Academic journal article South Asian Journal of Management

Perception of Workforce Reduction Scenario and Coping Strategies of Survivors: An Empirical Study

Academic journal article South Asian Journal of Management

Perception of Workforce Reduction Scenario and Coping Strategies of Survivors: An Empirical Study

Article excerpt

While downsizing, the behavioral responses of the survivors are as important as the financial implications for the organization's future competitiveness. The purpose of the study was to investigate the predictive relationship between survivors' appraisal of the scenario and their coping strategies. The study was conducted on 208 survivor respondents across four organizations in the manufacturing sector, where workforce reduction had taken place in the recent past, in Delhi and the National Capital Region (India). As reported, appraisal of attitude, workload, motivation and fairness were the predictors (negatively) of avoidance/resignation coping. Direct action coping was positively predicted by the appraisal of training, productivity and team spirit, and negatively by perception of job stability. Predictors of help-seeking coping were appraisal of job stability, motivation and fairness (all negatively) and appraisal of training positively. Predictors of positive thinking coping were appraisal of productivity, motivation and training (positively) and participation in decision making (negatively).


Today, when organizations are going through difficult times the first thought that reminds them instantly is reducing manpower cost. However, it has been seen that even after reducing the number of employees, organizations have not been able to reap the benefits. Apart from financial implications, we cannot afford to ignore that it is the employees in the organization who are going to drive it. Hence, it is pertinent to give importance to the survivors work behavior. Understanding how survivors react to downsizing will contribute a lot towards smoothening the post-downsizing phase.

In this scenario, few employees who are left with the organization are expected to be highly committed and productive, the organization cannot assure job security. The survivors consider it as breaking of the psychological contract (Robinson and Rousseau, 1994; and Morrison and Robinson, 1997). If we assume that these employees, because they have been spared, they will be grateful to the organization and their performance and commitment can be taken for granted, we are grossly mistaken. Had it been so, then there would not have been so much concern over the survivor syndrome which talks of the negative attitudes and behaviors of the survivors. Perceived violations of psychological contract have been shown to prompt a number of attitudinal and behavioral responses that may reduce survivor motivation and performance (Rousseau, 1995). Job loss due to downsizing can be devastating, but discussions on "survivor syndrome" indicate survival might be even worse (Devine et al., 2003). Thus, it is important for the organizations not to ignore the survivors' behavior and their adjustment following the downsizing event.

People, of course, are different, and we may expect different reactions after the dust settles down. Brockner (1986) found that layoffs may cause some workers to work harder, others tend to be de-motivated and some continue to work unaffected. Attitudes, too, may assume a mixed reaction, i.e., anxiety, guilt, anger, relief (elated that they were not axed).


It is very crucial for organizations to understand the behavioral changes taking place among survivors during such turbulent times (Waraich and Bharadwaj, 2002). A firm's post-layoff success is contingent upon the reactions of its surviving workforce. Negative survivor reactions can diminish the intended benefits of a layoff (Shah, 2000) . Discussed below are some of the dimensions which are impacted by workforce reduction:

Perception: According to Hardy (1987), a perception of fairness prevents the initiation of grievances and provides some security to continuing employees. Research has shown that when layoff survivors view layoff procedures at their organizations to be unfair they are likely to exhibit decreased morale, self-esteem, organizational commitment, trust and productivity (Brockner et al, 1987; Brockner et al, 1995; and Konovsky and Brockner, 1993). …

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