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Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations, Revised & Updated



Healing the Wounds: Overcoming the Trauma of Layoffs and Revitalizing Downsized Organizations, Revised & Updated

David M. Noer

ISBN: 978-0-470-52859-4 July 2009 Jossey-Bass 272 Pages

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From the founder of "layoff survivor sickness" an updated edition of a book for today's downsized workforce

Thoroughly revised and updated, David Noer's classic book about downsized organizations has never been more relevant. Reports of the most recent layoffs are making the front pages of our newspapers with frightening regularity. And massive downsizing continues to reshape the face of American business. But what about those who remain behind? Healing the Wounds provides an antidote to the widespread malaise on the American business scene left in the wake of workforce reductions. Drawing on case studies and original research, David M. Noer-an expert frequently quoted in major media such as The Wall Street Journal and Fortune on the topic of layoffs and layoff survivor sickness-provides executives, human resource professionals, managers, and consultants with an original model and clear guidelines for revitalizing downsized organizations and the employees left behind.

  • Offers thoroughly revised edition of a book about layoffs and those who are left behind
  • Filled with relevant case studies and recent research
  • Written by David Noer an acclaimed expert on the topic
  • Gives employers much-needed guidance for revitalizing downsized companies


1 Forgotten Survivors: What Happens to Those Who Are Left Behind.

Lessons from Act One: Juanita and Charles—Victim and Survivor.

The Basic Bind: Lean and Mean Leads to Sad and Angry.

Metaphor of the Surviving Children.

Acts One and Two: A Family Legacy.

Issues to Be Explored.


Learnings and Implications.

2 Changing Organizations and the End of Job Security.

From Assets to Costs: The New View of Employees.

From Nurturing to Violence: The Symbolism of Layoff Language.

From Long Term to Short Term: The Shrinking Planning Horizon.

From Synergistic to Reductionistic: Taking Apart Is Better Than Putting Together.

Layoff Survivor Sickness: The Legacy.

Learnings and Implications.


3 Learning from the Past: The Survivor Syndrome Across Time.

The Saga of “No Toes,” the Gunslinger.

Universal Survivor Linkages.

Lifton's Model of Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivors.

Learnings and Implications.

4 Speaking for Themselves: Layoff Survivor Stories.

Organizational Characteristics.

Research Methodology.

Job Insecurity.


Depression, Stress, and Fatigue.

Reduced Risk Taking and Motivation.

Distrust and Betrayal.


Continuing Commitment

Lack of Reciprocal Commitment.

Wanting It to Be Over.

Dissatisfaction with Planning and Communication.

Anger over the Layoff Process.

Lack of Strategic Direction.

Lack of Management Credibility.

Short-Term Profit Orientation.

Sense of Permanent Change.

Unexpected Findings.

Learnings and Implications.

5 Time Does Not Heal All Wounds: The Effects of Long-Term Survivor Sickness.

Stress, Fatigue, Extra Workload, Decreased Motivation, Sadness, and Depression.

Insecurity, Anxiety, and Fear.

Loyalty to Job (Not Company), Nonreciprocal Loyalty, and Self-Reliance.

Sense of Unfairness and Anger over Top Management Pay and Severance.

Resignation and Numbness.

Lack of Management Communication.

Helpful and Communicative Managers.

Honest Communication.

Short-Term Plans and Strategy.

Layoff Process Problems.

Resentment Over Being Made to Feel Guilty.

A Look Back from the Second Act.

Learnings and Implications.


6 A Four-Level Process for Handling Layoffs and Their Effects.

Layoff Survivor Feeling Clusters and Coping Strategies.

The Four-Level Intervention Model.

Learnings and Implications.

7 Level One: Manage the Layoff Process.

“Clean Kills” and the Survivor Hygiene Factor.

Redundant Communication Is Essential.

What to Communicate.

Control Traps That Block Communication.

Balancing Feeling and Thinking.

Tell the Truth, and Never Say Never.

Two Denial Traps.

Process Research.

Learnings and Implications

8 Level Two: Facilitate the Necessary Grieving.

The Burden of a Heavy Bag.

A Team Intervention.

An Attempted Systemwide Intervention.

A Small Business Visioning Intervention.

A Departmental Wake.

Empowering Leaders Through Models of Change.

Learnings and Implications.

9 Level Three: Break the Codependency Chain and Empower People.

Dagwood’s Prescient Stand.

Codependent Relationships

Organizational Codependency.


Letting Go.

Connecting with a Core Purpose.

Learnings and Implications.

10 Level Four: Build a New Employment Relationship.

The Global Context of the New Reality.

From Long-Term to Situational Employment Relationships.

From Rewarding Performance with Promotion to Rewarding Performance. with Acknowledgment of Relevance.

From Paternalistic to Empowering Management Behavior.

From Toxic Fidelity to Healthy Self-Responsibility.

From an Implicit Career Covenant to an Explicit Job Contract.

Elements of Explicit Contractual Relationships.

Learnings and Implications.


11 Requisite Leadership Competencies They Don't Teach in Business School.

Choose the Right Wolf to Feed.

Avoid Layoff Leadership Traps.

Behave Courageously.

Let Go of Outdated Managerial Commandments.

Don't Listen to Chicken Little.

Learnings and Implications.

12 Rethinking Loyalty, Commitment, and Motivation: The Long and Painful Birth of the New Reality.

Ten Old Paradigm Commandments Reframed.

Putting the Pieces Back Together: Reintegrating the Busted Culture.

Learnings and Implications.

13 Developing the Right Leadership Stuff.

Developing Philosopher-Kings: Learning from Plato.

Intrapersonal Insight.

Interpersonal Confidence.

Core Skills and Relevant Models.

The Global Context of New Paradigm Leadership.

Learnings and Implications.

14 Life After Downsizing: Revitalizing Ourselves and Our Organizations.

The Top Ten New Reality Managerial and Employee Roles.

Fragile Choices.

The Existential Act of Choosing Freedom.

Learnings and Implications.



The Author.


"You've survived a round of layoffs (or two or three) at work. So why do you feel as bad as if you'd been laid off yourself? You might be suffering from what author and consultant David Noer calls "layoff survivor sickness," a toxic blend of anger, survivor guilt, fear and anxiety that can cause sleepless nights, sinking morale and plummeting productivity." (, September 24, 2009)