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Job Doc

Struggling with heavy post-layoff workload

Q. I work for a company that went through a dramatic downsizing late last year. I was retained and moved to an office over 90 minutes from my house. I am drained from working extra hours, plus my commute has tripled. No one really wants to hear me complain. Many take the attitude that I should feel fortunate to have a job. I don’t feel fortunate. I am overwhelmed, crabby, and tired. What does someone do in this situation?

A. Often, employees who survive a round of layoffs can suffer from “survivor syndrome.” The feelings can range from guilt to anger and usually some anxiety. Remaining employees often find that they must pick up the work of those who were let go.

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It would be helpful to know if this is the only planned layoff. The thought of another downsizing somewhere in the near future can certainly increase anxiety as well as undermine trust, loyalty, and morale. Employees can become fixated on it and analyze every action by management.

Employees may look for signs of unusual behavior. Are there more closed door meetings than normal? Does Mr. Smith avoid employees now? Do managers no longer eat in the cafeteria but have more “working meetings” at lunch time?

Sometimes employers feel that after the layoffs are completed, the tough part is over. In reality, there is more work to do. Communicating frequently and candidly with employees is critical. Managers need to be accessible, rather than hiding in offices. Your company may have an employee assistance program that could be a helpful resource.

Would your company permit a telecommuting work schedule so that you don’t have to travel so many miles? Is there another office closer to your home? Could some work can be offloaded to others?

I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but I would suggest giving it three to six months. If you don’t see improvements, it may be time to consider other opportunities.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.
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