Literature Review

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Definitions of Survivor Syndrome

Doherty et al (1995) defined survivor syndrome as the mixed bag of behaviours and emotions exhibited by employees remaining after redundancies that have taken place in their organisations. Vinten and Lane (2002) go further to define survivor syndrome as an inability to do anything but the most basic of tasks. According to Noer (1993), human resource management consultant Marshall Stelifox may have been the first to use the term “survivor syndrome” within the workplace when he described the feelings experienced by survivors at Occidental Petroleum. Prior to being a term associated with the workplace, psychiatrist Robert Lifton (1967) analyzed the survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb and death camps during the Second World War and found that preoccupation with images of death and destruction was common. Following Robert Lifton’s analysis of survivors of these atrocities he created a model that could be applied to all survivor situations.

Symptoms of Survivor Syndrome

Survivor syndrome within the workplace is used to depict the impact of redundancies or downsizing on people who kept their jobs in workplaces where many others had their employment terminated (Baruch & Hind, 1999). Research suggests that surviving employees suffer and show symptoms that affect their productivity. These symptoms are:

Low morale, lower job and organisational satisfaction, loss of trust and faith in the employer and feelings of betrayal together with guilt for having survived the re-structure (Baruch & Hind, 1999).

Reduced motivation and risk taking due to the insecurity of further layoffs (Appelbaum & Donia, 2000).

These symptoms manifest in a number of ways, such as anger, occupational stress, decreased loyalty and organisational commitment (Shaw & Barrett-Power, 1997).

According to Appelbaum & Donia (2000) wanting the downsizing to be over, depression, fatigue and job insecurity are the most pervasive of survivor symptoms....