Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Grim Reapers!- Handling Multiple Lay-offs

The Grim Reapers


HR specialists are experiencing extreme burnout as they carry out multiple lay-offs ...


Key learnings:


1. HR professionals need support to manage lay-offs induced stress and anxiety
2. Emotional distancing is one of the key fallouts of lay-offs
3. Training and HR support networks can help ease the pain associated with conducting lay-offs

HR professionals are living their worst nightmare! Their worst fears suddenly have come true, with lay-offs and job cuts becoming more frequent than one would have ever imagined. .HR professionals are feeling the heat from the emotional outbursts of people being laid-off and the stress caused because of overseeing continuous rounds of lay-offs. The most disturbing part of lay-off related stress is that more than thirty percent of HR professionals are considering a job shift! The reactions seem graver than one would have bargained for, Organisations thus need to take notice of the not-so-welcome trend that is beginning to unfold. Understanding the reasons for anxiety, stress and depression and providing help to overcome these negative feelings is thus pressing for organisations that wish to preserve their HR asset.


The weathered and wilted


HR professionals surely are gaining experience of a different kind by engaging in lay-offs round after round. The experience is extraordinary and faraway from normal. While the experience can be enriching as human resources professionals, getting weathered by the storm is terrible. Some would argue that excessive weathering is causing them to wilt under pressure and stress is leading them to disillusionment. .


Traditionally, it has been the human resources department that has provided counselling to stressed and anxious employees, however, today HR professionals need support of the same kind more than anybody else. Statistics provided in the report presented by workforce management would enable better understanding of its gravity. The HR anxiety survey reveals that:


1. Out of the 370 respondents surveyed more than sixty-five percent had started drinking more while others lit up when they felt unduly stressed
2. More than thirty percent HR professionals are thinking about a job change
3. Sixty-six percent of HR professionals are worried about losing their jobs
4. Seven percent HR professionals have already lost their jobs
5. Fifty percent of the surveyed professionals have conducted three or more rounds of lay-offs in a time span of 16-18 months
6. Majority feel distressed as people call them names like “grim reaper” and “the axe man”
7. Seventy percent have reported with complaints of sleeplessness and stress-induced depression


The foregoing statistics are alarming and suggest the need to take preventive measures for containing the negative impact of today’s uncertain economic times as it is resonating deep and far within the corporate fold.


According to corporate psychologists, HR professionals have been corporate caretakers. They have played a key role in hiring people to ensure better organisational productivity. Removing them for ushering cuts in corporate outlays and containing loss because of poor economic conditions is a bizarre experience for HR professionals. Such conflicting experiences are taking a toll on the mental and physical health of HR professionals. The implications can be worrying for both employers and HR professionals. While HR workers would have to battle out ill-health and a poor mental state, the employers would have to worry about the morale of HR workers and the resulting medical costs that the company would have to bear.


The most worrying fact about the whole lay-off caused stress and anxiety is that, most employers are oblivious to the implications of lay-offs on people who conduct them. All remedial measures are directed to those being laid-off and none towards HR professionals who have been sitting for lay-offs round after round. For instance, the employer providing laid-off employees with outplacement services, however, there is no counselling or aid provided to HR professionals to help them cope with the pressures of axing jobs.


Emotional distancing


Apart from the health issues, emotional distancing is the most obvious fallout of excessive lay-offs. HR professionals are increasingly distancing themselves from their colleagues. According to Laura Rhode, HR director of Bonita Springs, Florida-based hardware giant, “as HR professionals we do not want to get too close with other colleagues as it would really hurt if they were asked to leave”. Where HR professionals are not emotionally distancing themselves we find employees distancing themselves from their “HR friends”, as they believe that they are “sorrow makers”. According to a survey, twenty-five percent of HR professionals believed there has been a dramatic change in their relationship with their colleagues ever since they carried-out lay-offs.


HR professionals thus need help. The criticism, self-induced stress, anxiety, tagging by friends and depression are reasons enough to take professional help. Most HR professionals are fighting the ailments at their personal level without much success. The need to get some professional counselling that can make them feel better about their work is important to spread cheer and gaiety among the HR fraternity. Apart from professional counselling HR professionals can set up formal support networks that work towards providing common comfort. However, the disadvantages of a formal network would be that it could lead to a “HR” versus “us” idea..


This apart, HR professionals can enrol for training on how to conduct lay-offs and deal with issues related to lay-offs. Most HR professionals surveyed believed the training they received helped them cope with stress and therefore recommend it with great conviction. However, experts believe that while training surely helps HR professionals get a grip on conducting lay-offs, explaining the strategy behind lay-offs can highlight the impact of training.


While the survey brought out some real grim facts about conducting lay-offs, it also has given hope and a reason to cheer. According to the survey only nineteen percent respondents believed the stress and anxiety would have a long-term impact on their health and adversely impact their attitude towards HR function. The rest sounded upbeat and positive and believed that this phase too shall pass and the “grim” reapers would soon become “grin” reapers!


Ref: TheManageMentor.

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