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:
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:
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