Dealing with workplace survivor’s guilt

Re-forming a team after redundancies or restructuring is a challenge. 

Rebuilding confidence, re-invigorating and re-igniting dynamism and re-focusing.  

Re-designing responsibilities and ways of working. Re-building trust. 

All these a crucial to be able to re-boot and thrive.

And dealing with survivor’s guilt – the feeling some of your team members may have after others have left – cannot be ignored.

How can you best support your new team in coping with the transition and embracing the road ahead with positivity and energy, rather than dread?   

It can be easy to underestimate the impact of survivor’s guilt in the workplace. It is often not a short-lived reaction, and if ignored or mis-understood can stubbornly remain. Research suggests that it can lead to increased anxiety and a reduction in mental health. Lack of engagement, reduced productivity*, increased absenteeism, and low morale are some of the signs that it may be present.

Yet, many of us find it extremely uncomfortable to ‘go there’ with our people. We’d rather ignore it, or pretend it isn’t happening, and hope it goes away. This does not help, in fact, the oppositie.

So what can you do to support team members experiencing survivor’s guilt?

  • Number one – acknowledge it. Open the communication channels and talk about it. 
  • Listen – really listen, so your people feel properly heard, and their feelings acknowledged. 
  • Repetition. This is not a one-off event. Ensure you have regular check-ins with transparent, open, two-way communication.  
  • Reach out for support if this is needed. Enlist the support of a coach. I work with teams to help them re-form and find their mojo.  Find out more

“KP worked with us to find areas of connection in a new team unused to working together. She created the space to help us understand our different styles of working and build a cohesive and effective leadership team.”

*According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report Employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. That’s equal to 11% of global GDP.