Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations


Organizations of all types are experiencing an unprecedented,global pandemic of downsizing. This exceptionally timely bookaddresses the most crucial and complex leadership task since theindustrial revolution: how to put the pieces back together andrestore productivity in the midst of uncertain contracts betweenemployee and employer. From an employee perspective, this bookprovides a remedy for the toxic symptoms—anger, fear, anxiety,and depression—of layoff survivor sickness and offers aprescription for a deeper, ...

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Organizations of all types are experiencing an unprecedented,global pandemic of downsizing. This exceptionally timely bookaddresses the most crucial and complex leadership task since theindustrial revolution: how to put the pieces back together andrestore productivity in the midst of uncertain contracts betweenemployee and employer. From an employee perspective, this bookprovides a remedy for the toxic symptoms—anger, fear, anxiety,and depression—of layoff survivor sickness and offers aprescription for a deeper, more autonomous and fulfillingemployment relationship.

Combining dramatic front-line case studies and original researchthat deals with both downsized organizations and layoff survivors,David Noer—an expert who coined the term layoff survivorsickness and has been frequently quoted in major media such as theWall Street Journal and Fortune—offers organizational leaders,managers, human resource professionals, consultants, layoffsurvivors, and layoff victims an original model, clear guidelines,and much-needed perspective on personal and organizationalrevitalization.

This new and significantly revised edition includes a focus onleadership and coaching that literally rewrites the rulebook on howto lead during times of crisis, a cutting-edge approach foremployees to reorient themselves within their jobs andorganizations, plus vivid examples Noer has amassed over the past15 years reflecting increased globalization, changing demographicrealities, and of course, uncertainties in the marketplace. Healingthe Wounds is a must-read for all involved in helping organizationsrebound from downsizing and who wish to personally increase theirjob satisfaction, autonomy, and relevance.

Provides executives, human resource professionals, managers, and consultants with an original model and clear guidelines for revitalizing a downsized organization.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"You've survived a round of layoffs (or two or three) at work. So why do you feel as bad as if you'd been laid off yourself? You might be suffering from what author and consultant David Noer calls "layoff survivor sickness," a toxic blend of anger, survivor guilt, fear and anxiety that can cause sleepless nights, sinking morale and plummeting productivity." (Monster.com, September 24, 2009)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Recently, as Noer notes, organizations from public to private to nonprofit have ``embarked on a frenzy of layoffs.'' In this outstanding study, a major contribution to business literature, the author maintains that these layoffs have eroded the trust between employees and employers and have created a new managerial paradigm: ``Organizations that once saw people as assets to be nurtured and developed began to view those same people as costs to be cut.'' Noer ( Jobkeeping ) cogently addresses the violation of the old employment covenant of secure, paternalistic rules. Further, he notes, while those who are dismissed are usually offered counseling services, those who remain are left to cope with their anxiety and distress and the dismantled corporation, a process Noer terms ``layoff survivor sickness.'' He also suggests how companies should downsize, stressing the importance of compassion, communication and the acknowledgment of codependency, in which employees derive their self-worth from their role in the organization. (Oct. )
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470500156
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/31/2009
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David M. Noer is an honorary senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership and professor emeritus of business leadership at Elon University. He consults extensively throughout the world on downsizing, coaching, and leadership development. He is the author of numerous books, including Breaking Free from Jossey-Bass. Previously he edited the OD Practitioner and served on the board of trustees of the Organizational Development Network. You can contact David Noer at davidnoer.com.

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Table of Contents



1 Forgotten Survivors: What Happens to Those Who Are LeftBehind.

Lessons from Act One: Juanita and Charles—Victim andSurvivor.

The Basic Bind: Lean and Mean Leads to Sad and Angry.

Metaphor of the Surviving Children.

Acts One and Two: A Family Legacy.

Issues to Be Explored.


Learnings and Implications.

2 Changing Organizations and the End of Job Security.

From Assets to Costs: The New View of Employees.

From Nurturing to Violence: The Symbolism of LayoffLanguage.

From Long Term to Short Term: The Shrinking PlanningHorizon.

From Synergistic to Reductionistic: Taking Apart Is Better ThanPutting Together.

Layoff Survivor Sickness: The Legacy.

Learnings and Implications.


3 Learning from the Past: The Survivor Syndrome AcrossTime.

The Saga of “No Toes,” the Gunslinger.

Universal Survivor Linkages.

Lifton's Model of Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivors.

Learnings and Implications.

4 Speaking for Themselves: Layoff Survivor Stories.

Organizational Characteristics.

Research Methodology.

Job Insecurity.


Depression, Stress, and Fatigue.

Reduced Risk Taking and Motivation.

Distrust and Betrayal.


Continuing Commitment

Lack of Reciprocal Commitment.

Wanting It to Be Over.

Dissatisfaction with Planning and Communication.

Anger over the Layoff Process.

Lack of Strategic Direction.

Lack of Management Credibility.

Short-Term Profit Orientation.

Sense of Permanent Change.

Unexpected Findings.

Learnings and Implications.

5 Time Does Not Heal All Wounds: The Effects of Long-TermSurvivor Sickness.

Stress, Fatigue, Extra Workload, Decreased Motivation, Sadness,and Depression.

Insecurity, Anxiety, and Fear.

Loyalty to Job (Not Company), Nonreciprocal Loyalty, andSelf-Reliance.

Sense of Unfairness and Anger over Top Management Pay andSeverance.

Resignation and Numbness.

Lack of Management Communication.

Helpful and Communicative Managers.

Honest Communication.

Short-Term Plans and Strategy.

Layoff Process Problems.

Resentment Over Being Made to Feel Guilty.

A Look Back from the Second Act.

Learnings and Implications.


6 A Four-Level Process for Handling Layoffs and TheirEffects.

Layoff Survivor Feeling Clusters and Coping Strategies.

The Four-Level Intervention Model.

Learnings and Implications.

7 Level One: Manage the Layoff Process.

“Clean Kills” and the Survivor Hygiene Factor.

Redundant Communication Is Essential.

What to Communicate.

Control Traps That Block Communication.

Balancing Feeling and Thinking.

Tell the Truth, and Never Say Never.

Two Denial Traps.

Process Research.

Learnings and Implications

8 Level Two: Facilitate the Necessary Grieving.

The Burden of a Heavy Bag.

A Team Intervention.

An Attempted Systemwide Intervention.

A Small Business Visioning Intervention.

A Departmental Wake.

Empowering Leaders Through Models of Change.

Learnings and Implications.

9 Level Three: Break the Codependency Chain and EmpowerPeople.

Dagwood’s Prescient Stand.

Codependent Relationships

Organizational Codependency.


Letting Go.

Connecting with a Core Purpose.

Learnings and Implications.

10 Level Four: Build a New Employment Relationship.

The Global Context of the New Reality.

From Long-Term to Situational Employment Relationships.

From Rewarding Performance with Promotion to RewardingPerformance. with Acknowledgment of Relevance.

From Paternalistic to Empowering Management Behavior.

From Toxic Fidelity to Healthy Self-Responsibility.

From an Implicit Career Covenant to an Explicit JobContract.

Elements of Explicit Contractual Relationships.

Learnings and Implications.


11 Requisite Leadership Competencies They Don't Teach inBusiness School.

Choose the Right Wolf to Feed.

Avoid Layoff Leadership Traps.

Behave Courageously.

Let Go of Outdated Managerial Commandments.

Don't Listen to Chicken Little.

Learnings and Implications.

12 Rethinking Loyalty, Commitment, and Motivation: The Longand Painful Birth of the New Reality.

Ten Old Paradigm Commandments Reframed.

Putting the Pieces Back Together: Reintegrating the BustedCulture.

Learnings and Implications.

13 Developing the Right Leadership Stuff.

Developing Philosopher-Kings: Learning from Plato.

Intrapersonal Insight.

Interpersonal Confidence.

Core Skills and Relevant Models.

The Global Context of New Paradigm Leadership.

Learnings and Implications.

14 Life After Downsizing: Revitalizing Ourselves and OurOrganizations.

The Top Ten New Reality Managerial and Employee Roles.

Fragile Choices.

The Existential Act of Choosing Freedom.

Learnings and Implications.



The Author.


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