opportunities.

White-labelling lets you offer a proven outplacement program under your own brand

The beauty of end-to-end white-labelling is that your company is able to offer a proven solution with your own branding. In the case of Career 365’s outplacement program offering, white-labelling lets you apply your own corporate identity to program assets, so participants and clients only see your brand, not ours.

This brandable approach lets you tailor the look and feel of the program to suit your business and audience while delivering high-quality outplacement program content that’s demonstrated to deliver exceptional results. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds.

An online outplacement program is essential for self-isolating participants

With face-to-face training and in-person workshops no longer an option due to the strict self-isolating measures in place around the world, outplacement services that can be provided remotely are now the only way to support retrenched staff members. At the same time, it’s important that outgoing employees continue to receive a high standard of support – not a compromised or watered-down online version.

Outplacement companies seeking a white-labelled solution need an established program that’s proven to deliver results using online methods. Although we’ve been offering our online outplacement services for many years with great success, this has taken on new significance in the wake of COVID-19.

However, the benefits of online outplacement go far beyond a self-isolation scenario; remote outplacement lets you support participants regardless of their location (with ‘any time, anywhere, any device’ access) and removes the need for a physical office space.

Universal principles allow for global outplacement support

Whether directly or indirectly, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted pretty much every country in the world. With businesses across the globe needing to make staff cut-backs, an outplacement program with global application can help outplacement providers service clients in any location.

With Career 365’s outplacement program, for example, training modules focus on topics such as dealing with job loss, networking, and first impressions. These universal principles are applicable to global participants, making it simple to offer outplacement support worldwide.

A blended outplacement program lets you deliver your own style of coaching

An effective outplacement program should combine comprehensive training modules with tailored coaching (either 1:1 or in a group setting), in order to fully support retrenched employees during their career transition. Even if you can’t provide coaching in person due to the COVID-19 restrictions, video-based coaching is a great way to deliver coaching that supplements a structured online outplacement program.

By opting for a blended outplacement program such as Career 365’s ONBOFF package, you can incorporate your own brand of coaching that supports the online learning and provides the right fit for your clients, program participants, and business.

You benefit from proven IP and demonstrated results

Choosing to offer an out-of-the-box program developed by an established outplacement service provider means you get access to valuable IP and proven results in the outplacement arena. And at a time when quick decisions and fast turnaround are more important than ever, this type of competitive edge can make all the difference.

Our ONBOFF outplacement program comes with the credibility and benefit of proven results – such as the fact that 83% of participants who completed the program and followed our advice were offered a job within six weeks.

For more information on offering Career 365’s renowned online outplacement program under your own brand, visit www.onboff.com or email enquiries@career365.com.au

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.

Retrenching Staff Due to COVID-19: How to Do It Remotely With Sensitivity, Empathy, and Respect

Letting go of staff members is never an easy or pleasant task. But with the COVID-19 pandemic causing unprecedented levels of anxiety along with the isolation of minimal social contact, employers and HR Directors face a number of additional challenges. These include adapting retrenchment processes to a remote environment, and being mindful of the complex emotions staff members are experiencing in the wake of this global crisis.

For employees currently facing retrenchment, the typical stages of loss one would usually experience – such as sadness, fear, anger, and shock – will be heightened by the lack of in-person communication and the pre-existing stress of these turbulent times. What’s more, your employees are likely to have been feeling extremely stressed in the lead-up to your decision, with so much uncertainty around job security in the wake of the pandemic hanging heavily on their minds.

Despite the challenging circumstances, it’s crucial that you approach retrenchment with sensitivity and empathy, in order to minimise distress for your outgoing employees. To help you respond to the challenges of retrenching staff in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some of the ways you can communicate your decision with care and respect.

1. Use video conferencing over a phone call or email

Telling an employee that they are out of a job over phone or email can feel a lot like the dreaded ‘breakup via text message’ of a doomed romantic relationship – it’s uncomfortable, impersonal, and far from the best-suited means of communication. But with self-isolation making face-to-face meetings a no-go, what’s the next best thing?

A video call can provide a little more comfort by offering a visual element that may help to make the employee feel more connected and engaged with you. Utilise the raft of available platforms (Zoom, Skype, and Facetime to name a few) and, if possible, always opt for this form of communication over an audio call or, worse still, an electronic message.

2. Don’t beat around the bush

Right now, your staff members are already on the highest state of alert for any signs of impending job losses. They are worried, anxious, and eager for some kind of certainty – even if that comes in the form of confirming the worst. What this means is, now is not the time for overdoing it on the small talk.

Once a decision has been made, your employee will appreciate you being clear, upfront and open about the situation. After all, as most of us know, the ‘waiting game’ is often the most unbearable part, so getting straight to the point with a clear, concrete answer will help avoid further frustration.

3. Clearly explain the reason behind your decision

With tensions running at an all-time high, it’s important to reassure retrenched employees that your decision is a result of the current global crisis and in no way a reflection of their capabilities or character. In other words, make it clear that this is not personal.

Explain the difficulties your organisation is facing, be specific about the impact that COVID-19 has had on your business, and be honest about the fact that you simply don’t know what the future holds (because right now, who does?). Your openness will help to reiterate that the decision to let the person go was a result of the unprecedented circumstances we are all facing and that you’re not trying to hide anything from them.

4. Answer questions and talk through concerns

Inevitably, your outgoing employee will have a range of queries and concerns, from wondering what happens next to enquiring about available support, such as outplacement services. It’s imperative you take the time to listen and answer their questions as best you can.

Remember, your retrenched staff member will be experiencing a raft of confusing and conflicting emotions, from panic to frustration to grief to confusion – so it’s important you are patient and understanding to avoid them feeling neglected or abandoned.

5. Talk about the future

The fact is, not a single one of us knows what the coming months will bring as a result of the global Coronavirus outbreak. But what we do know is, there will come a time when the world begins to return to normal, the financial markets start to pick up, and industries see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

When the crisis is over, you may well have a need to refill positions within your organisation. If so, reaching out to former employees can be a good solution that reduces onboarding costs and training time. You may want to raise this possibility with your outgoing staff member (without making any firm promises) and offer some hope that they could well be considered as an alumni employee.

6. Follow up and check in

Once you’ve communicated the impending retrenchment to your employee, it’s important to check in after a day or two to see how they’re feeling, address any emotional distress, and answer any new queries or concerns.

Now is the time to adapt your style to the preferred communication method of your outgoing employee – depending on how they’re feeling about the situation, they may not wish to appear on a video call and might prefer to speak over the phone or communicate over text or email. Be aware that their emotional state may impact the way they wish to communicate with you and be flexible to accommodate this.

7. Be mindful of your surviving staff

The emotional turmoil of job losses isn’t just experienced by the affected employees. Staff members who avoided the ‘chopping block’ will be facing their own complex emotions, including guilt, relief, and fear that their position will be next to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. Naturally, this is not the best headspace to function or perform their jobs effectively.

By demonstrating that you’re treating outgoing employees with respect and dignity, you can help to reassure surviving staff members that they too will be treated well should the worst happen. Showing your commitment to supporting retrenched employees – such as by offering outplacement – will send a message that you are willing to uphold your brand values and act in an ethical manner at all times.

8. Offer outplacement support

Supporting a retrenched employee in their career transition journey is always important – but in these incredibly tough times, this support has become more critical than ever. Offering an outplacement program can provide retrenched staff members with much-needed support, training and guidance for the road ahead, providing a sense of clarity and reassurance while reducing the fear and uncertainty they feel about the future.

Unsure how to offer outplacement to self-isolating staff members? Career365’s affordable online outplacement programs – delivered via online training modules and video-based coaching – can be accessed from any location, at any time, on any device. By making it simple for retrenched employees to access top-quality outplacement, we help ensure every staff member receives the support they need during these challenging times.

If you need support or advice on outplacement services for retrenched employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Career365 can help with fully online outplacement programs. For more information, visit www.career365.com.au

Greg Weiss has authored two books about career transitioning and is soon to release a third. He has deep expertise in outplacement and employee onboarding, and is the Founder of Career365 (formerly CareerSupport365) – a leading Australian employee transitioning firm, specialising in outplacement and employee onboarding.