To date, the cost of the global economic melt-down has been measured largely in financial terms. However, there is growing evidence to believe that the long-term human and psychological cost could be just as significant.
Counting the human cost of the credit crunch
Even relatively unscathed institutions are now struggling to restore confidence in workforces that are deeply apprehensive. Within the institutions that have collapsed, merged or down-sized, the impact on morale has been devastating.
Around 170,000 financial markets professionals are thought to have been laid-off in the last 14 months. These are the direct victims of redundancy, but there are just as many indirect casualties.
When people stop trusting each other, organisations start to lose their competitive edge.
A growing number of executives now receive training in redundancy management, but many remain psychologically vulnerable and ill-prepared. Driven by cost-saving imperatives, they have to consign close friends and respected colleagues to the professional wilderness. They have to dismantle teams and relationships that have taken years to develop. And all the time, they have to disguise their own deep-seated insecurities and sense of vulnerability.
Caught between a rock and an even harder place, the pressure can soon show. Work performance frequently suffers. Absenteeism and sickness increase. Cases of drug and alcohol abuse rise. And, just as damaging, people develop a silo mentality.
Fearing for their jobs, staff often become secretive, insular and unwilling to share information with colleagues. And, when people stop trusting each other, organisations start to lose explicit and implicit knowledge. They struggle to retain their corporate intelligence. Inevitably they lose their competitive edge.
The banking landscape has irrevocably changed and, for many, there is no way back.
Sadly, there’s very little in the way of victim support. Outplacement firms try to help. They offer practical assistance but invariably it’s a one-size-fits-all basic service:
How to get a job... how to network... how to write a CV... how to seek financial and pensions advice.
These are well-meaning services, but many industry observers have growing concerns. They fear that outplacement firms may be raising career hopes that can never be fulfilled. People are being groomed to return to a world that no longer exists. The banking landscape has irrevocably changed and, for many, there is no way back.
Consequently, it is vital that we start to address the much deeper emotional and psychological consequences of redundancy victims.
Give people the confidence to confront issues and put their own anxieties in context.
Fran Middleton is a former European HR Director of JP Morgan. She is also a qualified Occupational Psychotherapist. Working with a hand-picked team of experts from the FS and Psychotherapy fields, she is jointly pioneering a service to fill this support vacuum...
'People need to explore the personal impact of redundancy. They need to confide in someone who can be trusted to listen but not judge. Someone with no political agenda who will always take them seriously and never treat their private fears, however small they may seem, as insignificant. But equally, they need someone with the experience to challenge. This is not a passive emotional massage. We give people the confidence to confront issues and put their own anxieties in context'.
Self-awareness is the vital building block
The service that Middleton and her colleagues have created can be finely tailored to meet the specific needs of companies and individuals. It is built around a core of at least 6 one-to-one sessions with a personal adviser. Each one lasts 90 minutes and takes people on a difficult and sometimes painful emotional journey. Advisers use their experience to help clients dissect their complex feelings of failure, guilt and anger. Self-awareness is the vital building block on which clients can then reconstruct lives, refocus ambitions and repair damaged relationships.
However, the process can also be intensely practical. Presentation skills training, interview role-playing, psychometric analysis and transitional coaching all play a part in developing the tools and personal confidence to succeed. Paul Swift, one of Middleton’s founding team members, has also pioneered the use of small workshops that provide further scope for personal reflection and group discussion. Sharing experiences has proved to be a hugely valuable element of the programme.
Of course, nobody is pretending that this service is an epiphany for every casualty. Neither is anyone suggesting that it is the total solution. But, it is undoubtedly a start. And, in a world that has yet to count the long-term human and psychological cost of the current crisis, it’s a service that has never been more essential.
For more information about the human cost of redundancy and this pioneering service, contact Fran Middleton on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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