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Engaging Survivors after a Restructure - 15 September 2009

Millions of Australians see injustice in our justice system. They think that prison sentences are too light, they’ve lost confidence in the police force, and they think that crime is on the increase.

In a landmark study, two groups of people were asked to provide their opinions on a judgement handed down in a court case. Group A was given just a newspaper article outlining what had happened, while Group B was given the actual court documents. Fascinatingly, Group A (those who were just provided with a newspaper clipping) thought that the judgement handed down was too lenient, while Group B (those who had the detailed court summaries) thought otherwise.

This proved that people’s negative perceptions of the justice system aren't based upon the facts or the knowledge associated with how courts work. They think negatively about a court judgement because they are either uninformed or they misunderstood – or both.

The same thing happens in an organisation amongst employees when their place of work has gone through a restructure and their colleagues have been laid off. The survivors become bitter and negative, they lose confidence in their bosses, and the most talented employees get their revenge as soon as the employment market picks up again. But they usually feel this way because they’re either uninformed or they misunderstood – or both.

If they’re uninformed, this means they don’t have all the facts in order to be able to judge the situation accurately. They need to have their questions sought with all of them answered openly and honestly; they need to be clearly aware of the specific reasons why the massive change occurred; they need to be able to contribute creatively to the solution somehow; and they need to be confident that retrenched employees have been treated fairly.

If they misunderstood, this means they haven’t grasped the process behind what’s occurred. They need to comprehend that other options had been considered before co-workers were laid off; they need to be sure that their own jobs are now safe; they need to become acquainted with their new colleagues’ work methods and communication styles; and they need to be certain that this creates more opportunities for them personally in the future.

While these two barriers to employee acceptance are prevalent, survivors of restructures and downsizing will always view their bosses as criminals.

 

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