Workplace Survivors Guilt in 2020


Companies announced nearly 1.6 million permanent job cuts in the first half of 2020, according to tracking by global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the number of unemployed people at nearly 18 million. With staggering numbers like these, those who are left in the office almost certainly feel the strain of survivors’ guilt, according to one workplace authority.

“Layoff survivors’ guilt is very real and very common, even in a strong economy when the likelihood of former colleagues finding other positions is strong. However, now the additional stress of working and living through a pandemic can make survivors’ guilt even more acute,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“The departure of colleagues, whether through an individual or mass layoff, tends to come with decreased morale for those who remain. Even if the layoffs are considered ‘for-cause,’ remaining workers not only may feel sorry for their former co-workers, they also must build new relationships and redistribute work, which creates additional stress,” he added.

A June online survey of 150 Human Resources executives at companies of various sizes and industries nationwide by Challenger inquired how businesses are addressing the virus. Although only 3% of respondents said some or all of the workers who were furloughed have been laid off, and 23% said some or all of the furloughed workers were being recalled, 20% said their companies have conducted permanent layoffs in response to the pandemic, up from 11% in March.

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