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Survivor trauma and sometimes the laid-off are better off

Your law department had to lay off a lawyer or two. Is that the end of it? No.

A long-term study of employees at Boeing over a decade of deep downsizing found that “survivors can suffer just as much, if not more, than colleagues who get laid off.” As explained in Business Week, Nov. 2, 2009 at 65, the survivors felt guilty, continued to worry that the hatchet might still fall, complained about loss of institutional knowledge, shouldered heavier burdens, and became emotionally numb and disengaged. General counsel should be sensitive to the ongoing trauma even for those who keep their jobs.

Mergers also lead to RIFs (reductions in force) and the same psychological phenomena can occur. Among Boeing’s thousands of employees, “depression scores were nearly twice as great for those who stayed with Boeing vs. those who left. The laid-off were less likely to binge drink, often slept better, and had fewer chronic health problems.”

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