This week I presented this webinar on ‘Redundancy with Kindness’ for the UK’s Master Innholders during which I touched on survivor guilt. This is a term to describe the emotional, psychological and physical effects of non-redundant colleagues. As millions are losing their jobs as a result of COVID-19, it’s something that’s often over-looked and underestimated, as this message I received post-webinar illustrates:
“I wasn’t furloughed and have felt guilt towards this at night. I was so grateful to hear all my feelings are what others are feeling too.”
Feelings of guilt about not being furloughed or not being made redundant are normal. Going through survivor guilt can be an awful experience for you and your employees. Losing valued colleagues and friends can be a painful experience and, for people who work in service industries because they want to help others and make people feel good, it may feel even worse. People are conflicted between relief that they weren’t ‘on the list’ and feeling terrible about those who were.
Healthy feelings of guilt help people to feel empathy and compassion. However, when this tips over into unhealthy guilt, it’s a burden that can affect wellbeing, leading to unhappiness, disengagement, mistrust, fear, anger, low morale, loss of pride, absenteeism, presenteeism, anxiety, depression, physical ill-health and even sabotage. It’s a common misconception that those left behind will feel so grateful to have kept their jobs that they’ll work harder and with more enthusiasm. In reality, this is extremely unlikely to happen. None of this is going to help the recovery of your business.
Ten top tips for managing survivor guilt:
- Have a plan for the survivors that is equally robust to your redundancy plan to minimise the risk to your people and maximise the future success of your business.
- Don’t expect everything to return to normal once the redundancies are over – recovery work will need to be done for quite some time.
- Acknowledge that we’ve all been going through a dramatic and far-reaching period of change and this is still going on – you’re all in this together.
- Work out a plan for restoring confidence, rebuilding moral and resolving fears for the future – consult, listen, consider and act.
- Make sure leaders at all levels are visible, positive, approachable and equipped to deal with any fallout.
- Treat people like the adults they are by not sugar-coating your messages, though also provide constant reassurance and encouragement.
- Keep communicating and updating very regularly – share your vision, your recovery plan and progress milestones – involve people in building the future.
- Explain your rationale so your employees understand that the decisions you’ve been forced to make have been a) unavoidable b) fair.
- Provide support to help people to deal with the emotional effects of losing beloved colleagues – here’s a useful self-help guide for survivors.
- Take care of your own wellbeing to ensure you can keep on top of things and stay healthy.
Overall, consider investing in Wellbee for a robust and responsible approach to safeguarding and tracking the wellbeing of your people.
By taking a strategic approach towards supporting the survivors of your business, you’ll begin to regain their trust and ensure they feel you’ve been fair, compassionate, transparent and responsible. This will help people regain the mindsets to meet the challenges that lie ahead as positively and help you get your business back on track.
By business author and Purple Cubed founder, Jane Sunley