Attitudes and emotions can run rampant and out of control during a layoff. I know first hand as my company went through a downsizing in February. While I was lucky enough to work for the buyer rather than the “buyee,” my department still lost half its staff. To say it was a blow to morale would be an understatement. Survivor guilt…oh yea, we were all about that.
Fast forward almost 7 months and where does our organization stand? Not too bad. Since I am in charge of the research for my company, I was in charge of the employee survey we just completed among all current employees. The results of the survey were truly eye opening to me. Sure, people were less satisfied than they were pre-acquisition, but not by that much. In fact, satisfaction or dissatisfaction was highly dependent upon your location rather than your job function. That really surprised me. Given all the issues we had in a few departments, I was sure that one or two of them would have “popped” in the low satisfaction arena. But no, just an occasional low score here and there.
So where are these results coming from? I think they relate to cognitive dissonance and continuance commitment issues. Specifically from the cognitive dissonance side: their attitude would be “if this job is so bad I should just leave”, but yet they stay. Thus, they have to relieve the stress of the incongruous behavior and attitude, thus, they say to themselves “well it can’t be all that bad” and assign a middle of the road or even slightly positive score to measures that one would think they would rate very low. And, from the continuance commitment perspective, I think that some of these higher than expected scores are also a result of people not wanting to “rock the boat” with low scores. Not rocking the boat because they don’t feel that, in this economy, they have another job to go to. So, since they have to stay where they are, they are committed to the company; though not willingly.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing the employee satisfaction results after the economy comes around and jobs are much more plentiful. I predict that, without more employee engagement (particularly among the “acquired” employees), we will see satisfaction go down and employee retention degrading.