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How to Remotivate the Survivors of Redundancy: 4 Key Things to Communicate

How to Remotivate the Survivors of Redundancy: 4 Key Things to Communicate

Survivor syndrome is a well-known condition suffered by people who have survived a traumatic event. Initially, these “survivors” will feel relief but this can quickly subside to anxiety, stress and anger. In a redundancy situation, these negative emotions can ripple through the organisation and have an adverse effect on staff motivation and productivity. Particularly if the process has been deemed unfair, staff will feel less loyal to the organisation, they will be slower at decision making and there will probably be an increase in absence.

It is imperative to address this decrease in motivation as it is this group that will be leading the organisation forward during this time of great change. So, what do we humans need in order to keep us motivated and why is the motivation of survivors so damaged? 

Deci & Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory (SDT) purports that we are driven to meet three basic psychological needs: Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness (or Connection). Dan Pink, in his book “Drive” ,includes Autonomy and Mastery (competence) but does not include Relatedness. Instead he cites Purpose as the third intrinsic motivator.

So let’s assume, by blending these two recent theories, that there are four key intrinsic motivators:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Competence / Mastery
  3. Connectedness


We can quickly see why a survivor of redundancy would have such low motivation. Their autonomy would be challenged by the feeling that the change has happened “to” them and is something over which they have no control. Their competence and mastery may be in question as they may be unclear what their role will be going forward. Their connectedness has been broken as so many of their colleagues and work relationships have left the organisation. Finally, their sense of purpose may be similarly challenged, as they no longer understand and feel disconnected with the purpose and values of the organisation.

So management need to think about how they can restore these four motivators and the key here is communication.

Quite often during redundancy programmes, a lot of time is spent on communicating to those at risk of redundancy and the same amount of time and effort is not spent on communicating with those who are staying. Communication should be clear, consistent and honest. To address the four intrinsic motivators, you will need to communicate:

  1. The commercial realities behind the change. Allow people to understand why the change is necessary. During the last recession, anger about redundancy was said to be less prevalent due to employees’ greater understanding of the global crisis and their embroilment in it. This will go some way to addressing the individuals’ feeling that they have no control and start to restore their sense of autonomy. 
  2. How the changes will impact individual jobs. Individuals will need to know what their job will look like in the new organisation. Will my responsibilities have changed? Will I have more to do? How will performance be measured and what will success look like? Being clear about this will help to address their concerns around their ongoing competence in their role. 
  3. How the leavers have been treated. The natural guilt and concern of the survivors for those that have been let go will be somewhat assuaged by knowing that they have been treated well and fully supported to leave well. This will help alleviate the pain of severed connections. 
  4. What the future of the organisation looks like – strategically, culturally and from a values perspective. What will it be like to work here and why will I still be engaged with the organisation? Is the organisation still aligned to my own sense or purpose?
Clearly the impact of getting this wrong can be highly detrimental to the ongoing performance of the organisation. Communicating these four things in a clear, consistent and honest way can impact the speed at which survivors get back to peak motivation and the organisation back to peak performance.

If you’d like to speak to me about how Dynami can help remotivate survivors in your organisation, drop me a line: I’d love to chat!

Pink, D.H. (2009). Drive The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York, USA: Riverhead Books.

Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E (2017). Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development and Wellness. New York, NY: The Guilford Press


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