Survivor Guilt, Grief, and Loss: What Employers Need to Know

When an organization goes through a reduction in force (RIF), it is just as important to have a plan in place for working with those who will remain with the organization as it is for those who will be directly affected by job losses. Planning is just as important for layoffs triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic as it is for layoffs caused by more common factors. It is an essential leadership tool and practice to be able to understand and effectively lead through the complicated emotions the remaining employees are experiencing. Also, since layoffs have never occurred in conjunction with a global pandemic, many employees must cope with multiple layers of loss and potential guilt.

In the work of organizational change management, we know that this pandemic and subsequent changes in work culture, workforce, and workflows have triggered new waves of real loss for employees. When layoffs, furloughs, pay reductions, and other cost-saving measures are added to this, employees can experience significant increases in survivor guilt pain and the pain associated with other losses not only in the organization but also in their personal lives. In addition to the above, there are likely employees who may have contracted and recovered from COVID-19 and are keenly aware of many others who have not. These experiences put a measurable burden on employee health and well-being.

Employers should consider contacting and bringing in experts who provide grief and loss support groups and an organizational change management consultant to support the loss and transitions taking place. Employers Council can help; please call us with questions.