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Most books dealing with human resource issues are predictably detached and devoid of emotional consideration for employees. Leadership consultant David M. Noer’s refreshing study takes the opposite approach. He boldly issues a warning that the current global wave of downsizing has created a traumatic “layoff survivor sickness,” which employees can cure only by forging a new relationship with their employers. Although large corporations and top executives may have caused the 2008-2009 recession, lower-level employees shouldered much of the burden. That makes this report particularly timely. Looking ahead, Noer advocates a new employer-employee relationship that will empower employees and break their unhealthy codependency with their employers. This unsettling idea is a byproduct of the global, on-demand economy. getAbstract finds Noer’s book refreshingly insightful and clearly written, and recommends it to aware, forward-thinking employees, ex-employees, executives and human resource professionals.


Psychological Contracts

Downsizing is a global epidemic. Layoffs disrupt the psychological contract between workers and employers, making everyone demoralized, depressed and angry. Those who remain on the job after their co-workers are dismissed often experience “layoff survivor sickness,” which leaves them feeling violated and detached. They become afraid to take chances, thus undermining productivity and competitiveness.

This downward spiral, which affects workers, managers and entire companies, partially results from relying on an outdated employer-employee relationship that predates World War II. While waves of layoffs occurred in the 1980s and early-1990s, the 2008 recession made downsizing common and turned layoff survivor sickness into a pandemic. To recover and move ahead, workers must become more independent and secure in their professional and personal abilities. For that to work, employers must rethink the concepts of “loyalty, motivation and commitment.”

Corporate managers usually cut employees to reduce expenses and improve efficiency. Layoffs usually achieve the former but not the latter. The surviving workers and their managers are in a very negative...

About the Author

David M. Noer is an honorary senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership and professor emeritus of business leadership at Elon University. He consults on downsizing, coaching and leadership development. His books include Breaking Free.

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